Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Links/ Oil King Loss Fallout

To read a lot of WHL writers today, Portland was exposed by a much larger, perhaps more skilled team. While there may be an argument there, I wouldn't necessarily agree with that broad of a statement. In fact there are, a few silver linings to take away from the loss to Edmonton Wednesday night that when put together could lead to the Hawks possibly beating the Oil Kings in a finals series, should they both make it.

First of all, after having watched, in person, Edmonton beat up and successfully get under the skin of Seattle Tuesday night, I would have to say that Portland, responded to the physical play better. This, even with most of their top players being on the small side. They did not back down and for large portions of the game, controlled the flow. In their match up, Seattle got upset and appeared to forget their was a hockey game on, instead taking stupid penalties (Edmonton was 3 for 3 on the powerplay in a 6-2 win).

An argument could be made that Edmonton's one player that seemed to physically handle the Hawks was 5'9" 175 lb LW Dylan Wruck (I gave him first star of the game honors). That is hardly an imposing stature, he was throwing around.

Without Wruck's one man show to end the second period, against what appeared to be a tired defensive unit, the Hawks probably pull this game out. That goal completely turned the momentum away from the Hawks and helped set up the Oil King's impressive 3rd period.

It was also great to watch Mac Carruth (pictured) outplay Laurent Brossoit in net. Carruth made several spectacular saves while  Brossoit gave up a goal from behind the net. Brossoit also got help from his posts on a couple Winterhawks shots.

The last silver lining has to be Ty Rattie's play. Last year Edmonton played him physically and made him ineffective in the finals (never more so then their game 7 win). Last night, he was a man possessed, setting up 2 goals and, by my count, getting at least 6 shots on goal. Rattie stepped up big time. If he had gotten more assistance from league leading scorer, Brendan Leipsic, we are talking about a much different hockey game. Also, Rattie's speed gave their Defensemen fits several different times (particularly Ashton Sautner and Cody Corbett).

If last night's game is representative and both teams get out of their conferences, we are going to get a fantastic final, to rival last years. One that the Hawks have to be confindent they can pull out.

Links and Notes:
-Adam De Champlain was suspended for one game for jumping Keegan Lowe and Henrik Samuellson was suspended for two, following his spearing of Ty Rattie.
-Saskatoon extended their win streak to 17 last night. Here is a piece from Kelly Friesen about how they have turned around their season.
-Piece from Kerry Eggers about Travis Green learning on the run as coach of the Hawks.
-Paul Buker's article about the game last night.
-Kelowna beat Seattle at home tonight 4-1, cutting the Hawks Western Conference lead to 11 points. They have one game in hand on the Hawks.
-Video of the Lowe hit on Kopeck and De Champlain's response:
-Former Hawks Goalie Kurtis Mucha was named to the first team of Canada West and teamed with Goalie Real Cyr (former Prince George Cougar) to have the lowest combined goals against in the league.
-In the NHL: the Chicago Blackhawks won again (3-0 vs. St. Louis), taking their streak to 20 games with at least one point, to start the season.

Hawks Blow Another Lead; Lose to Edmonton 4-3

All of the eyes, that follow junior hockey, were on Portland last night, as the two teams that battled in last years WHL finals faced off for the only time this year.

Edmonton was in the 4th of their 5 game U.S. Division swing (going 1-2 coming in) and Portland was coming off losing the previous night in Tri City.

Neither team looked tired, however, as the game quickly developed a playoff type atmosphere.

Just 7 minutes in, on the Penalty Kill, the Edmonton Defense turned the puck over, while attempting to change lines and the Hawks jumped on a 3 on 1 break. Ty Rattie found Nic Petan, on the rush, to open the scoring.

Then things started to get heated as Henrik Samuellson, a Phoenix Coyotes first round pick, speared Rattie in the back of the legs, driving him face first into the boards. Samuellson was called for a 5 minute major and a game misconduct and will most likely be facing yet another suspension. Samuellson was suspended for 2 games in last years final when he took a head shot at Portland's Joey Baker.

