Sunday, December 29, 2013

Canada Loses 5-4 in Shoot Out

Nic Petan, Taylor Leier and Derrick Pouliot all had up and down games, resembling Canada's overall inconsistency in a surprising 5-4 shoot out loss to the Czech Republic in their second game of the U-20 World Junior Championships in Sweden.

Taylor Leier did not get a regular shift for Canada, but did get 4 on 4 time and was one of their top penalty killers. This was due to Leier's dreadful performance in the first game vs. Germany. He took 2 ill advised penalties that put Canada in bad spots. He was a little better in this one, though CR's 4th goal deflected off of his tick and past Jake Paterson. Paterson was pretty bad, giving up 4 goals on 28 shots and then allowing 2 of 4 shooters to prevail in the shoot out.

Nic Petan had some fantastic plays of his own, twice setting up teammates with empty nets to shoot at, only to see them fail to score. He was Canada's second shooter in the circus, but the puck hit a bad spot on the ice for him, causing him to have to force a quick shot that Medicine Hat Tiger's Goalie Marek Langhammer turned aside.

Derrick Poiliot constantly had to cover for his defensive partner 17 year old Aaron Ekblad. Once, Ekblad even poked the puck off of Pouliot's stick setting up one of the Cezch Republic's goals. The pairing was out there for 3 of the 4 goals Canada gave up. My thought is that there will be one more game for Ekblad and then Griffin Reinhart will take his spot on the top pairing with Pouliot after his suspension expires.

Matt Dumba was one of Canada's better D-men, consistently rubbing out the other team's forwards and even created a few chances on the other end.

One of the more interesting moments came at the end of second period when 16 year Canadian Conner McDavid shot after the buzzer and Tri Cities Michal Plutnar took exception. On his way to confront McDavid he knocked over one of the referees. He was only given 2 minutes as the contact was ruled incidental.

Next up for Canada is Monday's tilt vs. Slovakia that all of a sudden is a must win. The games goes 8:30 am PST.

Former Winterhawk of the Week: Craig Cunningham

Craig Cunningham had a eventful week last week, getting an emergency call up for the Boston Bruins from Providence of the AHL and getting into his very first NHL game on December 17th. He put in 8 minutes for the Bruins in a 4th line role, replacing the supposedly injured Matt Fraser in the lineup for Boston.

Cunningham was then immediately sent back to Providence, where most players would be dejected after not really getting a chance to make the team. He chose not to do so, getting an assist in his first game back on Friday the 20th in a 3-2 shoot out loss to Springfield. He was not given a chance to shoot.The next night in a 3-2 shoot out loss to Portland, he scored a goal and notched a tally in the circus, forcing the 5th round, which they lost in. Cunningham finished his crazy couple weeks with 2 assists in Providence's 4-0 win over Worcester on Thursday the 26th.

It's great to see an under-sized guy like Cunningham, get a chance on the next level and prove himself. I do think that one game will be the last he sees of the NHL. Craig now has 11 goals and 8 assists for 19 points for the AHL's Bruins.

Hawks Take Two From Americans 3-2 (OT) and 4-1 in Home and Home Series

Portland, still without four of their better layers (Derrick Pouliot, Nic Petan, Taylor Leier and Brendan Leipsic), still found a way to get 4 points out of the weekend home and home series with the Tri City Americans, while only allowing the Ams to get 1.

Friday 12/27 Portland 3 @ Tri City 2 (OT)
-Portland rolled a top line of Oliver Bjorkstrand, Paul Bittner and Chase De Leo as Bjorkstrand was back from the lower division World Juniors. Bjorkstrand (Denmark) was 7th in tournament scoring with 6 points in 5 games. He was also named the best forward of the tournament. Denmark now advances to the World Juniors next year in Canada. Layne Viveiros was also at the tourney and notched 2 assists in 5 games, playing as a forward for Team Austria.
-Portland came into the weekend series with a 2-2 record vs. Tri City. Losing both of those games at home.
-The top line worked quite well for Portland as Bjorkstrand scored early off a fantastic feed from Garrett Haar.
-Haar would add an important goal of his own later, when he tied the game at 2 with under 10 minutes left.
-Tri City got both of their goals late in the second period. The first on the power play by Connor Rankin and the second from small, speedy pest Lucas Nickles.
-I expected more from Rankin this year, in taking over the offensive leader role from Justin Feser. With a goal in this game, Rankin now has 13 on the season, 8 of them on the power play.
-Anton Cederholm got the heroics for the Hawks in this one, as he notched his first WHL game winner, on only his second goal. He had not scored since opening night vs. Victoria.
-Portland out-shot Tri City 30-21, so Burke did not have to be that great in the win, making only 19 saves, He probably got a bit outplayed by his 18 year old counter part Eric Comrie, who made several spectacular saves in his 27.

Saturday 12/28 Tri City 1 @ Portland 4
-Tyson Predinchuk from Regina, Saskatchewan was a late addition to the lineup for the series as the teams sent Skyler McKenzie back to the AMBHL. Predinchuk (18 years old) had played 25 games last year with the Spokane Chiefs, notching 5 assists before getting released.
-His play was mostly sloppy until he found a loose puck with Eric Comrie down and out and roofed it, making the score 3-0 midway through the 2nd period. It was his first career WHL goal.
-Adam De Champlain had one of his better games in a Winterhawk sweater, prompting his replacement of Alex Schoenborn on the 3rd (2nd now) line with Dominic Turgeon and Keegan Iverson. He had a sweet deflection of a Turgeon shot for the first goal of the game and then helped create a mad scramble in front of Comrie that Turgeon put in for his 3rd of the season, making it 4-0 and ending Comrie's night.
-Comrie got so angry after his 4th goal allowed that he turned and swung his stick in anger at the cross bar of his net, not seeing the referee standing there. Luckily this was not a repeat of what Keith Ballard did to Tomas Vokoun a few years ago.
-This was the second time that Comrie has been forced out of a game vs. the Hawks this season.
-Chase De Leo, while short handed made one the better moves on the break out that I've seen this season, making a subtle move to look like he was going to dump the puck to suck in 16 year old D-man Brendan Carlo and then going right around him to find Bjorkstrand who backhanded the puck past Comrie on the breakaway for the Hawk's second goal. It was Portland's 12th shorthanded goal and Bjorkstrand's 5th (both lead the WHL).
-Bjorkstrand is tied for second in goals (27) with Spokane's Mike Aviani. They are both 10 behind Aviani's teammate Mitch Holmberg.
-Burke was much better than Comrie in the rematch, he now has 22 wins this season, tied for first in the WHL with Kelowna's Jordon Cooke and Edmonton's Tristan Jarry.
-Burke stopped 30 of 31 shots in the win.
-Elsewhere in the U.S. Division this weekend, Seattle and Everett split a home and home series, with Sam McKechnie scoring the game winner with 33 seconds left for a 3-2 Seattle win n Friday and then Brayden Low notching the over time winner for Everett in a 4-3 win last night. Spokane also split a home and home series with Kootenay, winning 6-4 in Kootenay Friday and then losing last night at home: 2-1.
-Portland's lead in the U.S. Division sits at 4 points with a game in hand on Everett.
-Next up for Portland is New Years Eve with Kelowna in town. Kelowna is on a 14 game win streak.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Petan Scores and Pouliot Has 2 Assists as Canada Routs Germany 7-2

Nic Petan's goal may not have been the most important one for Team Canada at the U-20 World Juniors Championship in Maimo, Sweden, but it sure was a gritty one. With the score 6-2 and under 10 minutes to play in the 3rd period, 16 year old QMJHL (Erie Otters) phenom Connor McDavid's chance was turned away by German Goalie Marvin Cupper. Petan, however, was there for the rebound, even with large German forward: Leonhard Pfoderl cross checking him into the ice. Petan gently tapped it in past the right pad of Cupper, rounding out the scoring on the day.

Derrick Pouliot notched 2 assists for Canada and was the power play quarterback for Coach Brent Sutter's team. His first assist came less than a minute and a half after Germany tied the score at 2. His pass found hulking QMJHL (Val d'Or Foreurs) forward Anthony Mantha all alone on the back door, where he sniped it to take the lead that they would never give up. Pouliot also assisted on Canada's 6th goal (also scored by Mantha- his 3rd).

