Friday, October 18, 2013

Game 10 Preview: Portland vs. Swift Current

Portland (5-3-0-1, 11 points, 6th in Western Conference, 4th in U.S. Division) vs. Swift Current (6-4-0-1, 13 pts, 3rd in Eastern Conference, 2nd in East Division).

Last Year's MVP: Lowry
Swift Current Last Year:
-The Broncos, in their 4 seasons under Coach Mark Lamb, made the playoffs, for only the 2nd time. They were carried to a 36-29-3-4 record by Captain and WHL MVP: 19 year old Adam Lowry and his 88 points. Lowry, a big 6'5" 205 lb Forward, was also 3rd on the Broncos in Penalty Minutes with 105. He really set the pace for the large and physical Broncos, whose top 14 scorers last year were 6 foor or taller. The Broncos ended the season 6th in the Eastern Conference and 3rd in the East Division behind Saskatoon and Prince Albert. Finnish import netminder Eetu Laurikainen had a solid rookie season, getting into 60 regular season games and posting a 2.40 GAA and a .922 save %. Though they lost in 5 games to 3rd seeded Calgary, the Broncos never lost by more than 2 goals and 2 of the games went to over-time.

This Season:
-The Broncos have been up and down so far this season, opening with consecutive victories over Regina, then dropping consecutive games, before reeling off 3 more straight wins. They are 0-1 so far in their 5 game U.S. Division trip, dropping a game 5-1 to Spokane Wednesday night.

-The loss of MVP Lowry to the AHL (St. John's IceCaps) is a big one, as he was their most consistent player last season. They also lost two 1992 born Forwards: Ryan Moser (40 pts) and former Thunderbird: Chance Lund (29 pts). They also traded 1994 born Levi Bews (36 pts) to Vancouver in the off-season. The questions up front were some pretty large ones up front, until, unexpectedly 1993 born Graham Black (50 pts), was sent back by the New Jersey Devils. Black joined 2013 Calgary Flames 6th round draft pick: Coda Gordon (59 pts) and draft year Forward Colby Cave (41 pts) as the top returning scorers for the Broncos. Former Lethbridge Hurricane: Jay Merkley (30 total pts last year) is also expected to add some scoring depth, along with recently acquired 1993 born Connor Snavido (odd man out among the 20's for Seattle). 1994 born Andrew Johnson was also acquired in the trade with Seattle.

So far this year, Gordon (14 pts), Cave (13) and Black (10) have done as expected and led the way in scoring for the Forwards. Sanvido (9) and Merkely round out the top 5 point getters, so far, for Swift Current Forwards.

-Another big loss for the Broncos from last year was 1993 born Reece Scarlett (49 pts), who is now in the AHL with New Jersey' affiliate: Albany. Also, lost was stalwart Defenseman Richard Nedomlel (AHL) and 1992 born Dalton Reum. It was expected to be a very young group for the Broncos, with a lot being hoped for out of top NHL prospects: 1995 born Brycen Martin and Finnish import Julius Honka. 2013 2nd round Columbis draft pick Dillon Heatherington was also expected to play a pivotal role on the blue line.

Cut to this year: both Honka (leading the team with 15 pts) and Martin (6 pts) are moving up the draft board and dawing scouts to the Credit Untion iPlex in droves. Honka was even named the CHL star of the week for the first week of the season. Heatherington (7 pts) has played well also and should be one to watch out for as a future NHLer. 1995 born: Brett Lernout and Bobby Zinkan are among the team leaders in penalty minutes.

-Laurikainen got in 60 of a possible of 72 games last season as a 19 year old and somehow was not drafted, despite putting up solid numbers. Laurikainen's last shot to get noticed is this year as he is 20. So far he has posted a 2.74 GAA and a .919 save % behind a Defense that probably will take some time in learnign their defensive resposibilities. Backing up Eetu is 1995 born Landon Bow (3 Games Played: 2.33 GAA and a .903 Save %). I doubt he will press for many starts, as Laurikainen is the x factor for how far thsi team will make it this season.

