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Portland Winterhawks Picking Up Steam, Go 2 for 3 in this Week’s Action

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


As the trade deadline approached, the Portland Winterhawks sat in eighth place with the Tri-City Americans and Vancouver Giants making things a bit uncomfortable in the standings. Fast forward to this week and Portland has managed to put some distance between those two teams and has suddenly vaulted into third in the US Division.

The key wins, of which any win would really be considered key, were the ones over Spokane Chiefs and Vancouver Giants. The Hawks had to travel to Spokane to face the Chiefs in an arena that Portland has had some moderate success in. Things started on the wrong foot for the Hawks as Spokane took a 1-0 lead just over a minute into the game. For the first several minutes, the Hawks looked like target practice as Spokane seemingly fired at will. The shot total spiraled for Spokane and it was a storm the Hawks would have to weather for the better part of the first ten minutes. With so much firepower, at some point, it would have to break the other way and it did as Dominic Turgeon was able to find the puck on his stick in Spokane's zone and fired past Tyson Verhelst for the Hawks first goal of the game nearly thirteen minutes in. The tide somewhat turned as the Chiefs took two successive minor penalties which stirred up the crowd heavily. It almost seemed a makeup penalty just two seconds into a 5 on 3 powerplay for the Hawks as Turgeon was called for delay of game for using his glove in a faceoff. The Hawks were not to be denied as Cody Glass finished off great work around Verhelst to pocket his sixth of the season on the 4 on 3 powerplay giving Portland its first lead of the game. Spokane would make it a tie game just over three minutes into the third as Keanu Yamamoto took advantage of Portland's inability to clear out the front of the net. With just 17 seconds left in the period, Alex Schoeborn broke free for the defensive zone following a stretch pass from Keoni Texeira and wired it past Verhelst to restore the Portland lead.

During the third period, things heated up physically on the ice and Spokane thought they'd tied the game on a shot that seemingly troubled Hawks goaltender Adin Hill. Hill was able to keep the puck in the crease area, before his body and glove flew back in the net. Though it went to review, no conclusive evidence showed the puck actually crossing the goal line and Portland maintained its lead. Despite pulling Verhelst with ninety seconds left, Spokane couldn't score and the game ended with Portland on top 3-2. Right at the end of the game, three Spokane Chiefs players were assessed misconducts. Spokane outshot Portland 38-19 and were blanked on four opportunities on the powerplay while the Hawks went 1 for 6.

Right after the game, Portland was on a bus headed back home for a game against the Saskatoon Blades. The Blades had been trounced by Spokane two days earlier 7-2 and had come off a tough loss against the Tri-City Americans. With both teams tired, it would be up to the home team to lead the charge. Someone should have told the starting lineup though as they got burned just 24 seconds into the game. The tide turned a bit for the home team as Evan Weinger fired a rocket past Brock Hamm to tie the score midway through the first period. In a reverse of the previous night, the Hawks would fire pucks at will with Hamm having to make save after save to keep the Blades in the game. Early in the second period, Saskatoon would regain the lead and refuse to relinquish despite the strong pressure. Despite having Hill out for the extra attacker, Portland wasn't able to mount a serious offensive threat and with a turnover near the blueline, the Blades would capitalize on the empty net. Both teams were fruitless on three powerplay opportunities each and Portland held a 39-25 shots advantage.

Two days later, it was the Burgerville Daylight Classic in the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum against the Vancouver Giants, where conference points were at stake. Unlike previous games, it stayed scoreless for the first period and the Hawks would be the one to open the scoring. The powerplay clicked for Dominic Turgeon who notched his 22nd goal of the season just six minutes into the second period. Just over a minute later, the lead increased as Dominic Turgeon helped Blake Heinrich put the lead at two. Midway through the period, Vancouver would come within one, but Portland would hold on into the intermission. Ryan Hughes would restore the two goal lead just over five minutes into the third and it seemed Portland would clear the hurdle. However, the Giants created their own buzz, scoring with seven minutes left in the game and tried to tie it after pulling Ryan Kubic from the net. Despite incredible pressure and with seconds remaining, the puck squirted out of the zone and with Vancouver having to regroup to force the puck back in, they simply ran out of time. On the powerplay, Portland would go 1 for 3, Vancouver 0 for 2 and the Hawks would hold a 30-29 shots advantage.

With the wins this week, Portland pulled three points ahead of Spokane for third place in the US Division and currently holds down a playoff spot that is not in the wildcard position. Spokane will face the top ranked Lethbridge Hurricanes in one of the two games in hand they have on Portland this week, while the Hawks will get another three games in three nights, including a home and home series against the Seattle Thunderbirds and another division battle with Tri-City. Spokane will also have a home and home against the Kootenay Ice who have had a brutal season this year, the only team in the league yet to crack double digits in wins.

Ice Chips: Friday will be Pink The Rink Night for Breast Cancer as the ice changes color for the night and ladies can win great prizes including items from La Rog's Jewelers. 

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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