Pouliot led the rush up the ice multiple times with his speed and had an excellent, highlight reel chance that was turned away in the 2nd period. He leads the way for the mobile Defensemen on Canada, who really put Germany back on their heels and turned the game in Canada's favor. Possible Winterhawk: Matt Dumba also notched an assist as his rush up the ice from the back end led to (OHL) London Knights Forward: Josh Anderson's opening goal.

Taylor Leier did not factor in on the scoring, but was a +1 on the day.

Elsewhere, Russia destroyed Norway 11-0 and the USA shut out the Czech Republic 4-0.

Next Canada plays the Czech Republic on Saturday December 28th at 8:30 am. They will face a couple WHLers in Tri City American D-man Michal Plutnar and Medicine Hat Tigers Goalie Marek Langhammer.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Former Winterhawk of the Week: Ty Rattie

In his first professional season for the Chicago Wolves, the AHL affiliate for the NHL's St. Louis Blues, Rattie struggled early and has come on like gangbusters as of late.

In the beginning of the season, Rattie struggled making the transition to playing in the AHL with much older and stronger men, scoring only once in his first 10 games and going 2 games without even generating a shot. As Hawks fans who've seen him play, know that is not Rattie like.

He then bid adieu to the month of October with a strong 2 goal 1 assist night on November 1st against Oklahoma City. This has sparked him to a 10 point month in November and then on to 5 goals and 2 assists in 6 games so far this month.

This past week Rattie notched 4 points in 3 games, as Chicago went on a difficult road trip to Texas. First last Friday he assisted on Defenseman Jani Hakapanaa's goal with under 7 minutes to go to cut the Texas Star's lead to 2-1, which would end up being the final score. Then in the next game Saturday at San Antonio, he again assisted on the goal to get within one, before his team fell. This time, a goal by Sergey Andronov with under 2 minutes to go on to make it a 4-3 loss. Home cooking would be great for both the Wolves and Rattie, as he struck twice in the first period Wednesday, once on the power play, in a 5-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. This was an important win for the Wolves as it moved them ahead of Hamilton for the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Rattie shot 8 times in the win.

Rattie seems to be getting more comfortable in the AHL and the points should keep on coming. He currently has 11 goals and 7 assists and is second on the team in points to line mate Corey Locke's 22. Rattie has an outside shot at making an NHL debut this season, as St. Louis, so far has missed out on the rash of injuries going on about the NHL and has only needed to call up one player so far. Hopefully, he continues showing his scoring ability and gets a look from Ken Hitchcock and the Blues.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Former Winterhawk Colton Sceviour Scores First NHL Goal

My Former Winterhawk of the Week, from last week: Colton Sceviour was finally called up to play today for the Dallas Stars after leading the AHL's Texas Stars in scoring this season.

He may be up to stay as he netted his first career NHL game in his first game of the season in a beauty on the break-away giving the Stars the 6-3 lead over the Winnipeg Jets. Sceviour had played in a couple games over the past 2 seasons, but this is his first goal. Dallas would go on to win 6-4.

Friday, December 13, 2013

5 Winterhawks Out of the Lineup For World Juniors

5 important members for Portland will be out of the lineup this weekend for the home and home match-up against the Seattle Thunderbirds.

1) Oliver Bjorkstrand (Denmark)- Oliver will be an important part of Denmark's U-20 team as they compete in relegatory division of World Juniors from December 15th-21st in Sanok, Poland. He will not return until after Christmas for the Hawk's home and home set against Tri City.

2) Layne Viveiros (Austria)- Like Bjorkstrand, the 19 year old Austrian-Canadian will be playing in Division 1A for the second year in a row. He was ruled eligible to play for Austria (his Father is from there) and is sure to play a larger role this season. Viveiros will be back for the December 27th game as well.

3) Nic Petan (Canada)- The guy for the Hawks most likely to play for Team Canada at World Juniors is currently away at the training camp in Toronto today through Sunday. If he makes the team, he may return for Tuesday's tile against Everett before returning to Team Canada for the trip to Sweden for the WJCs from December 26th-January 5th.

4) Derrick Pouliot (Canada)- He is also away at training camp and considering Canada only brought 8 Defensemen and Griffin Reinhart has to serve a 3 game suspension, he definitely has a better than fair chance of making the team. He would also be gone for a considerable stretch, most likely until January 8th vs. Everett. Missing a total of 8 of 9 games over that span.

5) Taylor Leier (Canada)- He made a large impact for Team WHL during the Subway Super Series and has a reasonably chance of making the Canadian roster for Coach Brent Sutter. Sutter is notorious for taking guys that fit well in a defensive, smooth skating system and Leier is definitely that. If chosen, the Hawks would most likely be missing 5 players for this weekends games, then MAYBE get back Pouliot, Leier and Petan for the Everett game before getting Bjorkstrand and Viveiros back for the games after Christmas and likely losing the 3 Canadians for the next 6 games (including 2 against the WHL leading Kelowna Rockets).

If I were a gambling person, I would probably wage money that the Hawks will be without the services of all 5 players for the maximum amount of time for World Juniors. It is obviously a great chance for players that do not get a lot of playing time to play important minutes for the Hawks and contribute to their growth.

In this vein, the Hawks announced yesterday that they would be calling up 15 year Forward Skyler McKenzie and 16 year old Forward Colton Veloso and 17 year old D-man Justin Greer, in order to fill out the lineup.

Former Wimterhawk of the Week: Ryan Johansen

Could it really have been anyone else? The Mighty Johan has taken the NHL by storm this season, his 3rd professionally, leading the Columbus Blue Jackets with 25 points (11 Goals, 14 Assists) in 32 games. Combine that with his developing ability to play in his own zone and you have a guy that is looking to be one of the top Centers in the league for years to come.

It did not come easy for Ryan, as this piece by The Hockey Writers, points out, he was benched during a post-season run in the AHL only last season. He obviously put hard work in during this past off season as his point total and hard earned minutes can attest. He was also placed in the right situation this season, after several top liners for the Blue Jackets went out with injuries (one of them was former Hawk Brandon Dubinsky, a fellow Center). Now he has firmly cemented himself as a guy who can score and is not a liability at all on the defensive side.

This past week (12/6-12/12) he netted 1 Goal and 4 Assists for 5 Points in 4 games, leading Columbus to a 3-1 record, putting them only 2 points out of the last playoff spot.

First, he netted 2 assists in a 4-0 win over Minnesota last Friday, then he assisted on CBJ's only Goal in a 2-1 tight checking affair on Monday. He then closed out the week with an assist in a 5-4 win over New Jersey 5-4 and then scored a a goal last night in a 4-2 win over the New York Rangers. With points in the last 4 games, Johansen extended his point streak to 7 games currently. With his size and the fact that his point explosion has not relied upon power play goals, there does not seem to be any reason why Johansen cannot keep this going.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dumba Trade: What Does it Mean?

So after much speculation on the twitter-verse, Portland revealed the other day that they had traded beloved 4th line center Presten Kopeck and 3 conditional draft picks to the Red Deer Rebels for the rights to Matt Dumba. Dumba is a 19 year Defenseman who was picked 7th overall in the 2012 NHL draft and has been with the Minnesota Wild all of this year. Dumba, who has only played in 13 games this season for the Wild and not since November 23rd, could be sent back to the WHLm due to not being eligible to play in the AHL.

The full details of the trade would not come out until the next day, revealing that the Hawks, who do not have a first round Bantam draft pick in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, have conditionally given up their second round Bantam draft picks in 2014, 2015 and 2016 to Red Deer. Should Dumba not return until an un-specified (to us anyways) date, the 2016 pick would turn into a 3rd rounder. Should Dumba not be returned at all, the Hawks would receive a 2014 3rd round pick from the Rebels for Kopeck.

So What Does it All Mean?
-This is yet another gamble by Head Coach/ General Manager Mike Johnston for an elite player. He has made many such moves in the season, in an attempt to shore up the lineup with proven WHL assets, even though they may only play the rest of the season for the Hawks:

1) 2009-10 With Lethbridge for Luca Sbisa:
Sbisa (now with Anaheim)

-D-man Daniel Johnston, Forward Jacob Berglund and their 2010 first round CHL Import Draft pick for 19 year old D-man Luca Sbisa, Lethbridge's top CHL import pick (Sven Bartschi) and their 5th round 2011 Bantam Draft pick (Michael Fortin).
Sbisa, who had played in 47 NHL games over 2 season, was picked up to provide a needed top pairing D-man and he delivered. He had a hand injury that did not allow to play as many games in the regular season as hoped, but provided 4 points in the playoffs and played well, before the Hawks were bounced by Vancouver. Acquiring the rights to the 7th pick in order to pick Bartschi was easily the best part about this draft, as he would go on tear up the WHL and help lead the Hawks to 2 straight Western Conference titles. Result: WIN.

