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Portland Winterhawks Clip Tips, Split with Cougars

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

 

With the holiday season upon us, the hockey season has hit full gear. Many teams within the Western Hockey League are fast approaching the halfway mark of the season and trade deadline looms just a couple of weeks away.

For Portland, the season is a few games from hitting the halfway point, but their past three games over four nights clearly indicate there is room to move for the Winterhawks. It started with the last road game of five up in Everett, where they faced another team looking to make moves upward in the Silvertips. The Tips have struggled a bit with starting goaltender Carter Hart, who last season stole the starting job from Austin Lotz. Lotz has since been moved to Saskatchewan where he has keep his team in the thick of things. Everett started things off right for them and built up a lead of 5-2 with less than a full period remaining. However, similar to previous Winterhawks teams, the never say die motto came in full force. Rihards Bukarts, who had scored midway in the first period and Alex Schoenborn who scored a short-handed goal in the second, figured in most of the scoring in the third period. Bukarts scored twice to gain a hat trick and Schoenborn added two assists to his second period goal and first period assist to give the Hawks some momentum that Everett could not overcome. Caleb Jones, Cody Glass and a beauty of a goal by Colton Veloso capped off a come from behind 7-5 victory and salvaged a road trip at 2 wins and 3 losses.Portland would score on four of six power play opportunities, while Everett went 0 for 3 including giving up a short-handed goal.

Portland would come home for a back to back series with the Prince George Cougars at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in the last home games before the Christmas break. Prince George took a very early lead scoring twice in the first minute and a half of the game. Portland would get one back before the five minute mark of the first period. Portland shortened the deficit early in the second period, but Prince George tightened their grip near the end of the second period and added another ahead of the midway mark of the third period to give the Cougars a two goal lead. Once again, Portland dug deep and again it was Bukarts who came to the rescue. Just forty seconds after the Cougars fourth goal, Bukarts scored and then Dominic Turgeon would tie the score just six minutes later. The final goal came with just under fifty seconds left in the game. In what will be a top play of the week, Alex Schoenborn sent Dominic Turgeon down the right wing side into the Cougars zone. With a no look, behind the back, through the legs pass to Rihards Bukarts, a shot from the left side wired past Ty Edmonds for the Winterhawks win at 5-4. Neither team scored on the power play and similar to the close score, so were the shots with the Cougars holding a 42-39 edge.

The following night, the curtains were opened as the game aired on CW32, the first of eight games that will be televised for the Winterhawks this season. This was the annual game known as the Teddy Bear Toss, an event where once the Winterhawks scored their first goal, teddy bears would rain down on the ice to be collected for local area children's charities and veterans. Hawks fans sat patiently waiting for the first goal and the grew more impatient as the clock wound down on the first period. With bags of bears and plush crowding the seats and walkways, fans hoped it wouldn't be long. Portland went to the power play early in the second and Alex Schoenborn fired a wristshot from an odd angle past Nick McBride for the opening goal and over ten thousand bears and plush came flooding from the stands. 

Prince George would answer back with a pair of goals midway through the second period, including a power play goal that would give them a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Portland's Rihards Bukarts would score early in the third period to tie the contest, but Prince George came back with a power play goal midway through the third period. Despite a flurry of activity by the Winterhawks at the end of the period, they were unable to complete the comeback and Prince George skated away with a 3-2 win. Portland went 1 for 8 on the power play with Prince George scoring twice on six opportunities. The Cougars held a 42-27 shots advantage and take the season series 3-1. 

Portland now hits the road for three games in five nights against US Division opponents before getting a brief break for Christmas. The Winterhawks announced that Paul Bittner, who was injured in Prince George has undergone successful hip surgery. Though no timeline has been announced, one would figure Paul's season to be all but over leading people to speculate on what Portland might do as trade deadline approaches in less than three weeks. 

Portland will return to the ice for a home and home series with the Tri City Americans following the Christmas break, before the annual New Year's Eve bash in the "Battle with Seattle" with a special 7:30PM start time at the Moda Center.

Ice Chips: Former Portland Winterhawks Coach and General Manager Mike Johnston, who was lured away by the NHL Pittsburgh Penguins at the end of his Winterhawks contract, lasted just over a season in Pittsburgh as he was fired this past week along with Assistant Coach Gary Agnew. They have been replaced by Pittsburgh assistant coach Rick Tocchet and coach of the AHL Wilkes-Barrie/ Scranton Penguins Mike Sullivan. Under Johnston's watch this season, Pittsburgh was 15-10-3. In Sullivan's debut, the Penguins were crushed 4-1 by the Washington Capitals. In an unusual trade, Rob Scuderi, a late healthy scratch was traded by Pittsburgh to Chicago Blackhawks for Trevor Daley during the game versus Washington.

Rihards Bukarts of the Portland Winterhawks was named WHL Player of the Week following a very strong performance this past week.

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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