Hawks squeeze by Everett, 4-3, draw closer to title
Two games are left for the Portland Winterhawks, who beat Everett 4-3 Friday night to maintain their slim lead in the Western Hockey League U.S. Division and Western Conference.
The Winterhawks (49-18-0-3) got two goals from Nino Niederreiter in the win over the visiting Everett Silvertips (28-31-7-4) at the Rose Garden in front of 9,361 fans.
The win gives the Winterhawks 101 points on the season, the first 100-point season since the 1997-98 Memorial Cup team. The Spokane Chiefs defeated Seattle 5-0 tonight, so they remain one point back with 100 points.
Both teams play again tomorrow, Portland in Seattle, and Spokane in Tri-City, before meeting at 5 p.m. Sunday at the Rose Garden in a game that could decide first place in the conference.
After a scoreless first period where the Winterhawks had the first nine shots of the game and a 14-5 edge in shots overall, it was the Silvertips who struck first when Brennan Yadlowski scored a power-play goal 1:56 into the second period to make it 1-0. The Silvertips made it 2-0 when Ryan Murray stepped out of the penalty box and took a long stretch pass from Evan Morden for a breakaway, where he beat Winterhawks netminder Mac Carruth to make it 2-0.
But just 12 seconds later Winterhawks forward Riley Boychuk was stationed in front of the Everett net and collected a rebound and fired it past Silvertips goaltender Luke Siemens to make it 2-1. The Winterhawks then tied the game at the 12:20 mark when Niederreiter scored his 39th goal of season on the doorstep to make it 2-2.
But the Silvertips regained the lead at the 17:16 mark when Josh Birkholz scored their second power-play goal of the night to make it 3-2 entering the third period.
The Hawks tied it once again just 1:42 into the period when Sven Bartschi took a puck that bounced off the glass behind Everett's net and fired it past Siemens to even the game at 3-3.
From there, Niederreiter ensured there'd be no overtime when he scored his 40th of the season on a power play at the 16:52 mark to give the Hawks the win.
Carruth got the win in net for Portland, playing his first game since suffering a lower body injury in warmups on March 4.
Before the game, the Winterhawks handed out their annual team awards. Ryan Johansen took home the MVP Award, while Sven Bartschi won Rookie of the Year and Craig Cunningham won Most Sportsmanlike. Rookie Brendan Leipsic took home the Booster Club Fan Favorite Award, while Taylor Aronson and William Wrenn shared Best Defensive Player. In addition, Taylor Peters and Seth Swenson each took home Scholastic Player of the Year Awards.