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Portland Winterhawks Hitting the Stretch Run

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

 

Thirteen games is all that is left before the regular season comes to a close and playoffs begin, but nothing is close to being settled yet. Teams are fighting for every last point they can get in a desperate attempt to secure a playoff spot or hold onto the place they currently have. Portland had been at a disadvantage for a while with having played more games than other teams. The past couple of weeks have been the time where other teams have made up the game difference and could have sunk the Hawks’ chances. 

However, that hasn't happened and, along with the Winterhawks continued late season push, has kept Portland in the thick of things. Over the past 10 games, Portland has won 8 and erased the big lead that the Everett Silvertips had built up to just five points with Portland having a game in hand. The Hawks have just one more matchup with the Tips, but 11 of their last 13 games will be against US Division opponents. 

During the past two weeks, the Hawks have rolled over opponents, outscoring them 22-6 and in doing so, showed the firepower that seemed to be elusive during the early part of the season. Oliver Bjorkstrand continues to dominate the scoring since returning from the World Juniors and is within reach of at least second place in the scoring race with 82 points in just 46 games played. His line with Nic Petan and Paul Bittner have contributed heavily as well. The roster is virtually healthy with the exception of Nick Heid, who is out for the season with shoulder surgery and Alex Schoenborn, who hopes to be back in action sometime during the playoffs. This is boding well for a team which is gearing up for the playoff run.

Other US Division teams have had some rough patches. Everett, which leads the division has taken it on the chin in a couple of recent games including a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Seattle Thunderbirds. While they haven't been hit by the injury bug, they have been hit with inconsistency in recent days. Seattle Thunderbirds have tried to keep pace as they sit in third, five points behind Portland and are the only other team in the US Division to have a strong past ten games. Further down the division, Spokane Chiefs have a couple games in hand and sit at a .500 record. They have lost their last three games including being shut out. They hold onto a wildcard spot, but are being chased by the Tri City Americans. The Ams are in a world of trouble. Without healthy goaltenders and players, they have often skated less than a full roster the past month and have won just three of their last ten games and still have four games against Portland which has outscored them 12-2 in the past two games. 

With the new wildcard format for playoffs, two BC Division teams, the Prince George Cougars and Kamloops Blazers, could take wildcard spots away from the Chiefs and Americans. 

Ice Chips: The Winterhawks will face the Calgary Hitmen in their only visit to Portland on Wednesday February 25 and will mark the return of goaltender Brendan Burke since the trade to Calgary in January. There are two player appearances remaining on the season. On Wednesday, March 4, the team will be at Les Schwab in Hillsboro and Tuesday, March 10 at the Burgerville in Beaverton. Players are still to be announced.

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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