Winterhawks roll to win at Tri-City
It was a happy return for a group of Portland Winterhawks on Friday.
Kieffer Bellows, Henri Jokiharju and Joachim Blichfeld returned from their World Juniors absence and each factored in the scoring as the Winterhawks beat the shorthanded Tri-City Americans, 5-1, at Kennewick, Washington.
Bellows scored two goals and Alex Overhardt, Jokiharju and new Winterhawk Lukus MacKenzie scored for Portland.
With their third win in a row, the Winterhawks improved to 25-13-1-2 for 53 points. Portland moved one point ahead of idle Everett atop the U.S. Division. Third-place Tri-City, missing four injured starters, is 22-14-5-0 for 49 points.
Portland goalie Cole Kehler made 28 saves in the win, and had no chance on a late power-play goal for Tri-City's Isaac Johnson.
The game was scoreless through a ragged first period, but Portland scored three times in the second period when the Hawks put 21 shots on goal.
Bellows, who scored nine times for Team USA at the World Juniors, opened the scoring with a shot through traffic 41 seconds into the second period.
Overhardt scored from a sharp angle to make it 2-0 at 9:21 of the second period. Blichfeld found a loose puck along the end boards and found Overhardt below the right-wing faceoff circle.
Jokiharju made it 3-0 at 13:50, on a shot through traffic that might have been deflected by Mason Mannek.
In the third period, newcomer MacKenzie scored his first goal of the season on a two-on-one 4:40 into the third period. Bellows got his second of the night, 21st of the season, putting home a power-play rebound at 8:39 of the third period.
Also returning to the Portland lineup Friday was team captain Keoni Texeira, who last played on Dec. 27 before suffering a lower-body injury in practice.
Defenseman Dennis Cholowski also played his first game with the Winterhawks after he was acquired in a Wednesday trade with Prince George.
Prior to scoring his first goal, MacKenzie's first impression was a first-period fight with Tri-City's Austin King-Cunnigham.
Blichfeld, Skyler McKenzie and defenseman Matthew Quigley each had two assists for Portland.
With Lane Gilliss still injured, defenseman Conor MacEachern played right wing on Friday on the fourth line.
Tri-City is missing four key players with injuries. Forwards Michael Rasmussen, Morgan Geekie and Kyle Olson and defenseman Juuso Valimaki did not play. All four have been drafted by NHL teams.
Portland went 1 for 4 on the power play. Tri-City was 1 for 5.
The Winterhawks return to Portland for games at 6 p.m. on Saturday against Seattle and at 5 p.m. on Sunday against Everett. Both games are at Memorial Coliseum. Saturday's game will be televised on WB32.