2) 2010-11 With Vancouver for Craig Cunningham:
Cunningham (now with the AHL's Bruins)

-Forwards Spencer Bennett, Teal Burns, 2011 first round Bantam pick (Thomas Foster) and second round 2012 Bantam pick (Jesse Roach) for Cunningham and the Vancouver's 2011 6th round pick.
Cunningham was a natural fir at Center on the Hawk's second line with Bartschi and Ty Rattie, potting 42 regular season points over 35 games with the Hawks and then adding 21 post-season points in 21 games as the Hawks made it all the way to the WHL Finals before falling to Kootenay. Cunningham not only centered that second line, he brought a lot of post-season experience and winning attitude from his being a 16 year old on Vancouver's 2006-07 Memorial Cup champion team. Bennet, a fellow 20 year old netted 49 points in 35 games with Vancouver and Teal Burns scored 13 in 30, before bouncing around to 3 different teams over the next 2 seasons in the WHL. Foster, a 17 year old, has 12 points in 33 games with the Giants this season and could blossom into something, while Roach is not playing with the squad.
Result: WIN (but a lot closer)

3) 2011-12 With Seattle for Marcel Noebels:
Noebels (now with the AHL's Phantoms)

-Forward Seth Swenson, 2012 (Keegan Kolesar) and 2013 (Kaden Elder) first round Bantam picks for Marcel Noebels.
Noebels was another acquisition that fit exactly what the Hawks needed, a big gritty Forward that can score goals. He would end up scoring 34 points in 31 regular season games and adding 23 points in 22 post-season games, as the Hawks would advance to game 7 of the WHL finals before losing to Edmonton. Noebels came as advertised and scored several key goals during that run for the Hawks, as well as, providing sold back-checking form the forward position. Kolesar, a 16 year old playing in his first season, has looked like he might be a burgeoning star, but it still is too early to tell. Meanwhile, Swenson, not getting much time in Portland, has blossomed into a solid 2 way forward and a great leader in the Seattle locker room. He brings a lot of the same assets to the table that now ex-Hawk Kopeck did.
Result: Too Early To Tell. If Swenson leads Seattle to a deep run and Kolesar becomes a proven asset, the T-birds might pull this one out.

So, as you can see, Johnston loves to make big moves, as long as, that fit into the mold of his team and Dumba certainly does. There will be much speculation regarding whether Minnesota will send him down, but it was a gamble the once excellent on defense Hawks had to make.

All in all though, Johnston has gotten a lot out of "rental" players and consistently found a way to get players outside of the Bantam draft to come to Portland and produce. If Dumba does come to Portland, look for a player that should fit really well into the Hawks locker room and provide the team with a guy who has played some on the highest level in the sport.

Weekend Wrap Up: Hawks Go 1-1-0-1

I finally got a chance to watch all of last weekend's games, as I was down in San Francisco during that time attending the Seahawks 49ers football game.

Portland got 3 points out of a very up and down weekend that saw them dominate parts of games and then fall asleep for just long enough for the opposing teams to take advantage. It probably did not help that this, second portion, of the Alberta Eastern swing, came against 2 teams in Edmonton and Calgary that are probably the best the Conference has to offer and another in Red Deer that has a solid Goaltender and are desperately trying to cling to playoff hopes. It was also Teddy Bear toss night both Friday and Saturday nights in Edmonton and Red Deer, bing enthusiastic crowds to cheer against the Hawks.
Leier- 2 Goals vs. Edmonton

Portland 4 @ Edmonton 5-SO (Friday)
-Portland got off to a quick start in their first of 3 games in 3 nights, probably hoping to surprise the Oil Kings with their speed and puck control. They did take advantage somewhat with an early goal by Nic Petan, but after the Oil Kings's defense got it's feet under them and Goaltender Tristan Jarry made a couple solid saves, the Oil Kings took over. They turned the Hawks puck control style against themselves and created a lot of traffic in front leading to a 3-1 lead, 2 goals of which came from Defensemen. After going down by a 2 goal margin, the Hawks seemed to finally respond and Chase De Leo scored a goal, that I still do not understand why it was disallowed. This seemed to fire up the Hawks even more and Derrick Pouliot scored on a point shot making it a 3-2 game. Edmonton's Edgars Kulda then somehow squirted one past Burke, on a terrible goal given up by the 18 year old net-minder and it was back to a 4-2 game. Then in one of the most thrilling comebacks this year by the Hawks, Taylor Leier (on a mission) scored 2 late goals, knotting it up and preserving one point form a mostly lackluster night out of Portland. The Hawks, despite creating more chances in the over-time session ended up losing in a 4 round circus, as Jarry stood tall vs. 3 of the Hawk's shooters. 
Leipsic- 2 Goals 1 Assist vs. Red Deer

Portland 5@ Red Deer 4 (Saturday)
-Too many times this year has Portland been the far better team talent wise, jumped out to an early lead and then let the inferior team get back into the game. I would like to see far more closing out of teams by the Hawks then they have shown so far this year. This is exactly the case in the game at Red Deer Saturday night. Chase De Leo scored 9 seconds in and Portland appeared to be off to the races, as the top 2 lines created a load more chances, resulting in Brendan Leipsic finding Paul Bittner in front and then Petan locating Leipsic on the power play with a wicked back door feed, giving the Hawks 3 goals in the first off of 13 shots in the first. Red Deer's Goalie: Patrik Bartosak actually played really well in the loss for Red Deer, making the key saves to keep the game close in the first. Shane McColgan then notched his first point in a Winterhawk's jersey when he found Alex Schoenborn on a nifty play, giving the Hawks a brief 4-1 lead in the second. The the wheels started to fall off for Portland. They allowed significant chances through lackluster defense and backup Goalie Jarrod Schamerhorn, despite an overall subpar outing, saved the Hawks with a few key stops. Leipsic would score the eventual game winner off a feed from Bittner late in the second, showing that he can sometimes be just as nifty with the puck as his much smaller line mates. Taylor Leier left the game in the second period with flu like symptoms and those would keep him out of the lineup the next night in Calgary. I am starting to realize just how important a player like Leier has become to the Hawks.
Driedger- 24 Saves vs. Portland

Portland 1@ Calgary 4 (Sunday)
-Just like Friday's game, the Hawks took it right to a very good defenseive team in Calgary, resulting in an early goal from Oliver Bjorkstrand off a fantastic pass form behind the net by Leier's replacement on the second line: McColgan. That would be all the goals Portland would score though as Calgary Goalie Chris Driedger recovered to play a fantastic game between the pipes, stoning the Hawk's forwards on countless high quality scoring chances. Calgary may have "out shot" Portland 33-25 but I would argue the Portland had far more Grade "A" chances than the Hitmen. One of those was a Nic Petan short-handed break-away that he somehow could not get past the Goalie in the second period. On the (non-empty netter) goals for Calgary, Portland proved that they are not over their early habit of poor defensive positioning. Pouliot was badly out of position on their first 2 goals and somehow a 1-0 Portland lead with not much time left in the second turned into a 3-1 Hitmen lead only a minute into the third. That kind of let down is definitely worrisome in a team that looks to be making a playoff run.

Portland's next game is this Friday in Seattle, where they will see yet another opponent's Teddy Bear toss before having their own Saturday, again vs. Seattle.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Former Winterhawk of the Week: Colton Sceviour

Former Hawk Colton Sceviour (2004-08) had an amazing week, racking up 7 points over 4 games for the AHL's Texas Stars, the affiliate of the Dallas Stars. As I wrote earlier this year, Sceviour had a great preseason with his NHL team and was a surprising last cut for the Stars.

Sceviour started with a 1 goal and 1 assist night, including scoring the game winner in a 2-1 win over Oklahoma City on 11/27. He then added an assist in a comeback effort in losing to Grand Rapids 5-4 on 11/29. He then capped his week with a 2 goal and 2 assist night, factoring in on 4 of the 5 Star's goals in a 5-4 win over OKC on 12/3. Sceviour got the game winner in that affair as well.

His 7 points now put him in a tie for the AHL point scoring lead with 29. The guy he's tied with: fellow Texas Star Travis Morin was just called up by Dallas, meaning Sceviour can take over the lead from his teammate in tomorrow's game vs. Iowa.