The Hawks, however, failed to capitalize on the power play and Edmonton responded with a slap shot from Oilers draft pick Mitch Moroz that fellow Oilers pick Travis Ewanyk had 2 chances at before he put it past Goalie Mac Carruth.

Then 3:32 later, Oil Kings Defensman Keegan Lowe put a check in on Preston Kopeck, who awkwardly went into the boards and appeared to have his face cut open. Kopeck's linemate Adam DeChamplain jumped Lowe and instigated a fight. He was penalized with the fight-the 2 minute instigator and a 10 minute game misconduct, putting the Hawks without 2 of their 3rd line players for most of the rest of the game.

The Hawks however, were the ones to wrest away the momentum, when Rattie, on the powerplay, dropped a pass to Troy Rutkowski at the blue line, who one-timed it past Goalie Lauent Brossoit for his 20th of the year.

Then, less then 3 minutes later, Hawks D-man Kirill Vorobev cycled the puck in deep behind the Kings net for Taylor Leier. Leier then backhanded a pass looking for Oliver Bjorkstrand, but instead the pass went off Brossoit and into the net for a 3-1 lead.

The momentum shifted again with 3 seconds left in the second period when Edmonton Forward Dylan Wruck simply outworked the Hawks Defense and worked his way into the slot, beating Carruth and cutting the lead to 3-2.

This seemed to inspire the Oil Kings, who carried play for most of the 3rd period, outshooting the Hawks 17-6. Carruth made several key saves, until Portland's Shaun MacPherson turned the puck over right by his own net,  New York Rangers draft pick Michael St. Croix found Vancouver, Washington native Trevor Cheek, to tie the game.

Then 20 year old Wruck disappointed 6700 plus with a slap shot that was deflected by St. Croix and beat Carruth, on the powerplay with 1:03 left in the game.

Carruth made 38 saves on 42 shots and Brossoit got the win, making 26 saves on 29 shots.

3 Stars of the Game:
#3- Ty Rattie- He played one of his most inspired games of the season and with 2 assists, now has 97 points on the season and is sitting 3rd overall, behind his linemates for the league lead.
#2- Michael St. Croix- Game winning goal and an assist. He also had several drives at the net and displayed great straight putting 2 different one handed shots that Carruth had to stop.
#1- Dylan Wruck- Has to be one of the most under-rated players in the league. He was easily the best Oil King, creating chance after chance and finishing with a goal and an assist.

Random Notes:
-The Hawks were 42-1-0-1 coming into the Tri City game, when leading after 2 periods.They have blown leads in the last 2 games.
-Rattie has 335 career points with the Hawks now, ranking him only 5 points behind Randy Heath for 6th all time.
-Rutkowski is the first Hawks Defenseman to reach 20 goals, since another #2, Brandon Smith, did it in 1992-93 (20 years ago). He also did it as a 20 year old.
-Rutkowksi is now 8 behind the Hawk's record for goals by a Defenseman in a season by Jim Benning, who had 28 in 1980-81.
-Elsewhere, Saskatoon won their 17th in a row with a shootout win in Calgary.
-Kamloops lost to Vancouver 5-3 at home.
-Portland's lead in the WHL standings on Edmonton was trimmed to 10 points, with 7 games left.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Sloppy Defensve Play From Top Line Dooms Hawks 4-2 in Tri City

In Tri City on Tuesday night, the Hawks blew an early 2-0 lead, giving up 4 straight goals and losing for the 3rd time to Tri City and only 10th time, in regulation, all season.

The game started on a  good note for Portland when D-man Shaun MacPherson, after getting out of the penalty box, slipped behind the American's defense, got in all alone and slipped the puck backhand past Goalie Troy Trombley 10:22 into the game.

Then, only 5:39 into the 2nd period, Nic Petan, with his second assist of the game, found Ty Rattie, on an odd man rush and Rattie flipped it glove side, to make it 2-0.

