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Hitmen stun Winterhawks in third period


Games like Wednesday's don't come around too often for the Portland Winterhawks.

Well on their way to another victory, leading by two goals heading into the third period, the Winterhawks lost the lead and the game, as Calgary rallied to win 4-3 at Memorial Coliseum.

The Winterhawks still have a 43-8-1-2 record heading into Friday and Saturday showdowns at Western Hockey League B.C. Division-leading Kelowna, and entered the week as the No. 1-ranked team in all of junior hockey. But the Hitmen (34-16-13), a solid team coached by former Portland player and coach Mike Williamson, burst their bubble for one night anyway, becoming the first opponent to beat the Winterhawks when trailing after two periods. Portland had a 35-0-0-1 record when leading after two periods — the only loss in a shootout — until Wednesday night.

"We should have won," Portland forward Taylor Peters said. "We kind of cut it a little bit fine on our shots, and giving up a lead going into the third isn't something you want to do. We could have mopped it up a little bit defensively.

"When it comes to these big games, the margin of error is so small, sometimes you give it all you got and you don't get the two points you want. ... It's going to sting, but the good thing is we take this loss as fuel for the next game. We played well. We'll keep that in mind going forward."

Portland outshot its opponent for the 47th time in 54 games. The Hawks led 3-1 after quick goals by Ty Rattie on a tic-tac-toe play with linemates Brendan Leipsic and Nic Petan — three of the four top scorers in the WHL — and 14 seconds later by Leipsic after Rattie's steal.

But Cody Sylvester narrowed the deficit 56 seconds into the third period, and the Hitmen and goalie Chris Driedger survived a 5-on-3 Portland power play. Brooks Macek's goal at 6:57 of the third period tied it, and the Hitmen stunned the Portland crowd by tallying the game-winner with 1:32 remaining with another Sylvester goal.

"The third period we started skating and playing better," says Williamson, whose team appears to be an Eastern Conference contender, along with Edmonton and Prince Albert. "We were fortunate to keep the game where it was, at 3-1 and 3-2 they had great chances; our goalie was really good, and the kill came up big on the 5-on-3.

"Portland has a great hockey team, and we stood and watched them a little bit through two periods."

Rattie compared Calgary to Kamloops, another Western Conference challenger to Portland, which has won consecutive Western Conference titles.

"They used their speed. They're fast and a skilled team," Rattie says. "They capitalized in the third period. We know we're better than that."

Defenseman Shaun MacPherson — one of 10 first-year Winterhawks players — scored his second career goal in the first period. But Alex Roach's goal midway through the second period tied it.

Meanwhile, defenseman and captain Troy Rutkowski, already the Portland all-time leader in games played (333), played in his 222nd consecutive game, setting the Winterhawks' record he had held along with former D-man and current NHL player Andrew Ference.