Matt Revel's hopes for a strong final season in junior hockey went all topsy-turvy Dec. 10.
An opponent's stick got stuck against the goalpost, tripping Revel. The resulting somersault ended with his shoulder slamming into the ice — and ended his time with the Kamloops Blazers after more than three seasons.
"It was a fluky one, for sure," Revel says of the play that was expected to end his season. He was told the fractured collarbone meant he would never again skate in the Western Hockey League.
Fast forward three months and there was Revel scoring a goal for the Portland Winterhawks on Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
"When I got that goal, I got chills," Revel says. "I still get chills when I think about it, just hearing the crowd and seeing the guys' reaction on the bench. It was awesome."
A 5-11, 185-pound center from Abbotsford, British Columbia, Revel has played only four games for Portland, but has scored goals in two of them. After a tough first game at Everett, he enjoyed contributing to three consecutive wins over Vancouver.
Revel's return to health is a bonus for the Winterhawks, who acquired the forward off waivers from Kamloops at the WHL trade deadline. Several teams expressed interest in Revel, but when Portland inquired, he knew he wanted to play for coach/GM/VP Mike Johnston.
Revel was a 16-year-old rookie on the Saskatoon Blades team that hosted the 2013 Memorial Cup Tournament and lost to the Winterhawks in the round-robin phase.
"I really liked the way they play, and Mike's style of play. They play with a lot of speed and energy, so that was a huge part of it for me," Revel says. "I knew I could fit in well with the system and play to my top level here."
From Johnston's perspective, Revel gives Portland scoring depth and valuable experience for the playoffs.
"Matt Revel's been really good," Johnston says. "He's experienced in the league, so he's not rattled by the pressure of the end of the year and playoffs and all that stuff coming up.
"He's a very good scorer. He's got a great knack. He can make plays, and he can score. So to add that to our lineup when our scoring is pretty good already is going to be a help."
Revel's first month in Portland was limited to contact-free skating. He said it helped him that team captain Keegan Iverson also was sidelined, so the two watched games and endured fitness skates together.
And his rehabilitation period did not prevent Revel from making an impact as one of three 20-year-olds on a young Winterhawks roster.
"Leadership comes in a lot of ways. It comes on the ice, off the ice. It comes vocally and through play," he says. "So I think I can bring a lot of those leadership qualities to this team."
Revel has played on a line with Colton Veloso and Brad Ginnell. He has seen time with the second power-play unit and more limited use on the penalty kill.
He says his speed is where it should be, and his game fitness is getting better, as is his timing with teammates.
"This year's definitely not gone the way I planned," Revel says. "But I'm fortunate to be here in Portland. I wish I could have been here earlier in my career, but it's already like a home away from home."
n Line shift: Unhappy with the play of his top lines in the first two games of last week's three-game set against Vancouver, Johnston separated Cody Glass and Skyler McKenzie for the first time this season.
In Saturday's 3-0 win over Vancouver, McKenzie and Ryan Hughes flipped lines, with Hughes playing alongside Glass and Keegan Iverson, and McKenzie with Alex Overhardt and Joachim Blichfeld.
"I just didn't think that Overhardt's line or Glass's line were doing enough in this series. So I wanted to see if I could tweak it and maybe get something going on those lines," says Johnston, who thought both lines played better after Saturday's shakeup.
McKenzie was on the ice with Glass and did remain partnered on the power play.
Johnston hasn't committed to how long he might stick with the new line combinations.
"It gives us flexibility. You want as much flexibility as you can in your lineup," Johnston says. "So if Hughes has played with Glass a little bit, some games I can move him up there, or I can juggle them around. Our players are pretty adaptable that way."
• Evan Weinger missed all three games against Vancouver after taking a stick to the face in practice. Johnston hopes Weinger might be back at some point during this very busy week for the Hawks.
• Playoff picture: Portland could lock up a playoff spot as soon as Wednesday, if Spokane loses Tuesday at Seattle and Wednesday at home against Everett.
If Spokane won its eight remaining games, it would finish with 78 points. Portland sits on 74 points with seven games on its schedule.
• Busy week: Starting with Wednesday's home game against Prince George, the Winterhawks will play five games over seven nights. The stretch includes home games on Saturday against Seattle and on Sunday against Everett.