It seems Portland and Spokane have struck up quite an intense rivalry, the latest incident happening, coincidentally, on Scout Night.

The two teams engaged in fisticuffs on and off the ice Saturday, with 10 fights and 265 penalty minutes mostly in the late stages of the game. Suspensions and fines followed.

Coach Mike Williamson and Spokane's Al Conroy got into an argument with 17 seconds left. Spokane assistant Jamie Huscroft berated Portland's Robin Big Snake, who had drawn a game misconduct for a vicious boarding of Spokane's Jevon Desautels. And then Spokane's Andy Schenn, injured and wearing a cast and scratched from the game, physically confronted Big Snake in the catacombs of the Rose Garden afterward.

The result: Big Snake got a four-game suspension; Portland coaches and players were fined $500; Spokane's Jeff Lynch and Scott Lynch got one-game suspensions for instigating fights; Spokane coaches and players were fined $750; Schenn got four games for confronting Big Snake; and Huscroft got one game for verbally abusing Big Snake.

'It's become very testy this year,' Portland GM Ken Hodge says of the rivalry, which has included incidents in a preseason game. 'We've had great playoff series against one another, where it's been very intense, but probably not at the physical level. It's sort of centered around bitterness, which is unfortunate.'

It should be interesting Saturday, when the two teams face off in Spokane.

More Big Snake: Big Snake told Winter Hawk officials that two Chiefs approached him and he 'hammered' Schenn, but few witnesses saw the Saturday incident. Hodge says teams do not like to play against Big Snake, 19, who has a reputation for tough tactics, but 'Robin's game is banging, crashing, aggressive, and we have to be careful not to take that away,' he says.

'He has to be careful about hitting people 4 or 5 feet away from the boards,' as what happened with Desautels, Hodge adds.

One out, one in: Chad Wolkowski went home indefinitely to Calgary, Alberta, to deal with a personal issue that 'had been kind of mounting and bugging him,' says Williamson, without being specific. The 20-year-old also 'wasn't happy with how he's played and his production.'

New forward Ryan Coghlan, 19, and a veteran of three WHL teams, will play with the Winter Hawks this weekend. 'I think he'll add some experience to our lineup, and that's important,' Williamson says. 'Good work habits on and off the ice.'

Former Hawk: Matt Girling, whom the Winter Hawks traded last year after Williamson's attempts to motivate him proved futile, has left the Prince George Cougars, who hope to trade the 19-year-old forward. 'The bottom line is we want commitment, on and off the ice,' Cougar coach Lane Lambert tells The Prince George Citizen, with the team sending Girling home to make the point.

Ñ Jason Vondersmith

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