WHL Tonight: Ross wins again as Thunderbirds move into wild card spot

Brian Liesse/Seattle Thunderbirds


Western Hockey League Three Stars: Sunday, January 27, 2019

1. Joel Hofer, Portland Winterhawks: St. Louis Blues prospect Joel Hofer of the Portland Winterhawks dazzled between the pipes Sunday, stopping all 37 shots sent his way in a 3-0 win against the Lethbridge Hurricanes. Hofer stopped eight shots in the first, 18 in the second, and 11 in the third for the third shutout of his WHL career.

The Winnipeg, Man. product has impressed early on with the Winterhawks, sporting a 4-1-0-0 record, 1.59 goals-against-average, 0.946 SV%, and one shutout with Portland in five games. Overall, Hofer has appeared in 54 WHL regular season games, posting a 18-25-3-2 record, 3.36 GAA, 0.910 SV%, and three shutouts.

2. Conner McDonald, Edmonton Oil KingsEdmonton Oil Kings defenceman Conner McDonald scored twice Sunday, accounting for all of his team’s offence in a 2-1 win against the visiting Prince George Cougars. With his team down 1-0 in the second period, McDonald scored twice in a 2:07 span, vaulting his team into the lead. The performance was the first multi-goal game of his WHL career and seventh multi-point game this season.

The two-goal performance also helped McDonald set a new career high for goals in a single season with his 11th and 12th goals of the campaign. The Delta, B.C. product is also on pace for a career year with 30 points (12G-18A) in 49 games. Overall, McDonald has 103 points (31G-72A) in 237 WHL regular season games.

3. Leif Mattson, Kelowna Rockets: Kelowna Rockets forward Leif Mattson factored into all three goals through regulation, adding the shootout-clinching goal in a big 4-3 win against the Vancouver Giants Sunday. Mattson picked up three assists as the Rockets jumped out to a 3-0 lead 27:15 into the game. After the Giants forced overtime and two teams played down to a shootout, the first five shooters missed before Mattson stepped up and scored the only goal to secure the victory.

The 19-year-old from Stonewall, Man. has appeared in 48 games with the Rockets this season, posting 47 points (18G-29A). In 121 career WHL regular season games, Mattson has 121 points (52G-69A).


Kootenay ICE 1 at Calgary Hitmen 4

The Calgary Hitmen aided their pursuit of securing a playoff spot Sunday, defending home turf with a 4-1 win against the Kootenay ICE.

Jack McNaughton stopped 20 of 21 shots while four different players scored for Calgary in their 23rd win of the season. In the span of two minutes 17 seconds in the first half of the opening period, Kaden Elder and Riley Fiddler-Schultz scored to give the Hitmen a two-goal lead. In the second, Tye Carriere and Hunter Campbell scored to give Calgary a four-goal advantage before Austin Schellenberg got the ICE on the board with their lone goal of the game.

Fiddler-Schultz picked up an assist for the lone multi-point performance on either side. Curtis Meger finished the game with 24 saves for the ICE.

Prince George Cougars 1 at Edmonton Oil Kings 2

A pair of second-period goals from Conner McDonald and 27 saves from Todd Scott propelled the Edmonton Oil Kings to a 2-1 win against the Prince George Cougars Sunday at home.

The Cougars opened the scoring as Vladislav Mikhalchuk scored his 17th of the season as the lone goal of the opening period, but McDonald struck twice 2:07 apart to put the Oil Kings back in front. After giving up the first-period goal, Scott stopped all 17 shots by the Cougars over the final 40 minutes.

Quinn Benjafield and Vladimir Alistrov had the assists for the Oil Kings while Joel Lakusta and Ryan Schoettler each picked up an assist for the Cougars.

In the ever-tightening Central Division, the Oil Kings retook the division lead, with all four teams separated by a pair of points.

Kelowna Rockets 4 at Vancouver Giants 3 (SO)

The Kelowna Rockets snapped a four-game losing streak in their head-to-head matchup against the Vancouver Giants Sunday, prevailing 4-3 in a shootout at the Langley Events Centre.

2019 NHL Draft prospect Kyle Topping recorded a pair of goals and an assist while Leif Mattson secured the shootout-winning goal at the third shooter for the Rockets. It was the visiting side jumping out to a 3-0 lead nearly midway through the game. Mark Liwiski and Topping’s first of the game had Kelowna in front after 20 minutes while his second of the contest made it a 3-0 game 7:15 into the middle period.

Just 65 seconds after Topping’s second goal, Justin Sourdif got the Giants on the board, igniting the start of a valiant comeback effort. Davis Koch added his 19th of the season minutes later and 2019 NHL Draft prospect Bowen Byram added his 18th of the season 13:11 into the third period. That’d be all the scoring through the rest of regulation and overtime.

In the shootout, The first five shooters missed before Mattson buried the deciding goal, handing Kelowna the victory. The victory added to a strong performance by Mattson that saw him assist on all three Kelowna goals in regulation.

2019 NHL Draft prospect Roman Basran finished the game with 30 saves to earn the win. David Tendeck (Arizona Coyotes) stopped 22 shots in the narrow loss.

Lethbridge Hurricanes 0 at Portland Winterhawks 3

The third time was the charm for goaltender Joel Hofer (St. Louis Blues) and the Portland Winterhawks. After having lost shutout bids late, though still earning the victory, in each of his first two home games, Hofer was dialled in Sunday, stopping all 37 shots in a 3-0 win against the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

A pair of goals from Jake Gricius and Seth Jarvis’ 14th of the season accounted for Portland’s offence in the contest while 2019 NHL Draft prospect Reece Newkirk added a pair of assists.

Jaydon Dureau and Nick Perna each picked up a single assist, as did WHL leading scorer Joachim Blichfeld (San Jose Sharks), giving him 87 points on the season. Hurricanes captain Jordy Bellerive (Pittsburgh Penguins) and Jake Elmer led the Hurricanes with five shots each. Carl Tetachuk stopped 26 shots in the loss.

Kamloops Blazers 2 at Seattle Thunderbirds 5 

Matthew Wedman scored twice and added an assist for the three-point game as the Seattle Thunderbirds won a pivotal clash against the Kamloops Blazers Sunday by a 5-2 score, moving them into a wild card spot in the WHL’s Western Conference.

First-period goals from Noah Philp and Wedman put the Thunderbirds in front early on, though a power-play goal by Zane Franklin would cut the Thunderbirds’ lead to one after 20 minutes.

In the second, the Thunderbirds stretched their lead to three on goals by Tyrel Bauer, the first of his WHL career, and Wedman’s second of the night. Responding for the Blazers in the period was Connor Zary, who cut the home team’s lead to two after 20 minutes. In the third, Sean Richards picked up his 15th goal of the season to extend the lead to three.

Roddy Ross returned to the win column with a 24-save performance. Dylan Garand stopped 33 shots in the loss. 2019 NHL Draft prospect Henrik Rybinski tallied three assists in the win while Richards added a pair of assists for the three-point night as well. Philp added an assist to his goal, joining the list of multi-point performances.

Orrin Centazzo picked up a pair of helpers for Kamloops in the loss.

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