Most weekends offer a full slate of Western Hockey League games and an intriguing matchup or two.
But it would be hard to duplicate last Saturday’s schedule, at least until the postseason arrives.
For starters, the Kelowna Rockets and Portland Winterhawks met in a rematch of last season’s Western Conference final won by Portland. Paul Bittner’s overtime goal gave Portland a 3-2 decision and its first home win of the season.
It’s been a tough season for the Winterhawks (6-10-0-2), who have eliminated Kelowna from three of the last four playoffs. Portland has allowed a league-high 76 goals, but the Winterhawks have won five of seven and became the second team to defeat Kelowna (14-1-1-0) this season.
“Portland came out with some jump and that was to be expected,” Rockets interim coach Kris Mallette told The Okanagan Sunday Staff. … “I’d say they carried most of the play for the majority of the night.”
Also Saturday, Jordan Papirny made 33 saves and the Brandon Wheat Kings wrapped up a seven-game road trip with a 4-0 win over the Medicine Hat Tigers. Brandon (14-3-1-0) and Medicine Hat (11-3-1-0) boast the top two records in the Eastern Conference.
The Wheat Kings finished 6-1 on a tour that took them to all five B.C. Division cities plus Medicine Hat and Lethbridge of the Central Division.
“Our guys had a great trip,” Brandon head coach/general manager Kelly McCrimmon told Rob Henderson of the Brandon Sun. “(Saturday) I thought we played one of our best games of the trip.”
To cap Saturday’s play, Austin Lotz made 21 saves and defenseman Cole MacDonald had one goal and one assist as the U.S. Division-leading Everett Silvertips (10-1-2-1) posted a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oil Kings, the defending Memorial Cup champions.
Edmonton’s trophy was on display at Everett’s Xfinity Arena.
Around the league
The Tri-City Americans released former Spokane Chiefs forward Jackson Playfair on Tuesday. The Americans, hoping to boost their offense, traded two bantam draft picks (2015 and 2017) to Brandon for overage forward Richard Nejezshleb. Tri-City released Playfair to get down to the league maximum of three overage players. … Prince Albert defenseman Josh Morrissey was named WHL Player of the Week after recording three goals and three assists as the Raiders went 3-1-0-0. The 19-year-old has five goals and six assists in 12 games this season. … Kootenay Ice forward Sam Reinhart has been named captain for Team WHL when it competes against Team Russia at the Subway Super Series. Reinhart was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft. Series games are set for Monday at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and Tuesday at Brandon, Manitoba.
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