It wasn’t a gorgeous game by any means, but the Portland Winterhawks continued their early season strong play by winning their fifth game in a row by knocking off the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 at the MC last night.
The story for Portland was the play of their penalty killers, led by Team Captain Brett Ponich, who went nine for nine on the PK in a game with tons of penalties and special teams for both sides. Ponich and his mates are now ranked #1 in the WHL on the penalty kill as they are sitting at 89.9% killed after last night, moving just ahead of the Red Deer Rebels.
Nino Niederreiter played well in his return to the WHL, picking up a fighting major after Spencer Main jumped him when Niederreiter put a big, clean hit on MacKenzie Johnston behind the Rockets net. It was a NHL hit on a WHL player. After the game, Nino said that he struggled with the adjustment back to the WHL visor, which is larger than the visor he wore in the nine games in the NHL with the New York Islanders. He should get over that quickly.
(Update: the assist credited to Niederreiter has been changed to Derrick Pouliot after review of the video.)
In net, Mac Carruth continues to excel as he is now 5-1-0-0 to start the season and you know he is having a good year when his season stats get worse after allowing two goals on 35 shots. His .950 save percentage still tops the league.
And the dynamic duo of Ty Rattie and Sven Bärtschi both extended their point streaks to eight games as Rattie (6-11-17 in his last 8) picked up two assists and Bärtschi (8-7-15 in his last 8) a goal in the contest.
The power play, which is still hovering close to 20.0% despite not hitting on all cylinders at the moment, went 1 for 8 with Joe Morrow slapping home a point shot for his first of the season. The PP should improve now that everyone is back and the Hawks have another almost full week of practice time after tonight’s game.
Tonight’s game will not be on the radio due to scheduling conflicts, but those who want to listen to Todd and I call the game can do so by bringing a radio to the arena and tuning to 96.5 FM as we will be broadcasting in-house as well as providing audio for the WHL Livestream (which can be purchased from www.whl.ca). We won’t be doing a full pre-game show or intermission features, but we will be providing game action and keep you up to date on the out of town scores.