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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Portland shows old form beating Chiefs

Hawks top Spokane 1st time this season

These aren’t the same Portland Winterhawks, but they seem to like the challenge of getting back to their accustomed position.

Paul Bittner’s third career hat trick and Oliver Bjorkstrand’s four-point night during a 5-3 Western Hockey League win over the Spokane Chiefs on Friday night at the Arena proved that the Winterhawks still have offensive fireworks.

The Winterhawks, who have won the last four Western Conference championships, started the season 2-8-0-2. Portland had been 0-3 against the Chiefs this season until Bittner scored a shorthanded goal with 6 minutes, 46 seconds left to snap a 3-all tie and added an empty-netter with 54 seconds remaining.

“It’s been odd for me to see because we’ve been such a powerhouse in the past couple of years,” said the 18-year-old Bittner. “We’ve been where (conference-leading) Kelowna is, and to be at the other end of it where it’s such a close race and you have to keep winning games, it’s a little bit different. But we’re embracing it and we want to be where Kelowna is at the end of the year.”

The outcome left the Chiefs (22-15-3-0) and Winterhawks (22-18-0-3) tied for second place in the U.S. Division with 47 points, seven behind Everett.

Bjorkstrand, a third-round selection of the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets in 2013, added one goal and three assists as the Winterhawks bounced back after Wednesday’s 4-1 setback at the Arena.

“We turned over too many pucks on our end and the result is we gave them the rush, and they’re pretty good off the rush,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “They proved that tonight.”

Portland led 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, but Spokane rallied for ties each time.

“(The Chiefs) are relentless,” Bittner said. “They don’t stop. They play a full 60 (minutes), so it’s evident that they came out in the last three games against us and beat us in the third period because they play a full 60. So it’s different than last year when we’d score two or three goals in the first period and they would kind of shut down.”

Spokane’s big chance came with 7:01 left and the score tied at 3, when Portland’s Chase De Leo was called for slashing. But 15 seconds later, the Winterhawks used a Chiefs turnover to get the puck to Bittner for the shorthanded winner.

Chiefs goalie Garret Hughson gave Spokane hope by gloving Alex Schoenborn’s penalty shot with 3:47 left, but Nachbaur pulled Hughson with 1:25 remaining for a final extra-man push that dissolved 30 seconds later with Bittner’s empty-netter.

The Chiefs had trouble cashing in on opportunities, especially when defenseman Nick Charif was whistled for second-period penalties 15 and 18 seconds after Spokane power plays had started.

Spokane’s Adam Helewka scored his team-leading 22nd and 23rd goals to give him goals in six consecutive games. Liam Stewart added an unassisted breakaway.

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