The Winterhawks begin their East Division swing tonight, kicking off the start of the six game in nine day stretch. Tonight, Portland faces the reigning WHL Champions, the Swift Current Broncos.
Puck Drop: 5:00 p.m. PST / 7:00 p.m. CT
Venue: Innovation Credit Union iPlex
Watch: WHL Live
PREVIOUS GAME – Winterhawks 6 vs. Thunderbirds 3: The Hawks won their second straight game against the Thunderbirds in front of a sold out crowd of 10,282. Portland scored five unanswered to win 6-3 on New Year’s Eve.
Seattle took control of the first period thanks to a career weekend from Zack Andrusiak. He started the offense at the midway point of the period, but the Hawks would go on to tie it a few minutes later on the power play. Ryan Hughes skated off the wall and buried a rebound shot from Joachim Blichfeld to tie the game at 1-1.
Minutes later, Andrusiak scored on a two-on-one rush to give the Thunderbirds the lead again. They would go on and add to it before the period’s end on a Tyler Carpendale power play goal.
The rest of the night belonged to the Hawks. Thirty nine seconds into the second period, Blichfeld made an incredible pass to himself off the glass to spring himself loose behind the Seattle defense. He scored to cut into the lead. A few minutes later, Blichfeld capitalized on the power play to tie the game at 3-3.
With momentum, Lane Gilliss broke the puck into the zone with a pass to Michal Kvasnica. He deked around defenseman Owen Williams and ripped it short side for the go ahead tally. With the Moda Center on its feet, the Hawks would go on to score two more for the home fans. Jared Freadrich got an insurance marker on the power play and Seth Jarvis added one more for good measure.
Shane Farkas buckled down after the first period and stopped the last 23 shots he faced, picking up his 20th win of the season for his 32 save effort.
Portland heads to Canada to play six games in nine nights against the East Division teams. They return on January 19th for a home game against Everett in the sunset game at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The puck is set to drop at 5:00 p.m. Be sure to visit winterhawks.com/tickets for full details on pricing and availability.
Friday night is the only time during the regular season these two teams will face one another. After a magical end to the 2017-18 season, the Broncos are in the midst of a rebuild and they enter the game as the last place team in the Western Hockey League.
With former 100-point forwards Aleksi Heponiemi, Glenn Gawdin and Tyler Steenbergen moving on from the major junior ranks, Swift Current focused this season on re-tooling their team with younger talent. In fact, after the Broncos made a handful of trades (including shipping three players to Everett), 18 year old Ethan Regnier is the team’s highest offensive producer from the championship team. He had eight points in his rookie season and is currently third on the team this year with 18 points.
Alec Zawatsky has played well lately, registering points in seven of his last eight games (5-3–8). The Broncos have just one win in their last five games and they begin a seven game home stretch this evening, which could bode well seeing as Swift Current is statistically a better team at home. Despite only winning seven games this season, five of them have come at home. The Hawks won five games along in December.
In this decade, the Winterhawks have won five of eight games against the Broncos, with their last win coming during the 2015-16 season. In the Hawks last trip to the iPlex in 2016, Portland lost 7-3, but Joachim Blichfeld scored his first career WHL goal. Since that game, Blichfeld has scored 93 more times including playoffs.
The focus of tonight is continuing momentum from the Seattle series and not overlooking the Broncos. Goaltender Joel Hofer made over 40 saves in half of his season wins, so the Hawks can’t sleep on Swift Current to begin their eastern swing.
Portland is in the midst of his bi-annual trip to Saskatchewan 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.