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Fast, physical Portland Winterhawks get off to quick start in 6-4 win over Spokane Chiefs

Bear Hughes  of the Spokane Chiefs falls after being checked against the boards during a Western Hockey League game by Johnny Ludvig  of the Portland Winterhawks on Jan. 3, 2019, at the Spokane Arena. (Libby Kamrowski / The Spokesman-Review)
By Kevin Dudley For The Spokesman-Review

There’s a reason the Portland Winterhawks are winners of 10 of their past 11 games. The Winterhawks are fast, physical and always seem to be in the right position.

They made things difficult for the Spokane Chiefs Friday night in front of 6,680 at the Arena in a 6-4 Portland win after dominating the first two periods.

The Chiefs staged a comeback in the third period, twice getting within a goal. But it wasn’t enough as the Winterhawks clamped down.

Adam Beckman continued his torrid pace and his third-period power-play goal gave him goals in 10 straight games, a team record.

Isaiah DiLaura made 31 saves in the win. Reece Newkirk scored twice as Portland put Spokane’s defensemen and goalies under siege all night.

The Chiefs started 16-year-old Mason Beaupit for the third straight game, but after surrendering three first-period goals, head coach Manny Viveiros opted for newly acquired goaltender James Porter Jr. in the second period.

Porter played the remaining 40 minutes and stopped 15 of the 17 shots Portland sent his way.

The Chiefs acquired Porter, a Bonners Ferry native, before Friday’s game in a trade with the Moose Jaw Warriors.

The Chiefs sent an eighth-round selection in the 2021 WHL bantam draft to Moose Jaw.

Porter didn’t arrive in Spokane until Friday around 3 p.m. and was quickly thrown into the fold. The Chiefs are without their top two goaltenders. Campbell Arnold is out for the season with a torn ACL. Starter Lukas Parik just finished playing for the Czech Republic at the World Junior Hockey Championships, though Parik also suffered an unspecified injury during the tournament.

Despite the hectic morning and afternoon, Porter leaned on his two years of experience with the Kelowna Rockets.

“I know what it takes to play at this level, so it’s just trying to figure those things out,” he said.

Porter knew Spokane’s goalie situation, and the team told him to be ready.

“I took that mindset and prepared like I was playing tonight,” he said. “It was all natural. Just playing here and putting on that jersey, I was a little nervous but in a good way.”

Portland put a ton of pressure on the Chiefs, controlling the puck and dominating zone time for the first and second periods. The Chiefs flipped a switch in the third period and got three goals for their efforts.

“We got back to our structure of our game. Portland is a very fast team, and we struggled to match their speed,” Chiefs associate head coach Adam Maglio said. “In the third we just kind of calmed ourselves down and got back to the way we played to be successful. I thought our physicality increased as well.”

Trailing 4-1 in the final period, the Chiefs got going after Jack Finley scored his eighth of the season from a tough angle at 9:43. Luke Toporowski poked in a loose puck after Eli Zummack was stuffed on a breakaway to cut Portland’s lead to 4-3.

But 32 seconds later, Jaydon Dureau helped Portland regain a two-goal lead after he got his shot past Porter with Spokane unable to get the puck out of its end.

Beckman scored his 29th of the season at 14:26 on Spokane’s only power play of the night to get back within one. Spokane’s lack of power-play opportunities hurt its chances of generating some offense. Portland, meanwhile, had four power plays and cashed in on one.

“We took four penalties within the first two periods and don’t get a power play ourselves, so the guys get frustrated,” Maglio said. “Those are things that are out of our control. We just need to control what we can control, and that’s not penalties. We’re not using it as an excuse.”

Portland’s domination in the first 40 minutes didn’t come until after Spokane broke the ice when Cordel Larson took advantage of a DiLaura turnover and wrapped the puck around into the net at 3:32 of the first.

Portland got two goals from Newkirk and respective goals from Lane Gilliss and Gabe Klassen to jump out to the 4-1 lead. Cross Hanas added an empty-netter with 47 seconds remaining.

The teams meet up again on Tuesday in Portland.