The Portland Winterhawks have talent oozing out of every pore from goalie on out to a sensational group of forwards.
The Winterhawks put that talent to good use Saturday, getting three goals from Oliver Bjorkstrand and a shutout from Brendan Burke to hand the Tri-City Americans a 7-0 loss before a Nuclear Night crowd of 6,100 at the Toyota Center.
We had some good chances early and we failed to connect, said Tri-City coach Jim Hiller, whose team has lost two in a row. We needed a couple of early ones to get people behind us.
Tri-City (28-19-1-2, 59 points) remains 3 points behind fourth-place Spokane in the Western Conference standings, but with Victorias 4-1 win over Vancouver, the Royals are just two points behind the Americans.
Burke stopped all 25 shots by Tri-City to help Portland (39-7-1-2, 81 points) stay one step ahead of Kelowna (77 points) in the race for the Western Conference title.
We have a really good team this year, said Bjorkstrand, a native of Herning, Denmark, who is in his first season with Portland. We have a good group of forwards and a good defense. Im happy to be here.
The Americans allowed the Winterhawks just one goal on 16 shots in the first period, but Portland came to life the second, scoring three unanswered goals to take a 4-0 lead.
Defenseman Seth Jones, considered one of the best at his position for this years NHL draft, gave Portland a 2-0 lead at 9:59, beating Luke Lee-Knight in the slot on the power play.
Brendan Leipsic notched his 31st goal of the season at 11:00, and Nic Petan, the WHLs leading scorer with 85 points, gave Portland a 4-0 lead just 43 seconds later.
In the second, we played 10 minutes short-handed, Hiller said. Its hard enough to play them 5-on-5. The PK hung in there.
On the flip side, the Americans had just three shots on goal as the Winterhawks controlled the puck for the better part of the period.
The onslaught continued in the third as Bjorkstrand scored twice to finish off his first career hat trick, and Leipsic scored his second goal of the game.
Ive had two games where I had two goals, Bjorkstrand said. It feels good to get the hat trick.
The first period was fast and furious. The teams combined for 29 shots on goal, but there was just one puck that found its way into the net.
Portlands Shaun MacPherson held the puck in at the point, slipped it over to Chase De Leo, who slid it down to Bjorkstrand, who beat Lee-Knight at the left post at 16:18.
Lee-Knight stopped the other 15 shots in the period, including a left skate save on what looked to be an easy goal for Taylor Leier at 14:40.
The Americans had their chances against Burke, who turned away all 13 shots.
Lee-Knight finished with 33 saves, while the Americans killed off five of Portlands six power plays.