Then Tri City came to life and responded with 4 goals to close out the scoring in the last 33 minutes and 36 seconds of the game. The first goal came when Justin Feser drove in on 2 Hawks D-men and fired it past Brendan Burke's glove side.

Then, in the 3rd, Brendan Leipsic, made a silly pass in the offensive zone, leading to Am's Forward Parker Bowles, putting a long rebound off a Beau McCue shot past Burke, for his 20th of the year.

The eventual game winner was put in by Connor Rankin off the 2nd rebound, after the Hawks Defense and Burke couldn't find the puck.

Then, after Leipsic and Nic Petan failed to clear the zone, Justin Feser found Defenseman Zach Yuen filling the slot, to make it 4-2.

The Hawks had several chances near the end of the game, but were felled by a too many men on the ice penalty with 46 seconds left in the game.

Burke, who came in with a 4-0 record and a 1.65 Goals Against Average against the Americans gave up 4 goals on 32 shots. Trombley, stayed undefeated, with 37 saves on 39 shots.

3 Stars:
#3- Nic Petan- 2 beautiful assists and seemed to be the only Center who could beat Jusin Feser on the draw.
#2- Troy Trombley- Strong when he needed to be, after giving up 2 goals early in first 16 minutes of the game.
#1- Parker Boweles- Lead Tri Cities 2nd line with a goal and an assist and had many more chances come off his stick.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Hawks vs American Preview/ Tuesday Links

Tuesday 2/26 Portland (51-9-1-2, 105 Pts 1st in WHL)
@ Tri City (36-22-1-2, 75 Pts 4th in the West)
-Portland is 6-2 vs Tri City this year, going 4-0 in Kennewick and 2-2 vs. them at home.
-Tri is getting hit hard by the injury bug this year. They will be without Forward Phil Tot (15GP, 2G, 5A, 7Pts), Defeseman Brodie Clowes (2GP,+1) and top prospect; Goalie Eric Comrie (37GP, 20-14-1-2, 915 Sv %, 2.62 GAA) for the rest of the year and Forward Tyson Dallman (49GP, 2G,7A,9Pts) should be out until the start of the playoffs.
Add in the fact that rookie forward Justin Gutierrez (45GP,4G,5A,9Pts), 17 year old center Brian Williams(no not the news anchor; 57GP,19G,12A,31Pts) and former Everett Silvertip Center Ryan Chynoweth (35GP,1G,3A,4Pts) are expected out vs. the Hawks and that leaves a very depleted forward group.

-Before you feel too bad for the Americans, you must realize that they have been without that entire group for the last 2 games and beat up on Everett 6-2 and the defending WHL Champion Edmonton Oil Kings 8-1.
-They have relied heavily upon 20 year old Forward Justin Feser(pictured below), who quietly has 92 Pts (37 more then their next highest scorer Swedish import Malte Stromwall).
-Feser was a man possesed last weekend getting 2 Goals and 2 Assists vs the Tips and 1 Goal and 4 Assists vs. Edmonton.
-18 year old mid year signee Troy Trombley has been fantastic for the Americans with a 5-0-0-1 overall record and only 12 goals given up over 7 Games Played for a 2.13 GAA and a 936 Save %. Included in this, of course, is the 41 save performance he put up against the Hawks on February 15th, as well as, a 6-0 shut out of the Spokane Chiefs.