Tonight's Game:
-Swift Current is going into the first of 3 straight games on the I-5 corridor (Saturday in Seattle and Sunday in Everett) and needs to get some jump early or they will be in for a long weekend.
-Portland gets another look at a top 10 Bantam Draft Pick from 2012, as #5 pick: Forward Glenn Gawdin comes in with S.C. Previously, Portland has seen Matthew Barzal (#1), Jansen Harkins (#2), Brad Morrison (#7) and Nick Merkley (#9).
-Last year Portland took down Swift Current 6-3 in the last game of their Eastern Conference swing.
-Portland has faced Swift Current 3 times in the playoffs (all WHL Finals) and has lost all 3 times: 1983 (Broncos were playing in Lethbridge), 1989 (Swift Current went on to win the Memorial Cup) and 1993.
-Swift Current has lost by 3 or more goals 3 times already this season.
-The Broncos have been Jekyll and Hyde so far offensively as they have scored 5 or more goals 5 times, but have also been held to 1 goal 3 times.
-Portland would really like to win this one, as they start a 5 game trip on Saturday.
-With 2 points last night, Nic Petan cracked the top 6 in WHL scoring with 18 points.
-Petan still strails Oliver Bjorkstrand for the team lead by one point.
-Swift Current really struggled with the speed of Spokane's top line on Wednesday and Portland hopes to cintinue that trend with theirs tonight.
-A good fight from the last time the Broncos came to Portland in 2011:

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Portland Holds Off Tri City 4-1

The Portland Winterhawks avenged a difficult loss earlier in the season, Wednesday night, when they dispatched Tri City 4-1 in front of 5,152 fans at the Moda Conter.

The Hawks jumped out to an early lead, when Brendan Leipsic and Nic Petan combined to force, young 16 year old Defenseman Brandon Carlo, to turn the puck over behind his own net. Petan then found Leipsic in front for his 3rd of the year.

Despite having consecutive 5 on 3 power plays (one carried over into another), the Hawks could not put the puck past a stellar Eric Comrie again until over-age Forward Adam Rossignol found the rebound of a nice Derrick Pouliot shot at the 4:14 mark of the 3rd period.

Tri City briefly made it a more interesting game when Phil Tot pressured high on the Defense in his own zone and Adam De Champlain sent an ill advised pass right to him. Tot broke in on Burke and beat him to make it a one goal game. Portland got it back less then 7 minutes later when Presten Kopeck, who had an excellent game, was all alone in front for a Leipsic pass and did not make a mistake it putting it past Comrie. The scoring was rounded out by a nice individual effort from Oliver Bjorkstrand, who made a slick move at center ice and backhanded the puck into Tri City's empty net, as they had pulled Comrie for an extra attacker.

Burke was very strong in net for the first time since the win over Spokane, two weeks prior, stopping 29 of the 30. Comrie on the opposite end, was even better getting the loss despite stopping 45 of 48 shots.

Observations From the Game:
-This was a nice win for the Hawks, as it was more reminiscent of so many of their wins last year. They ran into a Goalie who did everything but get his team the win, in Eric Comrie and they still found a way to get the 2 points.
-Portland's Defense continues to improve in small ways, as they turned the puck over far less then they did the last time these 2 teams met. They also did a fantastic job of clearing out Tri City players from in front of their own net. They will need to continue to do this as Burke has been known to give up some bad rebounds.
-Bjorkstrand, who has 3 shorthanded goals on the young season, almost scored another, when he hit the post at the very end of a Tri City power play in the 2nd period.
-Portland has looked better on the power play more recently, as they continue to use Center Nic Petan on the point. Petan seems to work well with Pouliot in moving around and finding guys in shooting lanes. All that having been said, the Hawks were 0/3 on the night.
-Tri City was also 0/3, despite getting plenty of their own chances.
-The Americans continue to look like a team that will rely upon their Goalie to stay in games, until they can force mistakes on the other team's Defense and score. They do not carry the possession very much and only had a couple segments of 2 minutes or so of sustained pressure in this one.
-Look for the Hawks to slowly work Garrett Haar back onto the #1 power play unti, as he has both a deadly slap shot and a waicked wrist shot from the point.
-Presten Kopeck continues to be the guy that does all the dirty work for the Hawks, as he took a stick to the mouth in front on Rossignol's goal and on other occasions: a couple other decent cross checks while fighting for room in front of the net.
-Ethan Price, the 16 year old from Nebraska made a nice check on Rodney Southam late in the game. As he gets more comfortable, I'm starting to like this kid more and more. He has a wicked wrist shot and is a great wide body that can punish the other team with some nice open ice checks.
-Americans Coach Jim Hiller made an interesting decision in this game, as his team trailed 3-1 with 3:39 left and he pulled Comrie for an extra attacker. It's been awhile since I've seen a Coach make that decision so early.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Game 9 Preview: Portland vs. Tri City

