Thursday, January 30, 2014

Hawks Regaining Dominance Over Everett

With 3 straight lop sided victories over the Everett Silvertips, the Portland Winterhawks appear to be regaining the dominant play that led them to a 26-4 record over 3 years between 2010 and 2013. In those 3 seasons, the Hawks seemed to revel in pushing around a team that couldn't score on them and struggled mightily in trying to slow them down.

Everett had to realize this when they brought defensive minded coach Kevin Constantine back into the fold despite his past actions and possibly because of them. Constantine immediately had an effect on the Tips leading them to the lead in the U.S. Division, as late as November. Then injuries started piling up in January. They have now dropped 5 in a row, 3 of the them to the Winterhawks. In those 5 games, the defensive minded Tips have given up 29 goals. Starting Goalie: Austin Lotz was even pulled twice in that span.

Portland is now 5-2 vs. the Silvertips those season with 3 games left to play in the series. The frustration was easy to see on a lot of the Tip's players faces on Sunday and Wednesday especially, as they just could not stay with the fleet footed Hawks.

Let's take a brief look over those 3 games:

Friday 1/24 Everett 1 @ Portland 5:
-This one was actually the closest game of the 3, as as it was a 1 goal game going into the 3rd period.
-Garrett Haar returned to the lineup after missing a few  games. This means that Portland's Defense is now intact and these 7 players will be what Portland will head into the playoffs with.
-The first half of the game was some fantastic back and forth Everett play and we thought we were in store for a tight contest. The Portland started slowly but surely taking control of the game as they killed off a penalty and then scored a crazy goal as Nic Petan banked the puck off of Everett D-man Ben Betker's skate and in.
-This goal changed all the momentum and it led to a couple weak goals let in by Austin Lotz in the 3rd period. Lotz was yanked for the first time vs. Portland this season.
-The game would get chippy late, led by a vicious knee thrown by Everett D-man Noah Juulsen. Portland would cement their victory with their 5th goal, on a 5 on 3 power play.
-This victory reminded me far more the wins that Portland had last season, when they got solid goaltending even better defense. Now with Matt Dumba in the fold and Haar healthy, the Hawks again have one of the better back ends in the league.
-Burke was very solid in this one, as he keeps piling up solid starts.

Sunday 1/26 Portland 6 @ Everett 2:
-If the previous games was closer than the score showed, this one was more of a blow out than the score showed.
-Everett just could not keep up with the team speed that the Hawks kept throwing at them.
-The Tips did score first, when Josh Winquist found a loose puck and potted it past Brendan Burke. Winquist is the Silvertips leading scorer with now 68 points in 46 games. Secondary scoring has been the big issue for Everett though this season as their next leading scorer is Ivan Nikolishin with 37 points.
-The game quickly became the Oliver Bjorkstrand show, as he stick handled through 3 Silvertips to tie the score at 1 and then scored twice in the 2nd, sandwiching a Brendan Leipsic goal and giving the Hawks a 4-1 lead.
-This was the spot, earlier in the season, where Portland would let a team back into a game they had no business being in. The Hawks this time though just put their collective foot on everett's throat, closing out the game with two 3rd period goals by Chase De Leo and Keegan Iverson.
-It really is amazing how fast the Hawks get the puck going back the other way with their defense. Dumba gives them another guy that excels at leading the rsh from the back.
-At the WHL level, it really is difficult for the other team to stop you when your D-men are as good at this as Portland's are.
-Even 16 year old Keoni Texeira showcased his skating, with a huge burst of speed in the 2nd period and creating a scoring chance for himself.

Wednesday 1/29 Everett 1 @ Portland 8:
-The Winterhawks closed out the 3 game set with Everett with a 8-1 victory that was just pure dominance from the get-go.
-Paul Bittner, scored first for the Hawks and he would go on to get 2 goals and 2 assists for his 2nd career 4 point game.
-Of note was that 16 year old Ethan Price had a highlight reel goal in the 2nd period, chasing Austin Lotz again. He also had an assist for his first multi-point game in his WHL career.
-Price adding scoring touch to his game only means great things for the future of the Hawks, as he already knows how to play physically and is one of the Hawks best defensive forwards.
-Brendan Leipsic had a WHL goal of the year candidate in the 2nd period when he broke in alone on Ausitn Lotz and put his stick blade, with the puck, back behind his left leg. He sniped it over Lotz's right shoulder all in the same motion.
-Mark"Peaches" Brennan, the Hawks equipment manager had a nice assist of his own after Matt Dumba broke his stick on the 5 on 3 power play and "Peaches" swiftly got him anew one. Dumba then slammed home a one timer, giving the Hawks a 7-1.
-7 Winterhawks had multi-point nights, lead by Bittner's 4 points and Petan's 3.
-Petan now has 81 points in 42 games, 9 points behind Mitch Holmberg's 90 for the WHL lead. He has played 9 less games than Holmberg though.
-Bjorjstrand has now officially broken out of his scoring slump and is 3rd in points with 72 and 2nd in goals with 34 (Holmberg has 46).
-Leipsic is also creeping up the leader board with 22 points in his last 10 games. He now sits 6th with 65 points in 39 games.

-Portland next faces off against 2 other U.S. Division rivals Friday and Saturday night, hoping to keep their 8 game winning streak going strong.
-Portland now has a 6 points lead in the U.S. Division over Seattle with a 73-67 margin, with 21 games left for both teams.

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