Sceviour now has 207 career professional points into his 5th season, though only 1 of those is in the NHL. If he keeps up this though, Dallas has got to give him more games this season.

Portland Re-takes Top Spot From Everett: 6-3

The Portland Winterhawks returned the favor against the Silvertips in Everett on Tuesday night. After losing the top spot in the overall standings to the Tips the last time they met, Portland ousted them and re-took the top perch with a 6-3 win.

Everett controlled a lot of the early play and this led to Portland taking the first 5 penalties of the game. They scored on one of them after a pass in the slot found the ever dangerous Joshua Winquist, who beat Brendan Burke for the 1-0 lead. Portland, slowly but surely, settled the play down and were able to establish a solid forecheck. This forecheck directly led to Garrett Haar beating Austin Lotz with a point shot for his 4th of the season, late in the first period. From there it became a tightly checked affair in the second until Taylor Leier broke it open for Portland off a feed from Oliver Bjorkstrand. The Hawks then added a deflection score from Alex Schoenborn, a pretty goal from Bjorkstrand and a power play marker from Chase De Leo to take a firm 5-1 lead and most Everett fans started heading for the exits.

Those that did leave missed a semi-exciting finish though, as Everett scored twice late and created several more chances that Burke was able to stop. Derrick Pouliot would put an end to this game, however, with a late score finishing the scoring at 6-3.

Austin Lotz, who has been magnificent in most of his starts against Portland and was the sole reason they were able to take a couple games from the Hawks in the playoffs last year was yanked in this one, after giving up De Leo's goal 8:20 into the 3rd period. He stopped 28 of 33 shots in a very average, but not poor performance. Daniel Cotton, the goalie the Hawks have chased on occasion in the past, came in and stopped 4 of 5 shots. I was going to put Burke in the top 3 stars, as he made several solid saves in the first and second period, when Everett was able to establish long periods of possesion in the Portland zone, but Everett's two late goals show that he still has trouble making it to the elite level of WHL goalies. He stopped 35 of 38 for his 50th career WHL win.

Observations From the Game:
-Joshua Winquist's first goal extended his point streak to 18 games, the longest of the Silvertip's franchise history, as well as, the longest in the WHL this season.
-The defensive pairing of Garrett Haar and Keoni Texeira had perhaps their best overall game of the season. They have been susceptible to being victimized by the talented players from the other team and coughing up the puck in their own zone, but in this one they were excellent. Haar showed why he fits Coach Mike Johnston's up-tempo system by carrying the puck into the Everett zone himself several times. Texeira, meanwhile, his really improving in regards to his ice vision and passing. He is probably the best 16 year old D-man I've seen in a Portland uniform since Braydon Coburn.
-The second line of Leier, De Leo and Bjorkstrand seems like they will be the difference makers this year for Portland. Even the better teams will struggle with matching up a comparable second unit with these guys.
-De Leo was placed out there on the first power play unit in Brendan Leipsic's spot on the top power play unit, after Leipsic took a vicious cross check leading to the man advantage. De Leo received some pointers from Petan prior to the draw in the Silvertip's zone. De Leo then was in perfect position to snipe in a shot off a feed from Petan.
-Ethan Price continues to impress and he and Adam DeChamplain have found a way to put together a good fore-checking fourth line, even in place of the missing Presten Kopeck and Adam Rossignol, who have centered the fourth line in the past and are still out with injuries.
-Everett is a team that has definitely surprised the WHL this season, but in my opinion, has a few changes to make before they can be a legitimate threat for the WHL title this season.
-Jujhar Khaira was a fine addition this season for Everett and has centered their checking line, but he needs to improve before becoming the shut down center I think Coach Kevin Constantine envisions him to be.

Elsewhere in the U.S. Division, Tri City scored 2 early first period goals on their way to a 3-1 victory over the visiting Saskatoon Blades. Saskatoon is now 0-4 on their U.S. Division swing.

3 Stars:
#3- Oliver Bjorkstrand- Bjorkstrand added a goal and an assist to his point totals this season and was hard to handle all night for Everett's defense.

#2- Joshua Winquist- 2 goals for the 20 year old. Winquist has put this team on his back in a similar way that Mitch Holmberg has for Spokane. Winquist has more talent surrounding him as Manraj Hayer and Tyler Sandhu both have big play ability.

#1- Garrett Haar- I probably gave him the top billing tonight, as I have not been that impressed with him this season and he turned in, easily his best work tonight. Hopefully this a sign of things to come as Haar gets more used to the WHL game after playing college.

Portland's next stop on the road trip is up to Edmonton on Friday where they will play the first of three games in three nights in Alberta.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Petan, Leier and Pouliot Invited to Canada's World Junior Camp

Nic Petan, Taylor Leier and Derrick Pouliot were all part of the list of 25 players invited to take place in  Team Canada's Invitation Camp from December 12th-15th. If they make the final roster, they will be taking part in the World Junior Championship in Sweden from December 26th-January 5th.

What makes this year very different is the fact that Head Coach Brent Sutter and Team Canada invited  only 25 players, whereas in the past they have invited as many as 40. The fact that the roster only has to get down to 22, means that the 3 Winterhawks are virtual locks to make the team. 

Petan, Pouliot and Leier all played extremely well in the Subway Super Series, where they played for Team Canada Coach Sutter. This had to help them make the 25 man camp. Because Edmonton's Griffin Reinhart was invited and has to serve a 3 game suspension and they only invited 8 D-men to the camp, Pouliot has the best chance to make the team of the 3. He was also a late cut from last year's camp, meaning that they will probably give him his shot this year, similar to what Ty Rattie went through.

Portland plays Seattle December 13th and 14th, so all 3 will be out for that game and should they make the team, 6 games December 27th-January 4th. This includes the last 2 games of the season at home vs. B.C. Division leading Kelowna.

Winterhawks Survive Opportunistic Blades Behind Petan's 4 Goal Night: 6-5

The Portland Winterhawks were able to come back and beat the visiting Saskatoon Blades on Sunday night in Portland, despite being down 4-1 late in the 2nd period and 5-4 with only 6 minutes left.

Portland out shot the overmatched Blades 53-16 overall and created scoring chances in the double digits, but still trailed for most of the game. This was because Saskatoon Goalie Alex Moodie turned in one of the better 6 goals against performances in recent memory. Moodie made multiple diving athletic saves in the game and frustrated the Hawks time and time again.

Nic Petan was the main reason the Hawks survived the 10-17-1-2 Blades, potting 4 goals and 1 assist, 3 of which came on the power play. This was Petan's second career 4 goal game, the other coming against Seattle in March of the 2011-12 season. Petan also notched his second career 5 point night, the other being also against Seattle during the final game of the 2012-13 season. Despite being in on 5 of the 6 goals, Petan was not on the ice for the game winning goal, which was scored with 20 seconds to go when Taylor Leier found Oliver Bjorkstrand with a slick backhand pass from behind the net which found Bjorkstrand between the face-off circles, where he blew it by Moodie and the exhausted Blades.

Saskatoon was in their 3rd game in 3 nights against the U.S. Division and they lost all 3 games. They looked flat out beat at the end of the game, despite clinging to a 1 goal lead at 5-4. Saskatoon Coach Dave Struch had already called a time out earlier in the game and so was unable to give his tired players a late rest. This directly led to the Blades defense leaving Goalie Moodie out to dry for Petan's game tying goal with 6 minutes left and Bjorkstrand's winner.

Jarrod Schamerhorn got his 4th career start for the Hawks, as they chose to rest starter Brendan Burke for Tuesday's game vs. the WHL leading Everett Silvertips. Their dreams of doing so were squashed by a very subpar performance by Schamerhorn. He stopped only 7 of 11 shots and was yanked with 8 plus minutes left in the second period. He was the victim of 2 early costly errors by his defense and simply took a bad angle on the Blades 4th goal, leading to his early exit. Burke came in and proceeded to stop 4 of the 5 shots he faced. Moodie was excellent for much of the game and stopped 47 of 53 shots.