Portland (4-3-0-1, 9 points, tied for 7th in the Western Conference and 4th in the U.S.Division) vs. Tri City (4-6-0-1, 9 pts, tied with Hawks for 7th and 4th respectively)7:00 pm at the Moda Center.
Eric Comrie

Season Series:
-Tri City took the first of 10 scheduled affairs between the 2 squads 6-2 September 24th in Portland behind a hat trick from Brian Williams and a fantastic 30 save performance from Eric Comrie. Brendan Burke was chased in the game after giving up 6 goals over 2 periods. He was hung out to dry by his defense for several of those goals, in perhaps the Hawks worst defensive performance of the season.

Tri City This Season:
-The Americans started out slow only winning 2 of their first 8 games, before winning consecutive games over the struggling Kamloops Blazers last week. In their last game, they hung tough against the Seattle Thunderbirds, despite getting out-shot 44-29; losing 4-2 in their second game of back to backs.
-Center Brian Williams leads the team with 8 goals and 5 assists, scoring all 8 goals over only 3 games (2 hat tricks).
-Tri City has scored 2 goals or less in 6 of their 11 games played this season, as they are obviously struggling at putting the puck in the net.
-The most goals they have scored this season was the game against Portland.
-Eric Comrie has started all but one of their games so far, has played very well behind a struggling team, with a 2.53 GAA and a very nice: .925 save %. He really seems like he has stood on his head for the Americans, keeping them in games they are being badly outplayed in.
-Tri City has only lost by one goal in 4 of their 7 losses.
-Connor Rankin also has 13 points for the Americans (5 goals and 8 assists), but the next highest scorer has 6 pts (Lucas Nickles). Having played 11 games so far, this is just not enough scoring.
-They are missing 2 forwards who will probably end up in their top 6 with 1995 born Parker Bowles (44 pts last year) out til mid November and Kennewick native, Taylor Vickerman, out until late November.
-If you are an American's fan, you are probably wanting more from 20 year old Phil Tot. In his first healthy season with the team. He has 2 goals and 3 assists in 11 games, but has yet to register a multi-point night. He had a 45 point season in 2011-12 with a bad Lethbridge Hurricanes team, so he is a guy who can score.  He has yet to do much with an Americans sweater on.
-The Americans 20 year old Captain: Defenseman Mitch Topping is being relied on to play a ton of minutes and will be expected to provide more scoring from the back end (1 Goal and 3 Assists so far).

Tonight's Game:
-Expect the Hawks to want to exempt revenge upon the Americans for a bad home loss the last time around.
-On paper they have far more accomplished Forwards than the Americans and so should dominate the puck possession; playing right into their style of play.
=Eric Comrie will try to stonewall the Hawks early like he did last time around, keeping his team in a tight game, until the Ams can capitalize on some Portland mistakes.
-Portland has been much better on the defensive side over the last few games and should not have nearly as many turnovers as they did last time around.
-Tri City does have some speedy forwards and love to pressure the other team's defense. In particular: Layne Viveiros and Garrett Haar have really looked uncomfortable with speedy pesky fore-checks, coughing up the puck regularly.
-Keegan Iverson is out for this game, his last game served in his 4 game suspension.
-Dominic Turgeon made his season debut against Kamloops last Saturday and should start playing more minutes in this one. He is expected to fill the Taylor Peters 3rd line Center role this season.
-Brendan Leipsic and Nic Petan have yet to explode for a huge point night this season and it's only a matter of time before the reigning scoring champs start to pour it on.
-Paul Bittner (broken hand) and Shane McColgan (hand) are still out for the Hawks as well.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand is sitting 4th in the WHL in points with 18, despite playing in 2 less games then the other top scorers.

