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Gelling On The Swing: Portland Winterhawks Take 4 Wins in 6 Games

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

When the Winterhawks left Portland nearly two weeks ago, they had just one win compared to seven losses and concerns that the team was slipping away from the playoffs. Returning to Portland, the Winterhawks are adding four wins and more importantly, showing some team development that was missing.

The first game of the swing was a solid 6-2 win over the Moose Jaw Warriors and things looked to be headed well for the Hawks. That was, until they hit Brandon the next night and suffered a 10-3 drubbing against the Wheat Kings. Two days off allowed the Hawks to do some team bonding, go curling in Regina and follow this up with a 3-1 win over the Pats. That game marked a turning point for the Hawks as number one netminder Brendan Burke suffered what appeared to be a lower body injury during the making of a save not even four minutes into the third period. Recently acquired goaltender Bolton Pouliot stepped in and made the key saves to allow the Hawks the victory.

In Swift Current, it was acknowledged that Adin Hill, the Winterhawks backup, was dealing with an upper body injury, thought to have occurred prior to the swing itself and it meant Pouliot would have to carry the team for the remainder of the swing. In Swift Current, with the Hawks unable to get Michael Bullion, their fourth goaltender from the NAHL in time, they were forced to have an emergency backup in Chanz Vinck from the Swift Current AAA Midget League on the bench. The WHL league rules mandate that a team must have a backup available and Bullion would join the team in Prince Albert for the final two games. The Hawks had several chances to take the game against the Swift Current Broncos and had tied it with two Paul Bittner goals less than minutes apart, but an ill-timed hooking penalty by Keoni Texeira with just nineteen seconds left, allowed the Broncos to draw the faceoff in the Portland zone and snap one over top of Pouliot for the 5-4 win. 

Two nights later, the Hawks would have the last two games of the swing go with the two teams close until the third period. In Prince Albert it was a 2-2 tie going into the third period until the Hawks pulled away with a 5-2 win. It was similar in Saskatoon with the Hawks leading 2-1 after two periods and then exploding for four goals and a 6-1 victory. Alex Schoenborn left the Prince Albert game with a 5 minute major and game misconduct for a checking to the head penalty that resulted in the opponent taking 16 stitches to the forehead, most likely cut from the face visor. Schoenborn will learn of a suspension length this week.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

After sixteen games, the Hawks remain in last place in the US Division and tied for last place in the Western Conference, but some important stats make it seem like there is a turnaround. The Hawks, which had just 24 goals leading to the swing, are now up to 51 goals on the season which puts them near the middle of the league. While they have given up 68 overall tying them for most goals given up, they have played one more game than the Prince George Cougars who also have given up 68. Both the power play and penalty killing have improved greatly as they look to make up ground.

The Winterhawks team over the past several years has started slow, owing to players at NHL development camps and the team has looked to the away road trip or "swing" as the turning point for the team. This year appears to be similar with new GM and Head Coach Jamie Kompon getting to know the style and the league. Now the Hawks return home to face the Kelowna Rockets in back to back games. Kelowna has done quite well in the first frame of the season, losing just once so far this year. The second Kelowna game will be "Pink the Rink Night" with fundraising for Breast Cancer Research on November 1st at the Moda Center.

Portland will also face off against defending Memorial Cup Champions Edmonton before squaring off with Kamloops and Red Deer as part of the five game homestand. 

Ice Chips: The Booster Club is running the annual Shop with a Hawk in early November as well as a Food Drive for the Sunshine Division on November 16. December 7 will be Keeping Portland Warm Night as the Booster Club will be collecting clothing donations for the Sunshine Division. The Booster Club is also starting its annual Christmas Ornament Auction on November 7, but fans can see pictures of the ornaments at the two games prior.

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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