Adam Henry knows he struck gold as his days in the Western Hockey League wind down.
Henry spent half of this season with the Saskatoon Blades, who have the worst record in the league. Before the trade deadline the Blades dealt him to the potent Portland Winterhawks, who appear poised to make a deep postseason run.
Henry, a 20-year-old defenseman, recorded his first WHL hat trick on Wednesday as the Winterhawks completed their season series against the Spokane Chiefs with a 7-4 victory at the Arena.
Henry, who entered the game with 24 career goals, achieved the hat trick with two goals late in the second period to extend Portland’s narrow lead to 5-2.
“I’ve had a couple of two-goal games, but this was the first hat trick and probably the last, so I’m going to enjoy it,” said Henry, who also toiled for nearly three years with one of the league’s doormats, Lethbridge.
“Two huge mistakes,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “It was 3-2 and I thought we had some chances. … (Henry) had wide-open plays. We didn’t defend well, and that’s the bottom line.”
The Winterhawks (42-21-2-4, 90 points) won for the 19th time in 24 games and moved into a first-place tie in the U.S. Division with idle Everett (41-20-3-5). Both have three games remaining, including Everett’s game at Spokane on Sunday when the regular season ends.
Portland holds the first tiebreaker, overall wins.
The loss gave the Chiefs (34-31-3-1, 72) the Western Conference’s No. 7 seed to the playoffs. Spokane will open on the road against the division champion – March 27 if it’s Everett and March 28 if it’s Portland.
The Chiefs and Winterhawks split eight games this season. Spokane will play at home Friday against Seattle, Saturday at Tri-City and the Sunday matchup with Everett.
“Those three games are important in the fact that we want to get our playoff game in order,” Nachbaur said. “We can’t play loose hockey and playoff hockey is going to be intense.”
Henry’s first goal came at 11:52 of the first and gave Portland a 2-0 lead. Spokane soon cut that in half on Devon McAndrews’ rebound goal at 13:21, his fifth score of the season.
Portland’s Nicolas Petan and Spokane’s Riley Whittingham scored during the final minute of the first period for the 3-2 Winterhawks edge. Whittingham has five goals in his last five games.
The Chiefs were still in striking position until Henry’s second-period goals. League scoring leader Oliver Bjorkstrand assisted on both.
“I’ve been in the league for four years and I’ve never had a night like that,” Henry said. “They were just kind of going in. I was just putting them on the net and they went in. So it feels good.”
For the Chiefs, Calder Brooks had one goal and one assist; Liam Stewart had two assists; and Adam Helewka had his club-leading 41st goal.
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