Silvertips barely beat Winterhawks
The Portland Winterhawks lost their fifth consecutive game on Saturday. But they left Memorial Coliseum with more than 10,000 reasons to smile.
Rookie defenseman John Ludwig scored early in the third period, allowing a crowd of 9,578 to fling 10,908 stuffed animals onto the ice and allowing the Winterhawks to exhale after avoiding a shutout in their annual Teddy Bear Toss contest.
Ludvig's second career goal gave the Hawks a fighting chance but wasn't enough to lift Portland past visiting Everett as the Silvertips' star goalie Carter Hart made 42 saves in a 2-1 Western Hockey League win for the visitors.
Everett has won eight games in a row to pull within three points of U.S. Division leading Portland. The Silvertips (18-12-1-1, 38 points) have played two more games than the Winterhawks (20-9-0-1, 41 points).
Everett scored twice in 22 seconds early in the second period and Hart faced 29 shots over the final 27 minutes to make sure two goals were enough.
Ludvig, a 17-year-old rookie in his 20th career WHL game, beat Hart from the left-wing circle 2:48 into the third period. It was Portland's first goal at home in more than eight periods.
Mason Mannek kept possession in the right wing corner and Alex Overhardt's circle to circle pass glanced off a Silvertip stick but reached Ludvig with time and space to hit the open corner of the goal.
Earlier on the same shift, Ludvig almost scored from the slot but Hart got enough of a heavy shot that the puck went just outside the goalpost.
"Second time around, I didn't want to miss. I picked the right corner. It was surreal," Ludvig said. "I was almost in shock there. My mind went blank and everyone was throwing the Teddy bears. It was awesome to see."
Shortly after the goal, Portland had three minutes of power-play time, one minute of it five-on-three. But Hart, his defense and a little help from the crossbar kept the Hawks from tying the score.
Portland dominated the second half of the game, outshooting Everett 34-11 over the last two periods and 20-4 in the third period.
But scoring twice in 22 seconds was enough to earn the Silvertips victory.
Connor Dewar broke the ice with a power-play goal six minutes into the second period. Dewar deflected a shot from Kevin Davis past a screened Cole Kehler.
"They switched up their format there and threw two guys in front," Kehler said. "I think there was some confusion and they made a good shot through traffic."
Another deflection from near the crease made it 2-0 as Bryce Kindopp chipped point shot from Jake Christiansen past Kehler at 6:22 of the second period.
"It was going wide and (Kindopp) got a piece of it," Kehler said. "Those things happen. It's part of the game. We're going to bounce back."
Moments after the second Everett goal, Ludvig fought at center ice with the Silvertips' Montana Onyebuchi. Onyebuchi was given a game misconduct penalty on top of the standard five-minute fighting penalty.
Later in the period, a power play gave Portland some life. But Hart stood firm on two scramble plays in his crease and got just enough of a Keoni Texeira shot to send it skittering just outside the post. Portland had nine shots over the final 6:36 of the second period and had several others just miss the target including a close-range chance for Bronson Sharp off the rush that was lifted over the cross bar.
Portland coach/VP/GM Mike Johnston noted that it was a challenge to face the league's best goalie twice in a week at the end of a stretch of 11 games in 20 days and a lot of travel.
"He's like Carey Price, he makes it look easy," Johnston said about Hart. "He's good positionally, he anticipates well. He's definitely the top goaltender in our league, and we had to face him twice this week when we're tired."
The Winterhawks face Spokane twice next week, visiting Spokane on Tuesday and playing host to the Chiefs next Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
Cody Glass leaves Monday to join Team Canada's tryout camp for the upcoming World Juniors Championships. After Tuesday, Kieffer Bellows (United States), Joachim Blichfeld (Denmark) and Henri Jokiharju (Finland) depart for their national teams' camps.
The stuffed animals tossed by fans will be donated to children at local hospitals, to children's charities and schools. Winterhawks players will make some of those deliveries.