WHL Roundup: Warriors record league-leading 30th victory on New Year’s Eve
Brandon Wheat Kings (2) at Moose Jaw Warriors (6)
Brandon (25-11-0-1) // Moose Jaw (30-6-1-2)
The Moose Jaw Warriors had the Brandon Wheat Kings’ number for a second straight game as the two teams closed out a home-and-home at Mosaic Place Sunday.
Jayden Halbgewachs (San Jose Sharks) had a pair of goals and five points, Tristin Langan scored twice to continue his strong campaign and WHL leading scorer Brayden Burke reached the elusive 300-point plateau with a goal and three points as the Warriors won their third straight game.
Halbgewachs opened the scoring in the first period, but the Wheat Kings responded shortly after on the 28th of the season from Stelio Mattheos (Carolina Hurricanes). The second period saw Halbgewachs and Burke strike to grow the home side’s lead.
In the third, Langan opened the scoring in the period by sniping the puck top shelf on a short-handed breakaway. Evan Weinger responded a few minutes later for the Wheat Kings, but the Warriors would not be deterred.
Langan notched his second of the game 1:52 later and Tanner Jeannot scored late to round out the offence, which was more than enough for Willms on this night as he finished with 25 saves on 27 shots for his league-leading 23rd victory.
Logan Thompson stopped 38 of 44 shots in the loss.
Justin Almeida added a pair of assists, moving him into a tie with Mattheos for eighth in league scoring. With his performance Sunday, Halbgewachs became the first 40-goal scorer in the league this year, opening up a five-goal advantage on Swift Current Broncos winger Tyler Steenbergen.
— Moose Jaw Warriors (@MJWARRIORS) January 1, 2018
Spokane Chiefs (3) at Tri-City Americans (4)
Spokane (20-15-1-2) // Tri-City (20-10-5-0)
The Tri-City Americans atoned for a bad 20 minutes to open Sunday’s game, scoring three unanswered goals to take a one-goal victory over the Spokane Chiefs.
Isaac Johnson’s ninth goal of the season highlighted the second period comeback while Patrick Dea put together a 43-save performance, featuring 29 saves on 29 shots in the final 40 minutes to secure the victory.
Despite scoring first, things didn’t go the Americans’ way in the first. Just 62 seconds after Riley Sawchuk put the Ams ahead 1-0, Jake McGrew evened up the score with his sixth goal of the year. It took all of 46 seconds for the game’s next goal to come, with Eli Zummack tallying the Chiefs’ second goal of the game. With the opening period heading into the final minute, Zach Fischer (Calgary Flames) scored to build a commanding lead for the Chiefs.
That all changed in the second though as the Ams rattled off three goals in a 7:25 span to regain control of the game. Dylan Coghlan (Vegas Golden Knights) scored his 12th goal of the season followed by goals from Nolan Yaremko and Johnson to go ahead in the game for good.
Dea shook off his first period struggles to secure the victory. Dawson Weatherill made nine saves on 13 shots before giving way to Donovan Buskey, who stopped all 13 shots sent his way.
Jordan Topping had three assists for the Americans and Kyle Olson (Anaheim Ducks) added a pair of helpers as well. Morgan Geekie picked up an assist to record a point for the ninth time in his last 10 games.
— Tri-City Americans (@TCAmericans) January 1, 2018
Seattle Thunderbirds (4) at Portland Winterhawks (3) — SO
Seattle (18-14-4-1) // Portland (22-12-1-2)
For a second straight day, the Seattle Thunderbirds needed extra time to knock off the Portland Winterhawks.
While Saturday’s game ended in overtime from the stick of Jarret Tyzka (Montreal Canadiens), Sunday’s contest ended thanks to the goaltending talents of Liam Hughes, who denied all three Winterhawks in the shootout to help the T-Birds sweep the home-and-home set.
Skyler McKenzie put the Winterhawks on the board first Sunday, scoring his 27th goal of the season early in the second period, but five minutes later the Thunderbirds received goals from Reece Harsch and Nikita Malukhin to take their first lead of the game.
Reece Newkirk’s second goal of the season would tie the game up, keeping things even until the dying minutes of the third when Matthew Wedman put Seattle up with what could easily have been interpreted as the game-winning goal. Instead, the Winterhawks dug deep and scored with 58 seconds to go in the game after Ryan Hughes got a stick on the puck during a scramble in front of the net.
Overtime solved nothing, but Liam Hughes refused to budge in the shootout, turning aside all three Portland shooters in addition to making 33 saves on 36 shots in regulation and overtime. Cole Kehler (Los Angeles Kings) stopped 27 of 30 shots, adding one save on two shots in the shootout.
Turner Ottenbreit picked up a pair of assists for Seattle in the victory. Cody Glass (Vegas Golden Knights) had a pair of assists in the loss.
HUGHES MAKES THE SAVE! T-Birds win 4-3 in shootout!! pic.twitter.com/QxNEcFITbC
— Seattle Thunderbirds 2017 WHL Champions (@SeattleTbirds) January 1, 2018