Winterhawks Listed Player Has Scary Injury

Dylan Chanter, a player listed by the Portland Winterhawks, but committed to the University of New Hampshire (should play for them next season), had a very scary injury recently.

He currently plays for the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL and he was engaged in a fight with Cedar Rapids player Corey Petrash. As Chanter was falling to the ice at the conclusion of the fight, his helmet came off and his head made direct contact with the ice. Chanter's body then proceeded to go into what was described by witnesses as "a full body seizure." The seizure was estimated at lasting over 2 minutes, during which time the Cedar Rapids fans looked on in horror.

Chanter was quicly placed on a stretcher and eventually airlifted to the University of Iowa Hospital. He was awake and coherent enough to send a tweet out stating he was alright. Chanter had a CT scan that came back not showing any major areas of concern but he will stay in the hospital under care of a Neurologist for some time.

Chanter is a 6'3" 203 lb, 18 year old Defenseman from Armstrong, B.C., who played last year in the BCHL, putting up 20 points in 56 games from the blue line.

It seems, at this time, that Chanter will come out of this injury okay and should be okay to return to hockey after, what is sure to be, a barrage of tests.

All the best of luck to Dylan moving forward. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hawks Prospects McKenzie and Czaikowski Named to Team Alberta U16

 Forward Sklyer McKenzie and Defenseman Carter Czaikowski announced on their twitter pages yesterday that they have been named to the Team Alberta U-16 team for the Western Canada Challenge Cup.

Both Czaikowski and McKenzie were signed by the Winterhawks in August and are not eligible to play on the Hawks until next season, as they are 1998 born players. They were both taken in the later rounds of the 2013 Bantam Draft (McKenzie 8th round, Czaikowski 6th).

The U16 Challenge Cup is a showcase game for the most talented 15 year old players in the 4 Western Provines (B.C, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba). The tournament between the 4 provinical teams will be played October 31st-November 3rd in Calgary, Alberta.

Getting 2 players in this game is a bit of a coup for the Hawks, as they were not allowed to pick in the first 5 rounds this year, due to sanctions and still seemed to havbe magaged to get 2 very talented Canadian players.

Portland vs. Kamloops Recap/ Observations

The Portland Winterhawks proved once again on Saturday night that when their offense is at it's best, they can dominate teams. Despite the 7-4 score (Portland's 7th goal was an empty netter), the Hawks dominated throughout the game, getting 3 goal leads 2 different times, before finally slamming the lid on the over-matched Blazers.

