After losing three straight games on the road in Saskatchewan, the Calgary Hitmen had their toughest task of the year when they took on the CHL’s top team in the form of the Portland Winterhawks. The ‘Hawks are the top defensive team in the WHL and were coming of a defensive shutout of their own.
But not only did the Hitmen end a two-game scoreless drought, a late marker from captain Cody Sylvester boosted the visitors to an important 4-3 win, becoming only the eighth team this season to beat Portland in regulation.
The victory, the fifth game in a season-long nine-game roadtrip for the Hitmen, moves them to 34-16-1-3 and maintains their stranglehold on third place in the Eastern Conference. They remain 11 points behind the Edmonton Oil Kings for first place.
Portland, which features three of the top four scorers in the WHL, came out firing in the first frame, tossing 15 shots at the direction of Hitmen starting goaltender Chris Driedger. Only a long shot from defenceman Shaun MacPherson made its way into the net behind a screened Driedger.
The Hitmen were shutout for the seventh straight period, firing 5 shots at Carruth.
Finally, Alex Roach ended the drought when he blasted his 14th goal of the season from the point. The goal moves him into third in goal scoring for defenceman in the WHL.
Portland picked their lead right back up near the end of the second, with markers 14 seconds apart by Ty Rattie and Brendan Leipsic.
Less than a minute into the final frame, Sylvester scored his first of the game, picking up the bouncing puck behind the Winterhawks defence and putting it in.
Portland thought they extended their lead a few minutes later but Driedger stopped the puck right on the goalline. After a referee’s review, Brooks Macek went down to the other end and tied it up following a nice play from Jake Virtanen to tie it up.
And with under two minutes left, Spencer Humphries and Sylvester went in on a two-on-one and the latter fired his second of the night and 28th of the season for the eventual game winner shortside.
Driedger stood on his head in the Hitmen net, turning away 42 of 45 shots in his 26th victory of the year, while Carruth stopped 26 shots in the loss.
Greg Chase tied his career-high with three assists as he continues his best year in the WHL.
The Hitmen roadtrip now moves onto Everett and Seattle in a back-to-back on Friday and Saturday night.