Observations From the Game:
-All 4 of Petan's goals were scored in similar ways with either a fortunate bounce off the back boards or a sweet pass form behind the net, leaving him all alone with an empty net to shoot at as Moodie dove in vain to make a save.
-The Blades really seemed to over commit on the back door pass that the Hawks are known for and this made plays to the net and then out in front available.
-Layne Viveiros and Derrick Pouliot were out there together for 4 on 4 hockey which does not happen often. It may not happen much again as they proceeded to make a couple costly errors early in the second period, allowing grade a chances and the Blades a 3-1 lead.
-Brendan Leipsic notched the first 5 assist game of his career in the win.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand had 2 goals and an assist. Petan now has 60 points on the season, 4 off the pace set by Spokane's Mich Holmberg. Holmberg has been held off the score sheet in the last 2 Spokane games, since scoring a hat trick against Portland. Bjorkstrand is 13 back with 51.
-Portland was 3/7 on the power play after failing to score on a 5 on 3 advantage in the first. Portland created their 7 power plays by simply being way too fast for the Blade's defense. Saskatoon's top pairing: 5 of the 7 penalties were taken by D-men, most times in situations where they felt they had to take one.
-The Blades sport a large team, but their weakness (lack of speed) was apparent tonight, as the Hawks blew by them time and time again.
-Despite out playing the Blades, the Hawk's gave up 5 goals to a Blades team that capitalized on every good chance they were given. Former Vancouver Giant Nathan Burns scored twice, as did 17 year old Matt Revel.
-Elsewhere in the U.S. Division: Spokane lost to Seattle 5-1, behind Shea Theodore's 3 assists. The Chiefs have now dropped 3 in a row. The Chiefs had fallen the previous night to Tric City (2-1), helping end Tri City's own 3 game skid.

3 Stars:
#3- Oliver Bjorkstrand- scored the all important game tying goal, whcih essentially ended the night for the tired Blades.

#2- Brendan Leipsic- Both he and Petan were much better than they were in Spokane, after getting some rest Saturday. They had played 3 games in 3 nights, with the Subway Super Series.

#1- Nic Petan- Seems like the coaches are encouraging him to shoot more on the power play as he probably took over 10 shots total. In today's WHL, where every second of game tape is studied, this really opens up more options for the most talented unit in the league.

For the second time in 3 weeks Tuesday's game in Everett will match up the team's with the 2 best records in the league. Portland, which is now only 1 point back (44-43) is hoping to re-take the top spot that they gave up to Everett the last time the two played.

The game will kick off their second Alberta swing of the year.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Hawks Own Spokane Again 6-3; Are 5-0 This Season Vs. Chiefs

The one team the Portland Winterhawks seem to have figured out this season is the Spokane Chiefs. After beating them 6-3 in Spokane on Friday night, they have won the first 5 games of an 8 game season series with them this year. Also, if you include the playoff sweep from last year and the end of last season, Portland has won 13 in a row over the Chiefs. Portland was led in this game by Oliver Bjorkstrand's first hat trick of the season and the 3rd of his career. Amazingly one of his other two hat tricks also came vs. Spokane last season, when he scored 4 Goals. Paul Bittner also added 3 assists and 11 Hawks notched at least one point in the win. The Hawks were able to overcome Mitch Holmberg's 3rd hat trick this season in the victory, out shooting the Chiefs 33-26 for the road victory.

Brendan Burke 23 of 26 shots and made several great saves, after costly turnovers given up by Brendan Leipsic and Anton Cederholm; among others. Eric Williams stopped 27 of 32 in the loss for Spokane.

Observations From the Game:
-Portland scored first from an excellent power play goal from their second unit, when Dominic Turgeon found the rebound off a Paul Bittner shot. Keegan Iverson then gave the Hawks a 4-2 lead in the second with another goal from the second power play unit. This unit is really starting to click chemistry wise and through the first two periods anyways, was creating more chances during their power play time. Consistent scoring from this unit will allow the Hawks to more evenly distribute the time allowign more rest time for the top unit.
-This was especially important this night, as 4 of the 5 players from that unit (Taylor Leier, Brendan Leipsic, Nic Petand and Derrick Pouliot) were playing their 3rd game in a row after playing in the Subway Super Series up in Alberta.
-They were a part of the victorious WHL team, that won the deciding game of the series 4-2 in Lethbridge over a team of Russian select players. Pouliot had a goal and an assist in the 4-2 come from behind win.
-Pouliot, Petan and Leier all played great for the team and could be setting themselves up to play in the 2013-13 World Junior Championships in Sweden, December 26th-January 5th.
-Getting the secondary scoring they got in this game will be crucial, should these 3 players or perhaps more, miss a large amount of time.
-Adam Hascic received a checking from behind penalty in the second period and could hear from the league, suspension wise, after checking Steven Alldridge of the Hawks dangerously along the boards in the 3rd period.
-Portland got within one point of Everett for first in the WHL,Western Conference and the U.S. Division with the win (42-41) and created more distance between themselves and Spokane, who dropped to 6 points back for second the the U.S. with 35 points.
-Elsewhere in the U.S. Division, Seattle ousted, Portland's next opponent the Saskatoon Blades, 6-2 behind 5 points from Alexander Delnov and Tri City lost to Victoria at home 3-1.

3 Stars:
#3- Paul Bittner- 3 assists for the big guy and he seemed to actually carry the top line at times with his fresh legs.
#2- Mitch Holmberg- 3 hat tricks on the year and now 30 goals. He has a 9 point lead on Petan again for the WHL points lead(64-55), as Petan only had 1 point in the game.
#1- Oliver Bjorkstrand- Hat trick for Bjorkstrand, allowed him to leap frog Joshua Winquist of Everett for 3rd overall in points with 48.

A much needed day off for the Hawks, as they head back home to take on the Saskatoon Blades at 5pm at the Moda Center Sunday night, before they take their second Alberta bound road trip.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Leier Player of The Game but Team WHL Loses to Russia 3-2

Pouliot Mixing It Up
At the Subway Super Series's Game 5 of 6, Taylor Leier came to play. He was widely believed to be the best player on the ice an CHL Insider Sam Cosentino sang his praises often during the broadcast, even saying at one time "Flyer fans better start buying his jersey now."

They were referring to his fantastic all around play in the game and also his beautiful shorthanded Goal in the second period that tied the game up for Team WHL. Leier was one of the penalty killing Forwards and closed up high on the blue line on two straight plays. The first time he got the puck out of the zone and on the second her sprang himself for a breakaway in which he backhanded the puck past Russian Goalie Ivan Nalimov.

Leier factored in one the only other WHL Goal as well, when he got the puck to team-mate Brendan Leipsic, who was promptly checked off the puck. Edmonton Oil Kings D-man Griffin Reinhart followed the play the wristed it past Nelimov to start the scoring.

Russia got the win when Forward Alexei Baskov scored on a wraparound 2:43 into the 3rd period. Portland's Nic Petan scored late in the game seemingly tying the game, but the Goal was disallowed as the referee ruled that the whistle had already sounded. This kind of ruling is not able to be overturned, so Team WHL takes the loss and the CHL falls behind in the series 3 games to 2. Team WHL needs to win tonight in Lethbridge, in regulation in order to win on total points (Russia has a shoot-out win).

Petan, Leier and Pouliot were easily some of the better players for Team WHL and seemed to be in on most of the scoring opportunities.

Team WHL out-shot the Russian Select team 44-25, but Nalimov was amazing, stopping 42 shots and making several highlight reel saves. Team WHL's Eric Comrie (Tri City American) made several great saves in his own right, but was not great on the deciding Goal. Comrie stopped 22 of 25 for the WHL.

Some changes will be made to the lineup in Lethbridge tonight, but all 4 Winterhawks will play again. This is a fantastic opportunity for the 4 Canadians to impress 2014 Canadian World Juniors Coach Brent Sutter, who is also coaching them on Team WHL.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Former Winterhawk of the Week: Seth Jones

You thought Seth Jones was talented because he helped the Winterhawks get to their first Memorial Cup in 15 years and then went on to be an immediate top pairing D-man in the NHL for the Nashville Predators?

You haven't seen anything yet, Jones can apparently play the quad-guitar. That's right 4 guitars at once, while wearing an afro wig! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you have got to see the Nashville Predators Christmas Video.

If only Jones had shown how much he could shred back when he was playing in Portland. He would have been the best guitarist living in the Northwest since Jimi Hendrix.

