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Portland Winterhawks Drop Two, Win One, but Stay in Hunt

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


This week in the Western Hockey League has been nothing but turmoil for several teams as crunch time closes in for the playoffs. Very little was decided during the week, despite a plethora of games being played. For the Portland Winterhawks, a heartbreaking loss midweek followed by an emotional win and another tough loss, left the team exactly where it started the week.

First the Hawks headed to Everett, where they faced the US Division leading Silvertips in a midweek matchup. Despite playing solidly throughout, it was a late goal by the Tips that gave them a 3-2 win. Portland started the scoring on an unassisted goal by Rihards Bukarts which would hold up as the only score in the first period. Two powerplay goals by Everett put the Tips ahead, but Dominic Turgeon would end some hard work by Rodrigo Abols and Brendan DeJong to tie the score at the end of the second period. Everett would score late in the third period to take the lead for good. Portland had several scrambles in the closing minute with Adin Hill out for the extra attacker, but couldn't put the puck past Carter Hart in net for Everett. It was the two for three on the powerplay by Everett that ended the night for Portland as they were unable to convert on their only chance of the night themselves. 

Two nights later, the nemesis for the Winterhawks, the Seattle Thunderbirds, would meet in Portland, a place where the Birds had won by a shutout last time in. Portland left it all on the ice, a physically draining battle that was also exceptionally defensive. The first period ended in a scoreless draw and showed a great deal of pushing and shoving after the whistle. The second period began where the first left off where both teams again continued very strong play and numerous chances to score, but goaltenders Adin Hill and Landon Bow were shutting it down. Just past the fifteen minute mark of the period, Keegan Iverson went for a check on Seattle's Turner Ottenbreit, who used an  illegal forearm/elbow to the chin of Iverson which knocked Keegan to the ice. This touched off a melee in the Seattle zone and Ottenbreit was ejected from the game. Iverson was helpd off the ice and did not return. With the resulting powerplay, Rihards Bukarts found an opening just over Landon Bow's glove to open the scoring. Into the third period, Rodrigo Abols found his way past Bow to give Portland a two goal cushion. During a powerplay, Seayyle's Donovan Neuls was able to get a puck past Adin Hill, but that was the only one of the 29 shots that would get past Hill. Both teams were 1 for 4 on the powerplay with the Hawks holding a 31-29 shots advantage.

The next night, Portland would battle the Victoria Royals, a team that is fighting for top spot in the BC Division with the Kelowna Rockets. The Winterhawks would strike first in the game as Cody Glass finished off a Rihards Bukarts pass for the lead midway through the first period that they would hold through until just over five minutes into the third. Two disallowed goals by Portland, one for a high stick infraction, the other where the referee had blown the whistle just prior to the puck crossing the goal line seemed to sap Portland the rest of the game. The strength of Victoria and the tired, sluggish legs of Portland, led to three goals by the Royals in just over 8 minutes to give them a 3-1 victory. Neither team scored on the four powerplays allotted them each and Victoria outshot Portland 40-28 with the biggest lead in the third period where they fired 18 times to Portland's 12.

The Hawks will now travel to Spokane for a Wednesday night tilt with the Chiefs, who still hold a three point lead over the Winterhawks, before heading home to face Everett at home in Veterans Memorial Coliseum. They will complete the weekend with another trip up to Kent to face the Thunderbirds, a game that will be shown on live TV via CW 32. Portland will have just one more home game in the month of February, a Daylight Classic game in Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Victoria Royals. Portland's next six games will be  the Central Swing to Alberta and Southeastern British Columbia to end the month. Starting with March, Portland will have just nine games remaining in the season and it will most likely go down to the wire as to the final playoff positions. 

The point standings in the US Division see Everett leading with 68 points after 52 games, Seattle at 59 points, Spokane at 57, Portland with 54 after playing 53 games and Tri-City,  which has won four in a row, with 51 points in 52 games played. Portland is tied with Kamloops Blazers with 54 points in the wildcard race where the top three teams in the US Division and BC Division are guaranteed spots and the other two playoff spots are based on better records from the next two teams from both divisions combined.

The Vancouver Giants with 46 points in 54 games played will have a tough time catching either Portland or Kamloops, so the only team that could steal a spot would be the Tri-City Americans as they are just two points behind the wildcard spot. With less than 20 games remaining in the regular season and the final games set for March 20, the results may not be crystal clear for some time.

Ice Chips:

Rodrigo Abols, Caleb Jones, Ryan Hughes, Conor MacEachern and Alex Overhardt will be at Les Schwab in Sellwood from 4:30 to 6:00 for autographs and pictures on Monday, February 8 for the last player appearance of the year. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is still offering space on it's trip to the last road game of the regular season. The trip to Kent, WA to face the Seattle Thunderbirds will go on Saturday, March 19. Signup at any home game until Monday, February 15 to get on board.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


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