Observations From the Game:
-There was plent to find fault with on the Hawk's end, as their Defense made a couple costly errors leading to scoring chances. One in particular led to a Chase Souto, 2nd period break-away goal.
-Derrick Pouliot was fantastic for perhaps the first time since coming back to the Hawks. He scored twice: once on a water bottle breaking snipe on the power play and once on an empty netter. It wasn't just about the goals though as his outlet passes were superb and the power play finally clicked under his command.
-The power play finally seems like they have been practicing some plays in practice, as they looked much better moving the puck around and had countless chances rings off a post or just miss. It ended up going 2/6 on the night.
-Brendan Leipsic seems to be desperate to make a strong impact on his team. He shot, probably 7 times in the first period and seemed to shoot every time he got near the net. It worked as he got his second tally of the year in the second, giving the Hawks a 3-1 lead.
-Adam Rossignol, the over-ager, who against odds has made the lineup thus far, banged in his first as a Winterhawk, after a mad scramble in front was created by Taylor Leier. Rossignol really seems to be a good locker room guy and does a lot of the little things well. We will see if this is enough to keep him in town, once the Paul Bittner's and Shane McColgan's get back in the lineup.
-Leier is taking sacrifice and leadership to a new level this season, as he took a slap shot off the wrist, went to get it checked out and came right back in. This is the second time Leier has been banged up this season and he has not missed much time because of them. Compile this with his concussion suffered in the Memorial Cup last season and Leier has withstood a lot for his team.
-Alex Schoenborn was one of the lone bright spots for the Hawks in the 2 games up in Kelowna and he continued his strong play, potting his 5th of the season on the power play and creating more chances with his nifty stick work. I lambasted him in the preseason and start of the regular season, because it appeared he had little play-making ability, as the play seemed to die on his stick most of the time, but boy was I wrong. Schoenborn has shown a nice shot and has stick-handled his way into quite a few scoring chances. I've never been so happy being wrong.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his team leading 10th of the season (2nd in the WHL behind Mitch Holmberg's 12), on a short handed penalty shot after he was hooked by Blazer's D-man Jordan Thomson. Bjorkstrand was even with Thomson when he retrieved the puck, then just blew by him, showcasing the otherworldly speed that has fans in Columbus excited. Bjorkstrand added 2 assists on the night and is currently 4th in WHL scoring with 18 points.
-Brendan Burke was pretty terrible in this one, as the Blazers first 2 goals can be attributed to bad angles that he took on shots. Burke was extremely solid in the early going this season, but was plagued by terrible Defensive play from the guys in front of him. Now he seems to be shaky confidence wise and is sitting too far back in his net. Burke ended up stopping 22 of 26 shots.
-Portland chased Taran Kozun with 12:45 left in the 2nd period, after scoring 5 times. Pouliot's cousin: Bolton came in for the rest of the game and played well after giving up the goal to Schoenborn, stopping 12 of the 13 shots he faced.
-Anton Cederholm seems to slowly be working his way into a role as the Hawk's top penalty killing Defenseman, as he continues to get first penalty kill unit time and has played admirably in that role. I was un-certain initially about Cederholm as his positioning was pretty terrible to start the season, but he has improved dramatically as he adjusts to the North American style of play.
-Kamloops looks like they will struggle for most of the year this year, as the trades they made over the last 2 years, trying to make a cup run, have back-fired now.They appear to be lacking talent. In particular: sending off Defensemen: Brady Gaudet and Tyler Bell and Forward: Rob Trzonkowski appears to have hurt their depth at both positions. Then they traded over-age Goalie Cole Cheveldave before the season, placing their hopes in '94 born Taran Kozun.
-Next game for the Hawks goes Wednesday at home vs. Tri City.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Keegan Iverson Suspended 4 Games

Portland was delivered another blow to their depleted forward group last weekend when the WHL suspended 1995 born forward Keegan Iverson4 games for a forearm that he delivered to Spokane Forward Jacob Cardiff last Wednesday.

Portland held Iverson out of the lineup last weekend vs. Kelowna, meaning that he has served 2 of the requisite 4 games already. He will return next Friday when Portland hosts Swift Current at the Moda Center.

Iverson was penalized 2 minutes for interference 5:24 into the 2nd period last Wednesday, after delivering a hit to the head of Cardiff. The WHL did not release their decision until very late Friday night.

It is likely that Iverson received such a stiff fine doing to being a repeat offender. Portland skated with only 10 Forwards both Friday and Saturday night, possibly forcing an ailing Taylor Leier into action.

Portland Dropped From CHL Top 10 After Tough Weekend

So the Portland Winterhawks were dropped from the BMO CHL regular season top 10 for the first time since the 2011-12 season this week after consecutive tough losses to Kelowna.

The Hawks were one of only 2 teams to not drop from out of the top 10 at any point during the 2012-13 CHL season (the other was Memorial Cup Champion Halifax Mooseheads).

To add insult to injury the 3-3-0-1 Winterhawks, were replaced in the top 10 by the Kelowna Rockets (6th).

Spokane, despite the fact that Portland beat them last week, moved up to 3rd with a 6-1 record and Seattle (6-2) was even mentioned honorably.

Other WHL teams in the top 10 were: Prince Albert (7th) and Swift Current (10th).

