After a night off, the Winterhawks are preparing to take on the Eastern Conference-leading Prince Albert Raiders. With the rosters now locked, the playoff-bound teams will look to strengthen their push for the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Puck Drop: 5:00 p.m. PST / 7:00 p.m. CT
Venue: Art Hauser Centre
Watch: WHL Live
PREVIOUS GAME – Winterhawks 5 vs. Pats 2: Portland cruised to its sixth straight win with a 5-2 decision in Regina. Jake Gricius led the way offensively with a three point night, the fifth of his WHL career.
The Winterhawks got a strong start in Regina to take an early lead. Midway through the first period, Robbie Fromm-Delorme found Jake Gricius cutting through the slot on a line change and he banged it through the five-hole to take a 1-0 lead. In the final minute of the period, the Hawks cycled the puck to the blueline and Clay Hanus scored on a seeing eye slap shot to give Portland a two goal lead heading into the intermission.
In the opening minute of the second, the Hawks had three scoring chances and they worked it in front to Joachim Blichfeld who scored to stretch his goal-scoring streak to six games in a row. The two teams would trade goals the rest of the way.
Leading scorer Austin Pratt put the Pats on the scoreboard with a rebound goal in the final 80 seconds of the second frame. With a 3-1 lead heading into the third, Jared Freadrich increased the lead on a shot fired home from the slot. Regina would cut into the lead one final time, but Jaydon Dureau scored the empty net goal securing the 5-2 road win.
A perennial match-up between East and West pits the Raiders against the Winterhawks to open the weekend slate of hockey in the WHL. Despite dropping three of its last four home games, Prince Albert is still leading the charge in the Eastern Conference with 35 wins and 71 points.
Last season, the Hawks took it to the Raiders at the Moda Center, beating them 6-1 led by Cody Glass (2G), Brad Ginnell (2G), Henri Jokiharju (G, 3A) and Joachim Blichfeld (4A). Tonight, Portland enters the game on a six game winning streak and will have a chance to make history by the end of the weekend. Never in this millennial have the Winterhawks gone undefeated in any given season against the East Division or Central Division opponents.
History is on the Winterhawks side tonight as they have won eight of the last nine meetings against Prince Albert, outscoring them 48-24 in those games. Friday night is a match-up of the top two offenses in the league, with both teams averaging well over four goals per game.
On the Raiders side, keep an eye on forward Brett Leason. Before departing to compete in the World Junior Hockey Championships, he led the WHL with 64 points. Both he and San Jose Sharks prospect Noah Gregor have over 25 goals for the Raiders. Their biggest offensive addition near the deadline was acquiring point-per-game player Dante Hannoun from the Victoria Royals.
Prince Albert has Ian Scott (24 wins, 1.73 GAA, .939 SV%) as its number one netminder, but they added Boston Bilous at the deadline from Edmonton to serve as his backup for the rest of the season and quite possibly move into the starter role as early as next season (assuming the signed Scott heads to the professional ranks next year).
The Hawks made two additions before Thursday’s trade deadline by acquiring forward Josh Paterson (#17) and goaltender Joel Hofer (#30). Both players are expected to be in the lineup tonight and Hofer should make his Winterhawks debut in net for one of the next two games.
Portland is in the last leg of its bi-annual trip to Saskatchewan/Manitoba to face the East Division opponents. They return home on Saturday, January 19 for a sunset game against the Everett Silvertips at 5:00 p.m. at the Coliseum. It’s also a Belmont Station Beer and Cider Tasting Night. Be sure to visit winterhawks.com/tickets for full details on pricing and availability.