Portland, still without four of their better layers (Derrick Pouliot, Nic Petan, Taylor Leier and Brendan Leipsic), still found a way to get 4 points out of the weekend home and home series with the Tri City Americans, while only allowing the Ams to get 1.
Friday 12/27 Portland 3 @ Tri City 2 (OT)
-Portland rolled a top line of Oliver Bjorkstrand, Paul Bittner and Chase De Leo as Bjorkstrand was back from the lower division World Juniors. Bjorkstrand (Denmark) was 7th in tournament scoring with 6 points in 5 games. He was also named the best forward of the tournament. Denmark now advances to the World Juniors next year in Canada. Layne Viveiros was also at the tourney and notched 2 assists in 5 games, playing as a forward for Team Austria.
-Portland came into the weekend series with a 2-2 record vs. Tri City. Losing both of those games at home.
-The top line worked quite well for Portland as Bjorkstrand scored early off a fantastic feed from Garrett Haar.
-Haar would add an important goal of his own later, when he tied the game at 2 with under 10 minutes left.
-Tri City got both of their goals late in the second period. The first on the power play by Connor Rankin and the second from small, speedy pest Lucas Nickles.
-I expected more from Rankin this year, in taking over the offensive leader role from Justin Feser. With a goal in this game, Rankin now has 13 on the season, 8 of them on the power play.
-Anton Cederholm got the heroics for the Hawks in this one, as he notched his first WHL game winner, on only his second goal. He had not scored since opening night vs. Victoria.
-Portland out-shot Tri City 30-21, so Burke did not have to be that great in the win, making only 19 saves, He probably got a bit outplayed by his 18 year old counter part Eric Comrie, who made several spectacular saves in his 27.
Saturday 12/28 Tri City 1 @ Portland 4
-Tyson Predinchuk from Regina, Saskatchewan was a late addition to the lineup for the series as the teams sent Skyler McKenzie back to the AMBHL. Predinchuk (18 years old) had played 25 games last year with the Spokane Chiefs, notching 5 assists before getting released.
-His play was mostly sloppy until he found a loose puck with Eric Comrie down and out and roofed it, making the score 3-0 midway through the 2nd period. It was his first career WHL goal.
-Adam De Champlain had one of his better games in a Winterhawk sweater, prompting his replacement of Alex Schoenborn on the 3rd (2nd now) line with Dominic Turgeon and Keegan Iverson. He had a sweet deflection of a Turgeon shot for the first goal of the game and then helped create a mad scramble in front of Comrie that Turgeon put in for his 3rd of the season, making it 4-0 and ending Comrie's night.
-Comrie got so angry after his 4th goal allowed that he turned and swung his stick in anger at the cross bar of his net, not seeing the referee standing there. Luckily this was not a repeat of what Keith Ballard did to Tomas Vokoun a few years ago.
-This was the second time that Comrie has been forced out of a game vs. the Hawks this season.
-Chase De Leo, while short handed made one the better moves on the break out that I've seen this season, making a subtle move to look like he was going to dump the puck to suck in 16 year old D-man Brendan Carlo and then going right around him to find Bjorkstrand who backhanded the puck past Comrie on the breakaway for the Hawk's second goal. It was Portland's 12th shorthanded goal and Bjorkstrand's 5th (both lead the WHL).
-Bjorkstrand is tied for second in goals (27) with Spokane's Mike Aviani. They are both 10 behind Aviani's teammate Mitch Holmberg.
-Burke was much better than Comrie in the rematch, he now has 22 wins this season, tied for first in the WHL with Kelowna's Jordon Cooke and Edmonton's Tristan Jarry.
-Burke stopped 30 of 31 shots in the win.
-Elsewhere in the U.S. Division this weekend, Seattle and Everett split a home and home series, with Sam McKechnie scoring the game winner with 33 seconds left for a 3-2 Seattle win n Friday and then Brayden Low notching the over time winner for Everett in a 4-3 win last night. Spokane also split a home and home series with Kootenay, winning 6-4 in Kootenay Friday and then losing last night at home: 2-1.
-Portland's lead in the U.S. Division sits at 4 points with a game in hand on Everett.
-Next up for Portland is New Years Eve with Kelowna in town. Kelowna is on a 14 game win streak.