Friday, October 4, 2013

Games 6 and 7: Portland @ Kelowna

Kelowna (3-0-0-1, 7 points, 1st in B.C. Division, 2nd in Western Conference) vs. Portland (3-1-0-1, 7 pts, 2nd in U.S. Division and 3rd in West)-Friday 10/4 and Saturday 10/5

Portland takes their only trip up to Kelowna this weekend and plays back to back games in Prospera Place. This is a highly anticipated match-up as many prognosticators had Portland and Kelowna as their top ranked Western Conference teams before the season started.

The Winterhawks are coming off of a solid victory over a surprisingly solid Spokane Chiefs squad on Wednesday, after demolishing Seattle 10-4 Saturday. Kelowna, meanwhile, started the season by besting Kamloops in a home and home series 5-2 two nights in a row. They lost in a shoot out to Victoria 4-3 last Saturday and then righted the ship taking down Everett on the road 6-3 Wednesday.

Kelowna Last Season:
-The Rockets and the Kamloops Blazers continued their see saw battle for dominance in the B.C. Division last season, with the Rockets dominating much of the regular season play. The Rockets were 2nd only to Portland in goals scored last season and had a solid defense as well as they were 3rd in goals against. They finished 2nd in the West behind Portland with a 52-16-3-1 record for 108 points. This was their second best regular season in franchise history, missing tying their best (2002-03: 109 pts) by only one point.

Departed Colton Sissons
All of the accolades from a solid season in Kelowna last year, were nearly all but forgotten as the surprising Seattle Thunderbirds, nearly upset the Rockets, forcing them to over-time of a 7th game. Tyson Baillie scored the over-time winner, saving the Rockets from a catastrophic exit and making history as they were only the 2nd WHL team to come back from a 3-0 series deficit to win. The Rockets got rival Kamloops in the next round but were no match for the rested Blazers, as they were missing 7 regulars from their lineup including Captain and spark plug Colton Sissons (now with the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals). They were swept in 4 consecutive games, losing the last two in over-time.

Head Coach Ryan Huska is back for his 7th season and has a very impressive 244 wins 153 losses 12 over-time losses and 22 shoot out losses through the first 4 games this season. Huska's teams have not missed the playoffs since he has taken over and it looks to be no different this season.

-Kelowna returns four of their top six scoring forwards from last season including '93 born Myles Bell (93 points last season, who was recently sent back by the New Jersey Devils for his over-age season. This was most likely due to his recent transition from Defense. Also among the  returnees for the Rockets is fellow '93 born winger Zach Franko (72 pts). Franko will be playing for NHL attention this season as his is un-drafted. Rounding out the top scoring returning Forwards are Centers: '94 born Winnipeg Jets pick Ryan Olsen (56 pts) and '95 born Tyson Baillie (56 pts). The Rockets should have a pretty good top six forward group as '96 born winger Rourke Chartier should crack the group and make significant improvements during his draft season and '94 born winger Tyrell Goulbourne was a recent draft choice of the Philadelphia Flyers  and will be looking to prove himself. Joining this group this season are '96 born rookie Center Kris Schmidli and '96 born Right Wing Justin Kirkland (who has played a few games over 2 seasons with Kelowna). The Rockets definitely have the scoring ability returning for them this season and should be really pouring in the goals as soon as their chemistry gets going.

-The Rockets also have almost their entire blue line back for this season as well. The most significant returnee is '94 born 2012 New Jersey 2nd round pick Damon Severson (52 pts last season). He is an impressive quarterback on the power play and has improved every single season so far. Kelowna also had a D-man picked in the 2nd round in 2013 with the Washington Capitals taking Madison Bowey. Bowey had 30 points last season and was a +41, but already has potted 6 points in his first 4 games this season. Bowey and Severson are also joined by returnees: '95 born Jesse Lees, '96 born Riley Stadel and '94 born Cole Martin. Joining the Rockets this season and already making an immediate impact is '97 born, first round 2012 Bantam pick Nick Merkley. In his first season, Merkley already has 3 goals and 1 assist in only 4 games. It looks like the pipeline that has produced NHL D-men: Alex Edler, Josh Gorges, Duncan Keith, Tyler Myers, Luke Schenn and Shea Weber will continue to find top notch prospects. The Rocket's latest find made 20 year old D-man Mackenzie Johnston expendable last week and so the Rockets sent him to Prince Albert for a 3rd round Bantam pick. This was also made necessary by the Rockets having 3 other 20 year olds in house.

