Blades get win at Winterhawks' expense
After an 11-win November and successful swing through the Western Hockey League Central Division, the Portland Winterhawks could not carry that momentum into their first December game.
The Saskatoon Blades scored a controversial first goal. and 16-year-old goalie Nolan Maier posted a 48-save shutout as the Hawks were beaten 4-0 on Sunday in front of 7,185 fans at Moda Center.
Portland (20-5-0-1) lost in regulation for the first time since suffering a 3-2 home defeat to Everett on Oct. 29. The Hawks lead the Western Conference by two points over Victoria and top the U.S. Division by eight points over Spokane.
Saskatoon (11-14-2-1) is last in the East Division.
The Winterhawks played more than half the game without their top line. A pair of fights 6:40 into the second period resulted in a game misconduct penalty for Kieffer Bellows and 17 minutes of penalty time for Skyler McKenzie.
Saskatoon took a 1-0 lead 6:02 into the second period on its first power play. The goal was scored when the puck appeared to be whacked out of goalie Shane Farkas' glove as the whistle blew. After review, the goal was awarded to Josh Paterson.
Moments later, Portland lost two-thirds of its top line.
Saskatoon defenseman Mark Rubinchik collided low with Cody Glass as the Hawks entered the Blades' zone. McKenzie reacted by jumping onto Rubinchik. Bellows joined the fray, fighting with Saskatoon's Chase Woulters.
Bellows and Woulters received game misconduct penalties. In addition to his fighting penalty, McKenzie was assessed two minutes for instigating and a 10-minute misconduct.
"I saw Cody went down, and I thought it was a lot more serious than it was. I just jumped in right away to his defense," McKenzie said. "It was a good, spirited tilt (with Rubinchik)."
Even before losing McKenzie and Bellows, the Hawks seemed a bit off. Saskatoon had an early 11-2 edge in shots.
"I think it was a little bit of the trip for sure," Winterhawks coach Mike Johnston said, noting that the team arrived back in Portland at 1 p.m. Thursday after playing Wednesday night in Medicine Hat. "I didn't think we were sharp tonight. The first goal means everything in a game that's that tight."
The Blades took a 2-0 lead 14:13 into the second period. Braylon Shmyr intercepted an outlet pass, then put in a rebound of a Paterson shot.
Portland pushed in the third period and finished with an 18-7 shots edge over the final 20 minutes. But Cameron Hebig scored through traffic from the high slot with four minutes left, then added an empty-net goal in the final minute.
Shmyr finished with a goal and three assists, Paterson had a goal and two assists, and Hebig had an assist to go with his two goals.
Farkas was solid in net and finished with 38 saves for Portland, but he suffered his third loss in six starts this season as the backup to Cole Kehler.
Sunday's game was the first of five in seven nights for the Winterhawks. They play Tuesday at Vancouver, Wednesday at Everett and then are home for games Friday against Vancouver and Saturday against Everett.