Sunday, December 29, 2013

Canada Loses 5-4 in Shoot Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Winterhawk of the Week: Craig Cunningham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 26, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 20, 2013

Former Winterhawk of the Week: Ty Rattie

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Former Winterhawk Colton Sceviour Scores First NHL Goal

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

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

Friday, December 13, 2013

5 Winterhawks Out of the Lineup For World Juniors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Wimterhawk of the Week: Ryan Johansen

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Dumba Trade: What Does it Mean?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Former Winterhawk of the Week: Colton Sceviour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 2, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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