by Graham Kendrick
December 14, 2013, Portland (ISN) – The Hawks’ first goal of the game brought down bears, and the last goal brought down hats as the Portland Winterhawks (23-7-2-2) earned a 5-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds (20-10-1-3) Saturday in the annual Teddy Bear Toss in front of a sold out crowd of 10,108 at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Keoni Texeira’s second period goal brought 11,862 stuffed animals flying onto the ice, and Paul Bittner registered his second hat trick of the season in the win.
Seattle opened the scoring at the 10:57 mark of the first on a powerplay goal by Adam Henry, then made it 2-0 at the 14:14 mark on a goal by Scott Eansor, a lead they took into the second.
Early in the second, the Hawks brought down the bears when rookie defenseman Texeira scored 4:43 into the period to trigger thousands of furry animals onto the ice. Not only was it the teddy bear goal for Texeira, but it was also his first career WHL goal.
It remained 2-1 through the end of the second, but the Hawks struck quickly in the third, as just 14 seconds into the period Bittner scored a power play goal to even the game at 2-2. Later in the third, a Seattle power play quickly turned into a Portland 4-on-3 after the Thunderbirds took consecutive penalties, and on the power play Bittner scored his second of the period at the 10:30 mark to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead.
Portland took a two-goal advantage at the 14:10 mark when Keegan Iverson scored, but just under a minute later Seattle’s Henry scored his second of the game to cut the Hawks’ lead to one, 4-3. With 1:03 to go and the Hawks holding onto the one-goal lead, Bittner picked up the puck, blew past the Seattle defense and scored into the empty net for a hat trick, and a 5-3 Hawks lead that would stand as the final.
Along with the three goals for Bittner, Chase De Leo and Garrett Haar each finished with three assists.
Brendan Burke picked up the win in net with 23 saves on 26 shots. Justin Myles took the loss with four goals allowed on 38 shots, along with the empty net marker.
The Hawks were 2-7 on the power play and 8-9 on the penalty kill.
The bears collected as part of tonight’s Teddy Bear Toss will be donated to local charities that work with underprivileged youth.
The Winterhawks are back in action Tuesday when they host the Everett Silvertips at 7 p.m. Veterans Memorial Coliseum in their last game before the league’s holiday break.