Oh and I guess he's done okay on the ice as well. Jones's Predators went 3-1 in their last 4 games, helping them keep pace in the very tough Western Conference, where they sit tied for 10th currently. Jones cracked the 22 minutes played plateau in 2 of those games and notched his 3rd Goal of his young NHL career, a power play Goal in a 4-2 win over Toronto last Thursday. Jones has 3 Goals and 6 Assists for 9 points, which is 7th on a team that's struggling to score Goals. His overall -8 rating can't be held against him too much because he is a young rookie D-man and starting Goalie and annual MVP for Nashville: Pekka Rinne went out with an injury several weeks ago. Carter Hutton (he of 1 NHL game played before this season) took over and has not been Rinne-like whatsoever. Jones has been pretty solid defensively for the Preds, pairing with Norris Trophy Finalist Shea Weber on the left side for much of the season so far.

The highlight of Jones' career so far, has got to be the game winning Goal he scored with 1:27 left in the game against Montreal on October 19th. It would be really safe to say that this is only the first of many game winners for the 19 year old that's only going to get much better.

Monday, November 25, 2013

4 Hawks Go To Subway Super Series in Alberta

Rattie From Last Year's Series
The Portland Winterhawks will be sending a WHL high 4 players to the Subway Super Series in Alberta this week. These 4 players are going to be playing for an All Star WHL squad in 2 games (Wednesday and Thursday) vs. a team made up of selected Russian born players. Teams from the QMJHL and OHL have already played against, mostly, the same Russian team.

This is the 11th annual Subway Super Series exhibition tournament and teams from the WHL are 15-5 going into this year against Team Russia.

The 4 Winterhawks representing Team WHL are: Brendan Leipsic, Nic Petan, Taylor Leier and Derrick Pouliot. Petan was also named Assistant Captain for both games.

The November 27th game will be played in Red Deer, while the Thanksgiving day game will be hosted by the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

The team from Russia lost both games earlier this month to Team QMJHL, but has beaten Team OHL in both games they played this past week. The WHL takes this event very seriously as it is a chance to showcase it's top talent on a global level. They schedule this week off (through Friday) so that players will be well rested for the event.

In recent history, Former Winterhawk Ty Rattie played in the 2011 and 2012 Super Series' and notched 1 Goal and 1 Assist in both games played for a total of 4 points(he only played one of the two games both years). In more dated history, fromer Hawk D-man Braydon Coburn had 2 assists in 2 games vs. Russia in 2004.

A side note is that former Hawk Kirill Vorobyev was added to the Russian roster vs.the WHL, meaning he will take on 4 of his former teammates in Alberta. Vorobyev was released after one season with the Hawks.

Depending on how much they play in the 2 games, the 4 Hawks could see limited ice time and possibly even get scratched for Friday's tilt at Spokane, in order to rest up.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thunderbirds Rally; Defeat Hawks in OT: 5-4

Portland lost in a very disappointing way Saturday night in Kent, as they had victory snatched away after rallying from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead late in the game.

Portland again controlled much of the play as they have in their last 3 games with Seattle. This time however, they struggled with putting the puck in the net. The Hawks created several scoring chances in the first two periods, but trailed 3-1 as only Taylor Leier on a 1 on 2 shorthanded rush found the back of the net. Portland rang two posts in those two periods, including one where Oliver Bjorkstrand had Seattle Goalie Justin Myles down and out, but his shot in the inside of the post and trickled out.

Trailing 3-1 going into the third period, the Hawks came out looking extremely fired up and responded with 3 goals over a 6 minute span, taking the lead with 6 minutes left in the game on a beautiful goal by Brendan Leipsic. Derrick Pouliot's point shot rang off the post and an alert Leipsic deflected it right back at the net, beating Myles and giving the Hawks the lead. Former Winterhawk and current Seattle Coach Steve Konowalchuk immediately called timeout and looking back this may have saved the game.

Justin Hickman responded after finding the puck at the front of the net and the game went to overtime, assuring both teams get a point. The 4 on 4 overtime action was relatively even, but the T-birds would get the emotional win when Matthew Barzal dug the puck out of the corner and found Alexander Delnov alone with Hawk's Goalie Brendan Burke out of place. Delnov found the twine handing the Hawk's a devastating loss.

Observations From the Game:
-Both Steven Alldridge and Keoni Texeira spent early time in the locker room getting repairs. Despite immediately going to the locker room after taking a couple blows in an early first period fight with Mitch Elliot, Alldridge was joined down the tunnel by Equipment Manager Mark "Peaches" Brennan and not Trainer Rich Campbell. Campbell would instead go down the tunnel to see to Texeira after he took a shot to the face during play. Texeira would return with a full cage.
-Portland played right into the notoriously physical T-bird's hands int he early going when Alldridge chose to fight Elliot and Anton Cederholm dropped mitts with Evan Wardley. Both fights were lost in decisive fashion, firing up a seemingly listless ShoWare Center crowd.
-Keegan Iverson uncorked a nice wrist shot on the Hawk's second Goal. He scored it from beyond the right face-off circle. I would like to see him look to shoot more often, as the third line needs more offensive punch, with Presten Kopeck out.
-Kopeck blocked a shot Friday vs. Spokane and seemed to be much for the worse of wear. He was scratched, along with injured Forwards Adam Rossignol and Shane McColgan.
-Shaun MacPherson was scratched yet again and seems to be the odd man out on the Hawk's blue line.
-This is mostly because of how well the 3 new D-men have played and how much Layne Viveiros has improved.
-Having said that the Defense did not have great gap control and chased the puck on the last two Seattle Goals, leaving Seattle Forwards alone in front.
-I cannot understand why Seattle D-man Adam Henry (acquired from Lethbridge earlier in the year) is running the point with Shea Theodore on their top unit. He made about 4-5 terrible zone plays leading to chances the other way. He also did not close on Leier, allowing him to score the Hawk's first Goal.
-Burke, who allowed 5 Goals in the game, was again solid despite the number. Portland's Defense, though the team controlled the play for much of the game, gave up too many grade A opportunities.
-Petan (1 Goal, -3, playing much of the night against Barzal, Hickman and Delnov) fell another point back of Mitch Holmberg in the scoring race, as Holmberg had 2 points in his team's 4-3 OT win over Tri City.
-Everett also won in Calgary 1-0, meaning their lead over the Hawks in the Western Conference and U.S. Division goes to 3 points (42-39).

3 Stars:
#3- Matthew Barzal- 2 assists and  a wonderful play setting up the game winner. The Hawk's game plan seems to be to make the young star's life hell with physical play whenever they get the chance. The problem with this play is that it will only make him more of an offensive force in a year or two. Needless to say this guy will be an impact player in this series for awhile to come.

#2- Taylor Leier- One of the only Hawks to have a consistently solid game. He had a Goal and an Assist and was a force out there for every shift.

Justin Hickman
#1- Justin Hickman- 2 Goals, one of which was game tying. His size and style of play seemed to give the Hawk's Defense fits as they could not get him out of in front of the net.

Next game for the Hawks goes  Friday after Thanksgiving @Spokane as the Hawks will hope to get back on track against a team they are now 4-0 with an overall score of 19-12 this season.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Portland Takes Down Spokane Yet Again; 6-4

For the 4th time in a row and if you include the playoffs and last season, the 12th time in a row overall, the Portland Winterhawks defeated the Spokane Chiefs 6-4 Friday night at the Coliseum.

The game basically fit the same format as 2 of 3 of the previous meetings, with Portland building an early lead and then relying on strong defense and a few great saves by Burke to pick up the victory.

Despite letting the Chief control a lot of the early play, the Hawks stood tall defensively and kept the swarming Chiefs, led by Adam Helewka from capitalizing on their chances. Then after Brendan Burke made several stellar stops, the Hawks were off and racing the other way, leading to Brendan Leipsic beating Chief's Goalie Garrett Hughson high on the glove side for a 1-0 led. This seemed to wake the Hawks up and they scored twice more in the period. Then after trading goals to make it 4-1, the Chiefs got back to back goals less than 3 minutes apart to make it a one goal game. Then, when it seemed the Chiefs would eventually tie the game up, Taylor Leier made a slick backhand pass from behind the net to Nic Petan and suddenly it was a 5-3 game. Spokane would get one more goal to make it close, but the Hawks again played great defense and picked up an empty netter to hand Spokane another defeat in the season series.

Garrett Hughson stopped 27 of 32, as he gave up 5 goals for the second straight time against Portland this season. Brendan Burke picked up his 16th win of the season, stopping 31of 35 shots.