-Paul Buker's piece in the Oregonian today, about the re-match of last years WHL finals, coming in Portland on Wednesday night. It mentiuons Edmonton Goalie Laurent Brossoit has given up 12 goals in his last 90 minutes. Hopefully this trend continues Wednesday, as he will get the start.
-Annie Fowler's piece in the Tri City Herald, talks about Jesse Mychan's successful return to form after suffering a torn achilles in the playoffs last year. If the WHL had a Masterton award for perserverance, it would be tough to argue against giving it to Mr. Mychan.
-Feser was named the the WHL player of the week for last week, not surprisingly (his 2nd time this year).
-Here's a decent fight between Feser and Spokane's Reid Gow from New Year's Eve 2012. Gow seems to get the better of him in this one.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday News and Links

Hawks Schedule This Week:
Tuesday 2/26 @ Tri City
Wednesday 2/27 vs. Edmonton
Saturday 3/2 @ Everett
-Portland has a 13 point lead in the overall WHL standings over Kelowna with 9 games to play.
-Kelowna plays host to Seattle on Thursday and Lethbridge Saturday before going to Kamloops to play a pivotal matchup on Sunday that will help decide the B.C. division champion.
-Edmonton continues a, so far, awful, U.S. Division road swing; playing in Seattle Tuesday, coming to Portland Wednesday and finishing in Everett on Friday.
-With a sweep of the 3 games this week or winning 2 of the 3, combined with a Kelowna loss and an Edmonton loss, will give the Hawks home ice advantage, not only in the Western Conference, but also in the overall WHL.

Random Links:
-Former Hawk Goalie Kurtis Mucha is playing lights out for the University of Alberta, going 300 plus minutes without allowing a goal.
-A lot of NHL mock drafts are coming out, most with Seth Jones going #1. This draft also has Nic Petan going in the late first round.
-It doesn't appear that Tyler Wotherspoon or Troy Rutkowski will be supspended for checks from behind in Prince George on Saturday, as the WHL Discipline page does not show them on it.
-If you haven't seen it yet, you gotta see former Hawk, Cody McLeod's broken stick goal from Sunday.
-Not associated with Portland at all, but if you haven't seen the video of Pittsburgh Penguin superstar Evgeni Malkin's injury here it is:

Preview of Tri City matchup coming tomorrow.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Hawks Roll Past Cougars Again 6-1

The Portland Winterhawks won again last night in Prince George, again in dominating fashion. They win the season series with the Cougars 4 games to 0, outscoring them 21-7 overall.

The Hawks opened the scoring just 23 seconds into the game when Taylor Leier, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Chase De Leo burst in on a 3 on 2 break, with De Leo putting home the rebound past starting Goalie Brett Zarowny.

Then the top line, not wanting to be outdone combined on a beauty of a play, Nic Petan bouncing the puck to Brendan Leipsic on the backdoor, to make it 2-0.

The Hawks then chased Zarowny with their 3rd goal in the first 7:43 of the game, when Troy Rutkowski and Brendan Leipsic drove the net, generating a couple shots before Leipsic buried it for his second goal of the game.

Carruth stood tall when he needed to when P.G. seemed to kick it into a higher gear and put a few solid scoring chances, his way late in the first and early in the second period.

Against the flow of play, 3rd liner Preston Kopeck held off P.G. D-man Raymond Grewal and slipped a backhand wrap around shot past Mac Engel to make it 4-0.

Then, later in the 2nd, P.G. forward Zach Pochiro had his pocket picked at the Hawks blue line by Ty Rattie, who burst in alone on a break away to make it 5-0.

The Cougars got one back when Colin Jacobs threw it in the crease, where Chase Wittala poked in his 15th of the season.

That was all that the Cougars could muster, as the Hawks scored another in the 3rd when Leipsic found Rattie in the slot, for his 2nd of the game and 4th of the weekend, closing the scoring in the game and giving the Hawks the 6-1 win.

3 Stars of the Game:
#3-Mac Carruth- He stood tall when they needed him, most notably when he robbed Troy Bourke halfway intothe 2nd period.
#2-Ty Rattie-2 goals and an assist combined with great backchecking, as he had another great road game.
#1- Brendan Leipsic- 2 goals and an assist and he once gain got under the opponents skin, causing the Cougars to take penalties.

