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Portland Winterhawks Gain Positive Momentum on the Eastern Swing

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

 

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

It was "Parent's Weekend” for the Portland Winterhawks with three games in four nights at home. Many parents of Winterhawks took the opportunity to watch their sons in action with two games at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and one at the Moda Center. The Winterhawks also promoted cancer awareness with "Pink the Rink Night," which benefited the Susan G. Komen and Oncology foundations in the middle game.

It would be a daunting task for the Hawks who had good success while on the Eastern Swing with a 4-2 record, but would come home to battle the league-leading Kelowna Rockets in two games and one against Edmonton Oil Kings. Portland has knocked Kelowna from the playoffs the past few years with a very strong team. With so many changes to the Portland roster and Kelowna building, the only major change to the Rockets was in the head coaching position. With Ryan Huska on his ascent to the American Hockey League with the Adirondack Flames, which itself moved from Abbotsford, BC to start this season, the Rockets dove into their coaching staff and promoted Dan Lambert who was Huska's right hand man for the past five seasons. Under Lambert, the Rockets have only lost once while compiling 12 victories and are leading the Western Conference, with only two points from leading the league.

The Hawks game in the Coliseum on night one versus the Rockets started off well enough, with the team firing 15 shots in the first period, but without any result. The same couldn't be said for the Rockets as once they scored their first goal, they never looked back. When they scored just 51 seconds into the game, the Hawks knew they were in an uphill battle. Kelowna would add one more in the first, one in the second and then two in the third to take a 5-0 shutout win. It was the first shutout since 2011 at home, a streak of nearly 200 games without being shutout.

Halloween was a day for the Hawks to regroup and plan for “Pink the Rink Night” at the Moda Center. Night number two versus Kelowna was full of changes for the Hawks. Line changes, a goaltender change and a change of heart for the Winterhawks proved to be the tonic. Seventeen year-old Michael Bullion, who impressed at camp but couldn't crack the opening roster, became Portland's fourth goaltender of the young season and impressed right out of the gate. The Hawks would score first and never trailed in the game, as Oliver Bjorkstrand opened the scoring while shorthanded early in the first period. The Hawks would also stay out of the penalty box which limited Kelowna to just two opportunities. The Rockets would tie the score near the end of the first and the two teams would trade goals midway through the third period about a minute apart to send the game into overtime. The line switch that Winterhawks Coach and GM Jamie Kompon made at the start of the game, which led to the first goal, was responsible for the overtime goal. Paul Bittner, who had been struggling on the scoresheet, worked the puck free and an extra effort pushed in between the pads of Kelowna goaltender Jackson Whistle to end Portland's home loss streak at 8 games with a 3-2 overtime win. Bullion earned top star of the game with the victory.

Winterhawks player Evan Weinger scoring a goal against Edmonton 11/ 2. Courtesy of Cathy Schave Kemp.

The defending Memorial Cup Champion Edmonton Oil Kings, like the Hawks and Rockets, have undergone changes at the top, with their coach now the head man with the AHL Texas Stars. In a piece of irony, last season's Winterhawks assistant coach Karl Taylor is the assistant to Derek Laxdal. 

Edmonton started with a fury and fired 33 shots at the Portland net with Bullion getting his second start in as many games. Though Edmonton would lead in shots, Portland would lead in goals, with Domenic Turgeon notching his fourth of the year midway through the first. Midway through the second, Evan Weinger was right on target with an open net and Portland would open up a three goal lead as Chase De Leo scored with just eight seconds left in the period while on the power play. Edmonton was able to spoil the shutout with six minutes remaining in the final frame, but that is as close as they got.

The Hawks have now won two in a row and despite earlier troubles, they sit eighth overall in the Western Conference and are just four game out of third place. Edmonton, on the other hand, dropped its fifth straight and returns home still in third place in the Eastern Conference. The Hawks will rest now with games this coming weekend.

Ice Chips: Tuesday, the Winterhawks will take off their skates for street shoes as they take part in the second annual “Shop with a Hawk,” which benefits local area underprivileged children. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, which completely funds the event, is assisting 26 children this year in an event that both the players and kids really enjoy.

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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