The Portland Winterhawks (30-5-1-0) were back in action Friday for their first game after the holiday break and picked up right where they left off with a 4-3 win in Tri-Cities against the Americans (20-13-1-2).
It was the Hawks’ seventh straight victory, and 30th win of the season in their 36th game, marking the official halfway point of the season. The victory also moved them seven points ahead of the idle Kamloops Blazers for the top record in the league with three games in hand on the Blazers.
Taylor Peters gave the Hawks a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at the 14:31 mark of the first period. They extended the lead with just over two minutes to go in the frame when defenseman Kirill Vorobev scored the first goal of his career to make it 2-0 going into the second.
Tri-Cities got within one 1:56 into the second on a goal by Connor Rankin. The Hawks answered back just 10 seconds later when Taylor Leier scored his 15th of the season to make it 3-1, then they extended the lead to 4-1 on a power play goal by Oliver Bjorkstrand at the 13:27 mark. The Americans got one back with just under a minute to go in the period on a power play goal by Justin Feser to cut it to 4-2 going into the third.
It remained 4-2 through much of the third, until Feser scored his second power play goal of the night at the 16:48 mark of the third to make it 4-3. But that would be as close as the Americans would get, as the Hawks closed the door from there to finish with the victory.
Brendan Burke was terrific in net for the Hawks, making 43 saves on 46 shots for the win. Eric Comrie finished with 34 saves on 38 Portland shots for the Americans.
Peters and Bjorkstrand both finished with two points for the Hawks, who were 2-3 on the power play.
Portland was without several key players Friday, as Seth Jones, Ty Rattie and Tyler Wotherspoon are currently playing in the World Junior Championship, while Keegan Iverson and Dominic Turgeon are representing then U.S. in the World Under-17 Hockey challenge. In addition, defenseman Derrick Pouliot missed the game due to injury.
The Hawks and Americans play the second of a home-and-home series tomorrow at Veterans Memorial Coliseum at 3 p.m. with the arena’s curtains open.