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Saturday, June 3, 2023
June 3, 2023

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Winterhawks notebook: Johnson starts against former team

By , Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter

Evan Johnson said it was sometimes hard not to laugh. Not because the Portland Winterhawks jumped on his former team for a 4-1 lead, but because his friends on the Calgary Hitmen were doing their best to distract the goalie.

A couple of those friends eventually scored against Johnson as the Hitmen rallied to beat the Winterhawks 5-4 in overtime. Wednesday’s game at the Coliseum was the first action in more than a month for the 18-year-old Johnson, a rookie who came to the Winterhawks from Calgary in the Jan. 9 trade that sent Brendan Burke to the Hitmen.

Johnson said playing against his former team “was a bit strange. Going into the game I was really excited. I felt pretty comfortable once the game started.”

It was only the second time Johnson has played for the Winterhawks — and the first in Portland.

“It was really cool. I really like the atmosphere in the rink. For a Wednesday night it was really loud,” Johnson said of his Portland debut. “The fans here are so great.”

The return to Portland was not so great for Burke, who gave up four goals on 22 shots before being replaced five minutes into the second period. Portland scored twice on the power play in the first period and a four-on-four goal in the second period.

With the Winterhawks playing only nine February games, starting goalie Adin Hill handled the goaltending for 15 consecutive games. Hill continues to lead WHL goalies by stopping 92.3 percent of the shots he has faced.

Johnson said he is settled in Portland and will be ready when called upon again.

“Regardless if I’m playing or not I’ve been trying to go into the games with the mindset that I am playing,” Johnson said.

Johnson said he was disappointed about Calgary’s tying goal, which was scored shorthanded by Kenton Helgeson. After the Hitmen dumped the puck down ice, Helgeson beat the Winterhawks to the puck and scored.

Around the rink

This week: At Seattle, 7:05 p.m. Saturday; host Seattle, 7 p.m. on March 6 (Moda Center).

Last week: Beat Vancouver 5-2; beat Lethbridge 5-2; won at Tri-City 6-4; lost to Calgary 5-4 (OT).

Where they stand: The Winterhawks have clinched a playoff spot for a sixth consecutive season. At 36-20-2-3, they are second in the U.S. Division, just two points behind first-place Everett. Both teams have 11 regular-season games remaining. Third-place Seattle is eight points behind Portland.

Bjorkstrand stays hot: With goals in 10 consecutive games, Oliver Bjorkstrand is within one of the franchise record of 11 consecutive games with a goal. Troy Mick was the most recent Winterhawk to score goals in 10 consecutive games, clear back in the 1987-88 season. Tony Currie scored in 11 games in a row during the Winterhawks’ first season in Portland, 1976-77 season.

Bjorkstand’s 46 goals is tied for the WHL lead, and his 87 points are second in the league.

Calm before storm: After playing only one game this weekend — and nine during February — the Winterhawks will play six games over 10 days between March 6-15, part of 10 games over 16 days to close the regular season.

Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter