The Portland Winterhawks (31-5-1-0) won their eighth straight with a 4-3 victory over the visiting Tri-City Americans (20-14-1-2) Saturday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in front of 6,753 fans.
Portland opened the scoring 11:04 into the game when Paul Bittner beat Tri-Cities netminder Luke Lee-Knight with a shot from the left faceoff circle to make it 1-0. The Hawks extended the lead when Nic Petan scored his team-leading 25th goal of the season at the 17:34 mark to make it 2-0 heading into the second period.
The Americans got on the board 2:04 into the second when Connor Rankin scored to cut the lead to 2-1, then tied it at 2-2 at the 9:27 mark on a goal by Brian Williams. Portland regained the lead when Brendan Leipsic beat Lee-Knight between the pads to make it 3-2 at the 17:22 mark, but Rankin scored his second of the game with 38 seconds to go in the period to make it 3-3 going into the third.
The game remained tied until midway through the third when Bittner took a great feed from Chase De Leo on a power play and fired a shot past Lee-Knight to make it 4-3 at the 11:35 mark, a goal that would stand as the winner.
With two goals and an assist, Bittner finished with a career-high three points. Brendan Leipsic, Nic Petan and Troy Rutkowski all finished with two points apiece.
Mac Carruth picked up the win in net with 29 saves on 32 shots. Lee-Knight took the loss with 26 saves on 30 shots. Carruth now has 104 career wins, one shy of the franchise record held by Darrell May Sr.
Portland was once again without several key players Saturday, 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.
Saturday s game was the back end of a home-and-home series after the Hawks picked up a 4-3 road win over the Americans last night.
The Hawks are back in action Monday for the annual New Year s Eve game against the Seattle Thunderbirds, with a special 8 p.m. start time. Fans can skate with the players after the game and countdown to midnight on the videoboard.