Winterhawks beat PG again
The Portland Winterhawks finished off a sweep of the Prince George Cougars on Sunday.
No, it's not a playoff series, but the Hawks beat the Cougars for the fourth time in six nights, a 4-1 win at Veterans Memorial Coliseum that keeps Portland tied on points with Everett atop the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League.
The Winterhawks are 20-6-1-2 (43 points). The Everett Silvertips have 43 points from one fewer game. Everett and Portland collide at the Moda Center at 7 p.m. Friday, the next game for both teams.
A young Prince George team will be glad to put Portland behind it. The Cougars are 6-20-1-2 (15 points) at the bottom of the B.C. Division. The Winterhawks outscored the Cougars 15-5 over the four games the teams played between Tuesday and Sunday, twice getting shutouts from goalie Joel Hofer.
Still, the sweep was an accomplishment in the eyes of Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston.
"They're a tough team to play against. (The Cougars) play a hard, physical game. They play a north-south game where they really play with some speed," Johnston said. "I was really proud of our guys. We've had some injuries to deal with. Once again a lot of the young guys played big minutes."
Portland was without forward Cross Hanas and defenseman Matthew Quigley entering Sunday's game and forward Kishaun Gervais left after a hit from behind by Josh Maser three minutes into the game that earned Maser four penalty minutes. None of those injuries are thought to be serious.
Portland has won five of six games played over 10 days.
"Coming out of the two Kamloops games and the four PG games with five wins is a real credit to our group," Johnston said. "That's outstanding."
Johnny Ludvig, Jaydon Dureau and Seth Jarvis each had a goal and assist on Sunday and Robbie Fromm-Delorme scored the go-ahead goal in the second period.
Hofer won his 20th of the season, stopping 26 of 27 shots. The Cougars' goal came on a Maser drive through traffic and tied the score 1-1 with PG on a second-period power play.
Ludvig opened the scoring 8:34 into the first with a wicked wrist shot from the high slot, the 11th goal of the season for the defenseman and team captain.
Fromm-Delorme put Portland up 2-1 7:14 into the second, knocking home a rebound from a goal-mouth scramble for his third goal of the season.
Dureau made it 3-1 at 12:13 of the second, scoring from the left-wing faceoff dot on a power-play rush. A quick cross-ice pass from Jake Gricius put the puck on Dureau's stick.
The only goal of the third period was an empty-netter from Jarvis, his 13th of the season sealing the victory with 30 seconds remaining,
Hofer (Canada) and forward Simon Knak (Switzerland) leave Monday to participate in their countries' selection camp ahead of the 2020 IIHF World Juniors Championships, which run Dec. 26 through Jan. 4 in the Czech Republic.
Johnston said the Winterhawks considered letting backup goalie Isaiah DiLaura get a game against his former Prince George team but decided that Hofer is playing too well to sit. Sunday was his 10th start and sixth game in 10 days.
"That's a heavy load for (Hofer), but he seems to be able to handle it," Johnston said. "We really think he's playing well and in a groove. Rather than give him a day off, we thought we'd keep him in a groove and he heads out on a positive note."
DiLaura, whose last action was a shootout loss at Seattle on Nov. 16, has played in only three of Portland's first 19 games. But the 19-year-old from Saint Paul, Minnesota, figures to get work next weekend when the Winterhawks play host to Everett on Friday, visit Tri-City on Saturday and play host to Seattle on Sunday before an 11-day holiday break.
Those three games start a run of nine in a row against U.S. Division rivals.
Goalie Dante Giannuzzi, 17, will join Portland during Hofer's absence.
• One night after scoring the Teddy Bear Toss goal, 20-year-old forward Lane Gilliss played defense for Portland on Sunday. He was needed there with Quigley out and Jonas Brondberg away with Team Denmark.
• A pair of 15-year-olds, defenseman Ryder Thompson and forward Kyle Chyzowski, will be in Portland this week to at least practice with the Winterhawks and — if needed — to provide lineup depth.
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