Cougars maul Winterhawks' record
The 2,570 fans who spent Sunday evening at Memorial Coliseum saw something rare.
For the first time since the first game of the 2016 Western Hockey League playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks did not score a goal. Portland had scored in 100 consecutive regular-season games dating to January 2016 before Sunday's 3-0 loss to previously winless Prince George.
Given the firepower on this Winterhawks roster — Portland totaled 13 goals in its first two games before the silent Sunday — it's a good bet this was an early-season blip that won't happen often.
The explanations included ice conditions that had the puck bouncing more than sliding, a situation that contributed to the Winterhawks going 0 for 6 on the power play.
"It's hard to work your power play on bad ice," says Mike Johnston, Winterhawks VP/GM/coach.
The ice aside — it was bad during the team's practices last week, too, according to Johnston — the Hawks (2-1) were sluggish a night after beating rival Seattle 6-2 in front of more than 9,000 fans at Moda Center.
"I didn't think we were well prepared. Coaches, players have to take responsibility for that. We have to be better prepared," Johnston says. "You're not going to beat teams in this league without working hard. You're not going to beat them without winning those loose puck races, those loose puck battles."
Prince George had more jump than Portland at the start of the Sunday game. The Cougars came in hungry after three losses to open the season, and were resting in Portland on Saturday while the Winterhawks were battling Seattle.
"It's early in the year. We haven't had heavy action yet, so we should have better legs than what we had" on Sunday, Johnston says.
After playing three games over 13 days to start the season, the Winterhawks will play six in 10 days, starting Friday at Spokane.
"When you sit around for a full week, then play two games in a row, it's difficult," says returning center Cody Glass, who promises that the Hawks will "have a lot of fun coming up."
Johnston and his staff might pare the roster by a couple of players before that stretch of games. Three players — defenseman John Ludvig, 17, center Mason Mannek, 17, and center Reece Newkirk, 16 — played in their first counting WHL game on Sunday.
WHL teams are limited to three overage players, and the Hawks have four. The club has one week to decide which 20-year-old to part with. Winger Evan Weinger played his first game of the season on Sunday. Center Alex Overhardt has played in all three games. Defenseman Keoni Texeira is the veteran of a relatively young defensive group, and Cole Kehler is the No. 1 goalie.
• Left wing Joachim Blichfeld is in the WHL's concussion protocol and did not play Sunday. On Saturday, he took a high hit at center ice from Seattle's Turner Ottenbreit, who was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct.
• Johnston plans to settle on eight defensemen and 13 forwards. Last weekend's roster included nine defensemen and 15 forwards.