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Portland Winterhawks End 2014 On A Whimper, But Open New Year With A Bang

Tuesday, January 06, 2015


Portland Winterhawks ended 2014 about the same as they started the season this year, on a losing note. Coming out of the holiday break, the Hawks played three games in five nights while missing key players Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan and Chase De Leo off at World Junior Tournament games. Things started south for the team up in Kent, WA, with Brendan Burke giving up four goals in the first period en route to a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds. Adin Hill would finish the Seattle game with two periods of shutout hockey, but the players couldn't find that elusive fourth goal. The following night, Adin Hill started the game and faced a tough Spokane team who were able to secure a 4-3 score against the Hawks in Portland. New Year's Eve saw the Thunderbirds return to Portland for the annual Battle with Seattle and eeked out a 2-1 victory over the Winterhawks. 

To start the New Year, Chase De Leo returned for Portland and the team held practice early in the morning to prepare for two games in two nights versus US Division teams. The spark seemed to be back as the Hawks took it to a reduced roster Tri City Americans with a 3-0 shutout win. Adin Hill stopped all 35 shots that came his way, while firing fifty of their own against Evan Sarthou. Sarthou was filling in for Eric Comrie, who was with the Canadian Junior team and several key players for Tri City were out with injuries. Still the win was key for Portland to stay in the mix of the US Division.

The following night the Thunderbirds returned to the Moda Center and found themselves in a real battle ... literally. Just over 3 minutes into the game, Portland's Keegan Iverson, originally from Minnesota, took on another Minnesota native in Seattle's Luke Osterman and laid on quite a beating. Keegan was assessed an additional five minute penalty as a Match Major for material on his hands. Keegan has split open Osterman, who did not leave the game nor require assistance from the trainer in regards to the injuries. Media at the game spoke of tape being on one of Keegan's hands as the issue, though all spoke that it wasn't his "throwing hand". Match penalties are subject to immediate review by the league. Seattle was able to take advantage of the bonus time and the Hawks, who ran into penalty trouble in the first period, weathered the storm. A flurry in the final minute of the first period saw Paul Bittner grab the puck in the corner flip it toward the Thunderbirds net which Miles Koules was able to redirect past Taran Kozun for the 1-0 lead.

The Hawks built on the lead when newcomer to the team, Austin Gray, combined with Alex Schoenborn to set up Alex Overhardt and just five minutes into the second period, had a 2-0 lead. Seattle would take a few penalties during the second, including one that carried into the third period. Just 40 seconds into the third period, Miles Koules capitalized on a setup in the Seattle zone to fire home his second of the game. Despite two powerplays in the third period for Seattle, the Thunderbirds weren't able to score The Hawks ended the scoring while shorthanded and the Thunderbirds goaltender on the bench for an extra attacker. Despite the 6-4 man advantage, Portland was able to clear its zone and on one instance, move it to the Seattle zone where Miles Koules used Paul Bittner as bait and was able to direct an odd angle shot into the empty Seattle net with two Thunderbirds standing at the side of the net to seal the shutout for Portland and gain the hat trick. 

Portland's two wins to start the year leave them tied with Spokane Chiefs for third place in the US Division, though all teams in the division have at least two games in hand on the Winterhawks. Portland now hits the road with two games in Spokane this week and then one game at home versus Vancouver, before three games in four nights in the cold tundra of British Columbia. Portland will face Kamloops Blazers and then back to back games against Prince George Cougars which will be two teams that Portland keeps an eye on for wildcard spots in the playoffs. 

This coming week is a major scare for players as the looming trade deadline date comes into play. Saturday, January 10 will be the last day to make roster moves and several teams are already rumbling with small moves, or gearing up for larger ones. Portland has room for a 20-year-old player, though none have come to the front for discussion. Portland has an older defensive core, but may be unwilling to break chemistry that seems to be building now. With Brendan Burke getting pulled four games ago and not playing this week, people speculate about him too. It's highly doubtful the team will part with an NHL drafted player and draft picks are still weak owing from the sanctions, so he will stay as well. As teams approach this week and with Portland tied for fourth overall in the US Division, expect some overtures, but nothing that will break the bank.

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club presented a check to Jarrod Boman, President of the Gift of Gear Program and a WHL linesman for $2,000 to help local are youth get hockey equipment to be able to play. This presentation is the first of several that the Booster Club will present this season. The club also sold out its trip to Prince George and has just one offering left, that to Seattle in late March. More information on the Booster Club or its fan trips should visit http://www.pwhbc.com.

Nic Petan, the lone holdout from the Winterhawks representing Canada at the World Juniors, notched a hat trick against Slovakia in a 5-1 win. Canada faces Russia for the Gold Medal on Monday.

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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