-The third and last '93 born player is Goalie Jordon Cooke. Cooke had a 2.53 Goals Against Average last season and a .908 save & and looks to improve this season. Cooke has played in 3 of the Rocket's 4 games this season and has a 2.27 GAA and .908 Save %. He is entering his 4th season with Kelowna and should be expected to get into nearly the same amount of games this season (54 last season). He should be pressed a little bit by Jackson Whistle this season as the 2012 acquisition from Vancouver has gotten into 21 games behind Cooke the last 2 seasons and will be looking to impress in his 18 year old season, before he is inevitably handed the starting job next season. Whistle gave up 3 goals in his lone start so far, getting the win over Everett Wednesday.

This Weekend's Games:
-Look for Kelowna to start Cooke on Friday and Whistle on Saturday.
-Shane McColgan played for Kelowna for 4 season from 2008-12, until he appeared to fall out of favor with Rocket's coaching  and was traded to Saskatoon. It is unlikely McColgan is healthy enough to play this weekend, but should he make it into either game, the Hawks will enjoy the lift his energy will give them.
-With Taylor Leier's ability to play tonight unknown, the Hawks could be down to only 10 healthy Forwards (Dominic Turgeon, Paul Bittner and  McColgan are also injured and Brendan Leipsic is out for a suspension).
-If they are down to 10, the Hawks will likely start 7 D-men tonight and will rely heavily on Petan, Bjorkstrand and De Leo to play a ton of minutes to carry the way.
-Portland won 3 of 4 last season over Kelowna and would like to carry that over to this season.
-Jarrod Schamerhorn will likely get his first start in one of the games this weekend and will likely have a bunch of family in the stands as he is a native of Kelowna.
-This is (on paper at least) the best squad Portland has faced yet this season and their inconsistent defense really needs to step it up on a talented team in Kelowna.
-The last '93 born 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Portland Takes Spokane Down a Notch 6-4

It was a great one last night in Portland's Moda Center, as Portland raced out to two different 3 goal leads before holding on to a 6-4 victory over the previously undefeated Spokane Chiefs 5-4.

Portland rode a 4 point night from Nic Petan and a surprising 3 point night from Alex Schoenborn (2 goals and 1 assist) to pace them to the victory.

The Hawks were flying early, perhaps inspired by the Chiefs getting all of the accolades last week after racing to a 4-0 start in convincing fashion. The Hawks scored 4 goals in the first period, two from Schoenborn, who nearly netted a hat trick in the period, taking a 4-1 lead into the break.

Garret Hughson, Spokane's 18 year old Goalie, settled in after that and made countless saves as the Hawks pressed in the last 2 periods, allowing his team to sneak back into the game and have a chance at tying lat in the 3rd period, before Petan netted an empty netter, ending the scoring at 6-4.

Portland was only 1/7 on the power play, while Spokane was 2/6,as referees Jeff Ingram and Andrew Wilk seemed unwilling  to match any penalties up and enforced one penalty on alternating skirmishes throughout the night.

Hughson stopped 33 of 38 shots, while Brendan Burke, getting his 5th straight start, stopped 27 of 31.

