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.