Observations From the Game:
-Spokane out shot Portland in the game (35-33) and has now out shot them 3 times in a row. The frustration has got to be growing for the Chiefs players, as the Hawks were clearly out played for portions of the game, but the Chiefs failed to capitalize on their momentum.
-The frustration really boiled over late as Mike Avian and Riley Whittingham both lost their cool in separate instances during the last minute of play. Whittingham has been known to play on the edge, but rarely have I seen Aviani commit lose it. He threw a sucker bunch to the face of Alex Schoenborn after the whistle.
-This loss could be the most painful one for the Chiefs, as they were just starting to create some chances late in the game when Portland's Keegan Iverson went to check Spokane's Cole Wedman, who got his stick up in the face of Iverson to defend himself. Iverson was bloodied and Wedman received a double minor for high sticking, ending the Chief's chances at pulling the Goalie for the man advantage.
-This was the first game at Veteran's Memorial Coliseum for the Hawks this season, meaning that it was the first time that several Hawks (Ethan Price, Keoni Texeira, Garrett Haar, Anton Cederholm) got to play there.
-Derrick Pouliot, who prior to the last couple of weeks has not supplied as much offense as expected, nothced a goal in this one, giving him a goal in 4 straight games.
-Portland was 2/9 on the power play, while Spokane was 0/3.
-Pouliot also ended the night an assist short of a Gordie Howe hat trick, him and Mike Aviani dropped gloves to start the second period (Aviani completed one in the loss).
-Shaun MacPherson was scratched for the 4th time over 5 games, meaning either he is on the outs with the coaching staff or he is battling some injury we have not heard about. Either way, he has only gotten into 15 of the 25 games played this season.
-Elsewhere in the WHl, the Everett Silvertips kept themselves 2 points ahead in the U.S. Division and the Western Conference with a 4-3 win at Medicine Hat. Joshua Winquist had 2 goals and 1 assist in the win.
-Tri City was out shot 46-19 and loss 4-1 at home to Kelowna and Seattle lost in Vancouver 6-3 to round out the U.S. Division scores. Seattle has now only won 2 of their last 10 games, as their skid continues.

3 Stars:
#3- Brendan Leipsic- 2 goals and an assist for his second 3 point night in a row. He really seems to have turned it around and hopefully will be consistent as he seems to be the engine for the Hawks.

#2- Taylor Leier- 1 goal and 1 assist, but they were both beauties as he made an excellent pass to Petan for the eventual game winner and then made a great effort to notch the empty netter late. He seems like he could be Ty Rattie lite for the Hawks this season, as far as, setting up or scoring the big goals.

#1- Nic Petan- 1 goal and 3 assists for Petan as he gained 2 more points on Mitch Holmberg (2 assists in the game) and is now 7 points back for the WHL lead (59-52).

Friday, November 22, 2013

Game #25 Preview: Spokane @ Portland

Spokane (16-7-0-1, 33 points, 4th in the Western Conference and 3rd in the U.S. Division) travels to Veterans Memorial Coliseum to take on Portland (17-5-1-1, 36 points, 3rd in the Western Conference and 2nd in the U.S. Division) in a pivotal U.S. Division match up tonight.

After a disappointing loss to Everett last Friday that cost the Hawks first place in both the West and the U.S., Portland hopes that a sweep this weekend over Spokane and Seattle will put them back on top.

Season Series: This is the 4th of 8 meetings between the two rivals and so far Portland has won all 3 times. One more victory by the Winterhawks, would clinch at least a tie in the season series.

-10/2: Spokane 4 @ Portland 6: After the Chiefs took off on a hot start in the season, Portland, despite their early struggles, ousted the Chiefs by jumping out to a 4-1 and 5-2 leads before hanging on for a 6-4 win. They were led by 2 goals and an assist by Alex Schoenborn and 2 goals and 2 assists by Nic Petan. Mitch Holmberg had 3 assists in the game.

-10/26: Portland 4 @ Spokane 3: On the tail end of a 5 game road swing that took them to Alberta and back, Portland again jumped out to a lead (3-1 in the 2nd), before allowing the Chiefs to surge back and tie the game later in the same period. Taylor Leier was then fed a fantastic pass by Brendan Leipsic on the power play and he roofed it with his backhand, scoring the eventual game winner. The Hawk's Defense came up big and did not allow a goal despite 15 3rd period shots from Spokane.

-11/2: Portland 3 @ Spokane 1: The Hawks won, what would be their last of their 11 game win streak (stopped 4 days later vs. Tri City). A great Defensive effort led the way, as Portland's Defense came their closest this season to a shut-out for Goalie Brendan Burke, only allowing a goal with 2:44 left in the game. Nic Petan assisted on all 3 goals for the Hawks, one of which (scored by Schoenborn) was one of Portland's ugliest of the year.

Season Series Points Leaders:
Spokane: Forward Mitch Holmberg (0 goals, 5 assists), Defenseman Jason Fram (2 goals, 1 assist), Forward Connor Chartier (1 goal, 1 assist) and Defenseman Cole Wedman (1 goal, 1 assist).

Portland: Nic Petan (2 goals, 7 assists), Alex Schoenborn (3 goals, 2 assists), Oliver Bjorkstrand (4 goals, 1 assist) and Brendan Leipsic (1 goal, 2 assists- played in only 2 of the games).

Spokane: Eric Williams: 0-2, 3.50 GAA, 0.875 Save %; Garrett Hughson: 0-1, 5.00 GAA, 0.852 Save %.

Portland: Brendan Burke: 3-0, 2.66 GAA, 0.918 Save %.

Recent Games:
Portland has won 14 of their last 17 games and is coming off of a blowout win over Kamloops their last time out. Their lines finally seem to be clicking, once Paul Bittner has been (somewhat) firmly placed on the top line with Leipsic and Petan. They have combined for 19 points over the last 3 games. Hopefully the top power play (3/3 last game vs. Kamloops) can continue clicking as the unit of Pouliot, Petan, Leier, Bjorkstrand and Leipsic has plenty of talent to go around and should be better than they have been so far this season.

Spokane, since starting out on a tear, has fallen back, going 5-5 over their last 10 games and falling all the way to 3rd in the U.S. Division. Since the last time they faced each other, Spokane went on their first of two Alberta swings, going 2-2 on the 4 game road trip. They then came back home and lost in a shoot out with Regina and won over Vancouver in Over Time (5-4) on Wednesday, with the game winner being potted by Mike Aviani.

Tonight's Game:
The real reason to be excited about this match up is because it involves 3 of the top 4 scorers in the WHL. Mitch Holmberg has led the way almost the entire season so far with 57 points, while Nic Petan (48 points) has been hot on his heels and Oliver Bjorkstrand is falling behind in the race lately (42, two behind Everett's Joshua Winquist) Mike Aviani has been line mates with Holmberg all season and is 6th overall with 37 points. Taylor Leier also is in the top 12 in scoring with 31 points. In one of the more interesting statistics in the WHL, Spokane Defenseman Reid Gow (Team Captain) is 17th overall with 30 points, but has yet to score a single goal.

One of the big similarities between the two teams is that they have two explosive Forwards whom they have been struggling to find someone to fit with all season. Portland has tried Schoenborn, Presten Kopeck and Paul Bittner with Leipsic and Petan, while Spokane has tried rookie Keanu Yamamoto (7 points) and more recently Adam Helewka (17 pts) with Holmberg and Aviani. Finding a great fit on their top line could really make the difference for the two teams this season. The big difference between the two squads though is that the Hawks have way more "secondary" scoring with a second line of Leier-Bjorkstrand-De Leo, while Spokane's second line has not been as consistent.

Jason Fram has been a bit of a find for Spokane this season as he has given them another good shut down D-man to pair with Reid Gow. In a similar way,the Hawks have been impressed with the continued improvement of Anton Cederholm, whom they have paired with Derrick Pouliot.

Both teams are playing again the next night as Portland heads up I-5 to take on the Thunderbirds, while Spokane goes home to take on their arch-rival Tri City Americans. Because of this, it is likely that the Chiefs will start back up Garrett Hughson in one of the games (most likely tonight).

Portland continues to battle injuries up front as Presten Kopeck missed the Kamloops game with an abdominal injury, while Shane McColgan and Adam Rossignol are battling injuries as well.

The game goes 7pm at the Coliseum tonight.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Special Teams Play Big Role as Hawks Down Kamloops 7-3

The Portland Winterhawks won the second game of their mini road trip Saturday night, as they downed a rebuilding Kamloops Blazers squad 7-3. Chase De Leo and Brendan  Leipsic led the way with 2 goals apiece.