-The Hawks went nearly 15 minutes without a shot on goal between the end of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd period.
-Rattie, when given his second breakaway chance in 2 games, went forehand glove side this time, when he went backhand, blocker side the previos night.
-The Hawks will be holding their collective breaths when Monday rolls around, as both Defensemen Tyler Wotherspoon and Troy Rutkowski took checking from behind penalties, with Rutkowski looking to have driven Cougars forward Jari Ericsson's face into the glass in the 2nd.
-Edmonton lost, yet again, this time 8-1 in Tri City, giving the Hawks a bigger lead in the overall WHL standings 105-91 lead.
-Hawks were, surprisingly outshot in this one 33-31.
-Kelowna won again, keeping pace with the Hawks 13 points back with 9 games to go.
-P.G. needed at least a point from this weekend to keep playoff hopes alive, as Everett won in ot vs Seattle, giving them a 5 point lead for the final seed.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hawks Set Road Wins Record-Beat Prince George 6-2

On Friday night, Portland took the first of 2, this weekend and the third straight, this season, when they ousted the Cougars, in easy fashion 6-2.

This, their 25th road win of the season, sets the franchise record that had been owned by both the 2010-11 team and the 1980-81 squad.

Portland dominated throughout, as most would expect from teams, that came in separated by 57 points in the standings, though P.G. did provide a couple of pushes, in the early parts of the 2nd and 3rd periods.

This was not the case early, however, as the Hawks scored 5:43 into the game on a power play , when Ty Rattie caught Defenseman Dan Gibb flatfooted and hit Nic Petan with a nice pass, that he converted, with a backhand shot past Goalie Mac Engel, for an early lead.

Then about 7 minutes later, also on the power play, Petan found D-Man Troy Rutkowski in the slot and he bounced it of P.G. D-Man Gibb, past Engel for the 2-0 lead.

The Hawks closed out the scoring in the first when Chase De Leo drove past a P.G. player on the right boards and got a shot that Engel made a nice save on. The puck, however was loose in the crease and Taylor Leier swooped in for the ugly goal.

P.G. created some sold chances early in the 2nd period, capitalizing when Zach Pochiro, on the power play, went with the wrap around and shot the puck off Portland's Seth Jones' stick and past Brendan Burke.

P.G. then got another power play and seemed to be creating some great chances, until forward Troy Bourke sent a blind pass to the Blue line that Rattie jumped on and put past Engel on the breakaway.

This seemed to really turn the game as Leier found Seth Jones in the slot, on a  rush, minutes later. to make it 5-1, to close out the 2nd.

The Hawks coasted after that sending out the 3rd and 4th lines on regular shifts and scoring their last goal of the game as Rattie, got his 2nd of the game off the rebound of a Brendan Leipsic shot, to make it 6-1.

P.G. got another goal with under 7 to go, when Colin Jacobs found Troy Bourke driving the net and he put it in the top corner, to close out the scoring in the game.

3 Stars of the Game:
#3-Taylor Leier- He was all over the place, especially early, creating an abundance of turnovers and winning almost every one on one battle that he had. He also finished with a goal and an assist.
#2-Seth Jones-Also had a goal and an assist and put out, yet another, sold defensive performance.
#1-Ty Rattie-2 goal and an assist and really created a lot of issues for the P.G.defense with his speed and nifty passing.

Random Notes:
-Brendan Burke made a nice save on a penalty shot from Zach Pochiro early in the 3rd period after Portland D-Man Shaun Mac Pherson hauled himdown on a breakaway.
-Burke now has 20 wins on the season.
-Edmonton lost 6-4 to Spokane, so Portland now has a 12 point lead in the overall standings with 10 games to go.
-Kelowna beat Victoria 8-3, keeping pace with Portland- 13 points back in the West.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hawks vs. Cougars Preview

Portland (49-9-1-2-101 pts, currently 1st in WHL) vs. Prince George (18-34-2-6-44 pts, currently 9th in West, 3 pts behind Everett for the 8th playoff seed).

