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Portland Winterhawks in Crunch Time as Playoffs Loom

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

 

Crunch time is upon everyone as it pertains to the final four weeks of the WHL regular season. With about 16 games left in the regular season, only one team has been mathematically eliminated from postseason. The remaining games for each club now take on a much more urgent nature and urgency is at the heart of the Portland Winterhawks.

Divisional games this week left the Hawks still sitting in a playoff spot, but seriously looking over their shoulder. The Winterhawks picked up tough, hard-fought wins this past week. In Spokane, Portland led the game 2-0 at the end of the second period, only to have Spokane find a way to tie it up with a goal midway through the third and one with less than a minute remaining. Overtime ensued and went down to the wire when Rodrigo Abols found the finish on a Jack Dougherty and Caleb Jones scramble with just 15 seconds remaining in the frame to earn a 3-2 win. Portland scored once on the powerplay and kept Spokane blanked on their chances.

Two nights later at home against Everett, Portland was in another huge divisional battle. The Hawks opened the scoring just five minutes in with Alex Overhart firing a shot past Carter Hart in the Everett net. Overhart had sat a couple games prior as a coach's decision and seemed to come back with renewed enthusiasm. Everett would tie the game early in the second, but Portland would add two goals in the second half of the period to put the grips on the game. The Silvertips pulled their goaltender and used the extra attacker to notch their second goal with less than two minutes remaining in the game. The Hawks then went to shutdown mode and kept the Tips off the scoresheet the rest of the way, earning a 3-2 win. Neither team scored on the powerplay and Everett held a decisive 46-23 shots on goal advantage.

A highly controversial game against the Seattle Thunderbirds  aired on television the next night in Kent, WA. Things started off well for the Hawks as they scored the game's first two goals and headed to the lockerroom at the end of the first period up by two. Seattle would come back with a pair of their own, one on the powerplay to tie it at two. Portland's Keoni Texeira and Alex Overhardt would score just over a minute apart at the end of the second period to restore the two goal lead. 

The third period was a nightmare as Hawk's defenceman Jack Dougherty was penalized on three separate occasions in which the Thunderbirds would capitalize twice on and add an even strength goal. Portland's Alex Schoenborn did get one back during the break in Dougherty's revolving door penalty box to ensure the game would go to overtime.

Overtime ensued with the Hawks holding the strong edge in shots, but controversy would strike. Caleb Jones would break free in the Thunderbirds zone, but was tripped up as he went to shoot. The puck ended up traveling with him into the net, crossing the line before the net detached appearing to have given Portland the win. The referee called a good goal and the Hawks bench emptied and the team celebrated, However, replay officials upstairs reversed the on ice decision and the referee ordered only a minor penalty for tripping instead of what many thought should have been a penalty shot. Seattle killed off the penalty and with less than one second on the scoreclock, caused mayhem in front of the Hawks net which allowed Seattle's Scott Eansor to force the puck past Adin Hill for the now Seattle win. Seattle's three for six on the powerplay and Portland's inabilty to score while having the man advantage, gave the Thunderbirds the advantage. Seattle also outshot the Hawks 54 to 33 with the majority of the shots happening during the third period during Portland's penalty trouble. 

Seattle would play the next night against the Victoria Royals who would be Portland's opponent the next night. The Royals had held a 2-1 lead  going into the third period, but gave up a powerplay and empty net goal to prevent Victoria from catching Kelowna Rockets for top spot in the US Division. Everett defeated Spokane 3-2 which kept the Tips pacing ahead of Seattle and kept Spokane only two points ahead of Portland.

President's Day saw Tri-City Americans earn a strong 3-1 win against the Edmonton Oil Kings on the road as part of their Central Swing trip. The pressure then headed to the Hawks as they faced a very ornery Victoria Royals, still hoping to catch Kelowna for first in the BC Division. Victoria scored first, just six minutes into the first period and was full value for the lead throughout the period. Midway through the second, Dominic Turgeon connected on a feed from Evan Weinger to knot the game at 1, a score that would remain throughout the third period. Overtime ensued  and this time it was Caleb Jones, who had a goal disallowed in the last game versus Seattle, finishing off hard work by Dominic Turgeon and Evan Weinger for the 2-1 overtime win. Neither team scored on their two powerplay chances and Victoria held a 30-26 shots advantage. The win pulls Portland into a tie with Spokane who still holds the sixth place spot by virtue of fewer games played. Portland now sits in seventh place, one point up on Kamloops, which also holds a game in hand. 

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks now head on their longest road trip of the season, a tough six game in ten night trip to the wilds of Alberta and southeastern British Columbia.  Portland will not return to home ice until Friday, March 4th, when they face the Tri-City Americans. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is also headed to Alberta with 50 people aboard a bus for all six games, the first time the club has done so in over twenty years. 

 

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