The game started out as a bit of a shoot out with 5 goals (3 from Portland and 2 from Kamloops) being scored in the first period. Then, in the second Kamloops tied it up briefly on a power play marker from Defenseman Josh Connolly, before Portland exercised control and scored the last 4 un-answered for a 7-3 road victory.

The Winterhawks have now beaten Kamloops both times and both times they have scored 7 goals (they won 7-4 in Portland on October 12th. The two teams do not meet again until February 14th back in the Interior Savings Center.

Both Goalies were not at their best as Brendan Burke stopped 25 of 28 shots and Kamloops' Bolton Pouliot stopped 36 of 43.

Portland was a perfect 3/3 on the power play and added 2 short-handed scores late. Kamloops was 2/4 on the mad advantage in the game.

Observations From the Game:
-Portland now has 8 short handed scores as Nic Petan and Chase De Leo scored late in the 3rd, 27 seconds apart, while burning the same penalty.
-Kamloops' penalty kill has been terrible as of late; allowing 8 power play goals over their last 3 games.
-Paul Bittner played almost the entirety of 5 on 5 play on the top line with Brendan Leipsic and has looked the best with Leipsic and Petan, at least as far as consistent play goes. His size brings a dynamic that creates a lot of space for the two stick-handling wizards to work.
-Matt Needham (5th on the Blazers in scoring with 16 points) was a late scratch, as he is dealing with a lower body injury.
-The Hawks decided to go with 7 Defenseman and only 11 Forwards, as Adam Rossignol and Shane McColgan both missed the trip with injuries, Steven Alldridge was ruled out and Presten Kopeck was a late scratch (dealing with an injury to his abdominal). The Hawks Forward group, which was healthy for about 2-3 weeks, is now reeling again with injuries.
-Keoni Texeira's play has steadily improved this season and for the past 8-9 games he has been skating on the Hawk's second pairing with Garrett Haar. Josh Hanson, Shaun MacPherson and Layne Viveiros have lost minutes played, to the young 16 year old.
-Chase Souto, he of the disparaging comments from last year's playoff series, led the way for the Blazers with 2 goals and had another chance on a breakaway that Burke turned him aside on. Souto now has 4 goals in 2 games against the Hawks this year, as his speed continues to cause issues for the Hawk's Defense.
-Portland out-shot Kamloops 43-28 and controlled the play throughout the game. The hawks hit the post 3 different times throughout the game, otherwise, the game may not have been in doubt for as long as it was.
-Derrick Pouliot scored for the first time in the WHL on his cousin; Blazer's Goalie Bolton Pouliot on a nice point shot on the power play.
-Portland is now 17-0 when leading after 2 periods.

3 Stars:
#3- Derrick Pouliot- so consistent lately as he really seems to be the rock back on Defense for the Hawks. His goal in this one was surprisingly only his 6th of the season.

#2- Chase De Leo- Chase has been taking his draft year extremely seriously. He put a ton of effort in the weight room this off season and seems to be getting better at the little things every game. He potted two in this one including a pretty short handed goal.

#1- Brendan Leipsic- Could not be anyone but Mr. Leipsic, who was easily the best player on the ice this game. He has not been as consistent as expected this season, but hopefully this game, one of his best this season, will push him to the heights that he is expected to reach.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Hawks Win Streak at Nine!

The Portland Winterhawks have reeled off 9 wins in a row, including all 5 of their games on a recent road swing. Because of some personal obligations, I have not posted anything since their win over Tri City on 10/16 (2nd game of the streak). Here are some things I've noticed over the past 7 games:

Observations From the Last 7 Games:
-Portland kicked off their 7 games in 13 days at home with a 5-4 win over Swift Current. This was one of the most entertaining WHL games I've seen in some time as the game winner was scored by Dominic Turgeon in only his second game back. Turgeon scored the goal on a nice rush up the ice and showed some nifty skills in beating Swift Current Goalie Eetu Laurikainen.

-Next up for the Hawks was their 3rd date with the Tri City Americans and the Hawks took them behind the woodshed, potting an 8-1 victory and taking their streak to 4 games. Paul Bittner returned from his hand injury in this one and looked tentative in the little ice time he got, skating on the 4th line with Adam Rossignol and Ethan Price. The Hawks were led by 2 goals from Chase De Leo and a goal and two assists each from Nic Petan and Taylor Leier. Shaun MacPherson played in this game but seemed to be relegated to 3rd pairing minutes. The real difference between Portland and Tri City seems to be team speed and Tri City's Defense struggled with the Hawk's Forwards all night.

-The Hawks then took their win streak to Alberta for the first of two trips (the next trip will be a brutal 3 games in 3 nights vs. Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary, December 6th-8th).Lethbridge, at the time, was dealing with two of the top three scorers from last year's team: Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam Mckechnie demanding trades (they would eventually get traded to Seattle for Riley Sheen, Carter Folk and a 3rd round 2015 pick). Lethbridge looked way over-matched early as the Hawks out-shot the Canes 22-8 in the first period. But behind an amazing game from over-age Corbin Boes, the Canes only gave up 3 goals in that first period, despite the Hawks running roughshod over them. Nic Petan then made the mistake of inspiring a lifeless Cane's team, when he took a cheap shot on a Lethbridge player after the first period inspiring the Canes to come back and make it a game, before losing 3-2. The Hawks definitely let up after the first period, but still played great defense at the end for the win. Bittner played much more in his 2nd game back for the Hawks,

-The Hawks then went 2 hours NE in Alberta, traveling to the Eastern Conference leading(at the time) Medicine Hat Tigers. Portland was the exact opposite of the previous night, as they slept walked through the first 10 minutes of the game, relying on a stellar Brendan Burke to stand on his head early. Then Nic Petan scored a nifty goal and the Hawks were off to what would become a 4-1 2nd period lead. They would then let the other team back in for the second night in a row and the Tigers, behind goals set up and scored by Blake Penner, got to within 1 at 4-3. There were several nervous moments late in the 3rd where it looked like the Tigers would tie it, but the Hawks Defense, led by the steadily improving Anton Cederholm and Layne Viveiros, cleared away any troubling rebounds in front. Leipsic then netted an empty netter and the score would end at 5-3. Over-age acquisition Shane McColgan played his first game for the Hawks but was noticeably frustrated with his own play.

-Kootenay was up next for the Hawks and Viveiros, who has my vote for most improved so far this year, started the scoring by creating a nifty 4 on 2 rush that ended with a Petan goal. The Hawks got 2 more goals from Chase De Leo and 3 assists from Oliver Bjorkstrand, pacing them to a 6-3 win. Keegan Iverson scored a goal in his 4th straight game in closing the scoring. The Hawks faced Tim Bozon in a different swaeter as he and Defenseman Landon Cross were traded from Kamloops to Kootenay for Colin Shirley, Matt Thomas and 1st, 3rd and 5th round picks. This was Bozon's first game playing with possible #1 overall 2014 NHL Draft pick Sam Reinhart and it could take a little while for them to create a little chemistry. Jarrod Schammerhorn got his 2nd start of the year in this one and notched his first WHL victory, stopping 27 of 30 shots. Shane McColgan was scratched in this game following his one game return to the lineup.

-The Hawks closed out their 5 game road trip with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Spokane. Portland took a 3-1 lead before, again, letting the other team back in. Spokane scored two power play goals, knotting the score at 3. Then Captain Taylor Leier scored a nifty backhand powerplay goal and the Hawk's Defense and Brendan Burke played great late, giving Portland the 4-3 win. Portland's Shaun MacPherson was scratched for the 3rd straight game in this one, with no apparent injury, meaning he seems to be out of favor with the Hawk's coaching staff.

-Lastly, the Hawks came home and dispatched a scrappy Brandon Wheat Kings squad 5-2. Portland was glad to be home and showed it out-shooting Brandon 17-6 in the first period and taking a 3-0 lead behind goals from Leier, De Leo and Petan. It could've been much worse, but Brandon's Curtis Honey (twin Brother of Seattle's Connor Honey) stopped several other great chances. Keegan Iverson led the rest of the way with a goal and an assist and the Hawks gave up 2 late goals, ending the scoring at 5-2. Portland is leading the league in goal scoring at a very comfortable margin of 82-64 right now and by the way of their 9 game winning streak is now in first in both the U.S. Division and Western Conference.

Next up for the Hawks are two key U.S. Division matches at Seattle and Spokane this weekend.