In a possible first round playoff match-up, Portland plays Friday and Saturday night at the CN Centre  in Prince George. The Hawks are 2-0 against P.G. this year, with 6-4 and 3-0 victories at home in early January.

P.G. is just getting back from an Eastern road trip, going 1-3 in Alberta. They are 4-8, overall, vs the U.S. division. They really need to get some points from this weekend series in order to keep pace with Everett and Seattle (sitting behind them 3 and 5 pts, respectively, with 12 games to play for all).

Cougars to watch:
-#28 Colin Jacobs- the enforcer a lot of Hawks fans know as a Thunderbird, leads the team with 22 goals and 21 assists.
-#6 Dallas Ehrhardt- will be out there for most of the game and most likely get the match-up against the Petan-Leipsic-Rattie line.
-#26 Zach Pochiro- the 18 year old rookie from Las Vegas, has come on as of late and has 28 pts overall.
-#20 Troy Bourke (pictured)- The 18 year old just achieved his 3rd straight 40 point  season.

Random Notes:
-P.G. has signed, yet another, Goaltender with Matt Kustra getting inked on Thursday. They now have 5 on their roster. Mac Engel has gotten into 38 games as a Coug, but 30 games played have been split by 3 other goalies.
-Edmonton begins their U.S. division swing with their game in Spokane tonight. The Hawks are 10 points up on Edmonton with 11 games to play (They play on the 27th).
-It's, most likely, that Burke will get the start tonight and Carruth will start on Saturday.

-In a great article by Gregg Drinnan, he reports that the Hawks are hoping to get Derrick Pouliot into at least 8 games before the playoffs (do the math and that looks like the target is the game vs the Oil Kings).
-Yet another article about Seth Jones being awesome by the Canadian Press.
-Dated, yet very interesting look at the fallout between draft age star Alex Forsberg and Cougars management.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hawks Extinguish Blazers 3-0

Portland started off their 4 game road swing, by shutting out the Kamloops Blazers in an important matchup between 2 of the top 3 teams in the Western Conference.

The Hawks showed a lot of jump to start the game and was abel to control a lot of the play in the first couple periods. 

They opened the scoring 7 minutes in when Oliver Bjorkstrand found Tory Rutkowski, jumping up into the play, with Rutkowski filing it high blocker side past Blazers Goaltender Cole Cheveldave.

Later, about 2 minutes into the 2nd period, Blazers D-man Tyler Hansen jumped up into the play to put a nice check on Bjorkstrand, but it backfired on him, as Oliver found Brendan Leipsic, for a 2 on one break. Leipsic waited out Cheveldave, finding the 5 hole and making it 2-0.

14 minutes later, in the 2nd, the Hawks took advantage of a 3 on 2 break, with excellent passing between Rattie, Petan and Leipsic; Rattie found Petan on the back door and he filed it, closing out the scoring.

In the 3rd, the Hawks pulled back and played a defensive minded game, which they accomplished with a grade A defensive performance, holding on to the shut out (Carruth's league leading 7th of the year).

Overall, the Hawks really limited the scoring chances for the Blazers, though they were outshot 27-24, most of the chances, did not cause any rebounds or get Carruth out of position.

-Hawks are now 40-1-0-1, when leading after 2 periods.
-Hawks have a better pk% on the road then at home (93-89, going into this game).
-Leipsic briefly led the league in goals, with his 42nd in the 2nd period, before Petan re-tied him, 14 minutes later.
-Leipsic with the 2 points in the game, now has 105 pts on the year (Petan has 102).

3 Stars of the Game:
#3-Tyler Wotherspoon-His defensive positioning and lack of mistakes (like always), really led the team in forcing a lot of shots to the outside and not cause Carruth to have to make too many great saves.
#2-Mac Carruth-Even though their were not a lot of great chances, Mac really closed the angles down and got, yet another, shutout.
#1-Oliver Bjorkstrand-Though he didn't score 4 goals in this one, his 2 assists were things of beauty and really show that he has developed into more then just  player with a wicked shot.