Observations From the Game:
-Schoenborn, who only had 2 points over all of his WHL season, had 3 point in this one with 2 goals and 1 assist. He has looked impressive ever since his pretty goal against Tri City last Tuesday.
-Derrick Pouliot returned to the lineup and got one assist on the night. He did have an impressive end to end rush on the power play, but seemed out of sync for the most part on his return to Junior hockey play and his first in game action in over 2 weeks (he sat out the last 3 Penguin's preseason games).
-Taylor Leier left the game in the 1st period and did not return after colliding awkwardly with a Chiefs player. If Leier is ruled out for Friday against Kelowna, it will mean that Portland will only have 10 available, healthy forwards to start against the Rockets (they get Brendan Leipsic back from suspension on Saturday).
-Burke was shaky at times in this one, but made a humongous save on WHL leading scorer Mitch Holmberg with under a minute left in the game,as Holmberg was all alone in front of the net.
-Nic Petan finally had a break out game and added 4 points to his previous 8, for 12 on the season. He seems like he started finding some chemistry, with fill in players Presten Kopeck and Schoenborn on what used to be the Hawk's top line.
-Holmberg, who came in with 14 points in 4 games so far on the season, had 3 assists and was probably the games overall best player, as he created a significant amount of scoring chances for the Chiefs and was the player who carried them offensively when they seemed to lack any counter attack.
 -The games first goal, scored by Petan, demonstrated the hard work that the Hawks have used to turn around the first part of the season. Kopeck threw a hard check in on Spokane's Jeremy McIntosh and freed up the puck for Schoenborn to find Petan alone in front. As long as they continue to put this kind of hard work in on the fore-check, the Hawks should be able to overcome the significant losses among their forwards.
-Anton Cederholm got into his first fight in the WHL, when he sparred with Liam Stewart, after Stewart took exception with a nice check that Anton laid on him.
-Bjorkstrand's 2 goals, give him 8 on the season and 14 points overall. This ties him with Holmberg and Tri Citie's Brian Williams for first in goals in the WHL.
-Holmberg kept his lead in overall points with the 3 assists, giving him 17 points overall, a 3 point advantage over Bjorkstrand.

3 Stars:
#3- Alex Schoenborn- 2 goals and 1 assist, for the North Dakotan 18 year old. He has really been an enigmatic player for the Hawks in his 2 seasons. He played well at times last season, before going down with an injury during the Hawks eastern swing and never really got back on track. He finally seems to be rewarding the Hawks coaching for relentless confidence in a guy, who at times, looked like he did not belong at the WHL level. Schoenborn looks like he may be on his way to earning a consistent spot with Petan and Leipsic on the top line.

#2- Mitch Holmberg- Despite being nearly a point per game player the last 2 seasons, the 20 year old has not been drafted and seems to be playing for a pro contract, like Troy Rutkowski, Taylor Peters and Tri Citie's Justin Feser were able to do last season.

#1- Nic Petan- He really seems to be improving again this season , in much the same way as he was able to improve last season. Petan's break out 4 point night, hopefully will lead him to many more in the near future. This will be important as Petan is quickly becoming Portland's most important player.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Hawks Stay in the 6 Spot in CHL's Top 10

The Portland Winterhawks stayed ranked 6th in the CHL's 3rd week of the BMO Top 10. This after only playing one game and winning it in a lop sided fashion, 10-4.
The Armada

The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada of the QMJHL continued their ascension in the ranking, rising to the number one after winning two more games to open to a 6-0-0-0 record. Florida Panther's prospect Christopher Clapperton leads the way for the Armada with 4 points in 6 games.

The London Knights dropped one game last week and also lost Phoenix Coyotes prospect Max Domi for 4 games after he returned to the lineup from Coyotes camp and proceeded to throw a vicious forearm while the Guelph Storm's Brock McGinn was coming in, intending to check him. Domi left his feet and led with his forearm. This is not his first run in with the disciplinarians of the OHL, warranting the 4 game suspension he was given. This hit was only one game more than Brendan Leipsic got for a hit that seemed far less menacing.

The Spokane Chiefs, Portland's foe tonight rose from out of the top 10 all the way to #5, leap frogging the Hawks after beating Victoria 6-1 and Tri City 2-1 on their way to a 4-0-0-0 start to the season. Mitch Holmberg was named the WHL and CHL player of the week and currently leads the WHL in scoring with 14 points. Max Aviani is tied with Portland's Oliver Bjorkstrand with 12 points for 2nd in the league.

The other two WHL teams ranked in the the top 10 are: Prince Albert(2nd, up from 3rd last week) and Red Deer (10th, same as last week).

Hopefully, the Hawks can take down the high flying Chiefs tonight in an impressive enough manner to knock them back out of the top 10.