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Portland Winterhawks Now Atop US Division

Saturday, March 21, 2015

 

The Portland Winterhawks knew that this week with four games in five nights would be the toughest battle this season. Not only would these games be important as far as where they finished in the division, but also for scoring records and momentum heading into the playoffs.

Starting off with the always tough Spokane Chiefs, the Hawks knew they had to get out of the gate early. They did just that and then some, never losing the lead and only allowing Spokane to catch up within a goal on two separate occasions. Led by a four point night, including a first ever WHL career hat trick by twenty year old defenseman Adam Henry and a four point night for Oliver Bjorkstrand with a goal and three assists, the Winterhawks blew past the Chiefs by a score of 7-4. Adin Hill stopped 43 of 47 shots on goal, many which were spectacular saves.

Portland scored twice on the power play in five attempts, while Spokane countered with two goals on four attempts. The win puts Portland atop the standings in the US Division with 90 points, the same number as the Everett Silvertips, but Portland gets the nod by virtue of one more victory than the Tips. Portland has won seven of their last ten games and has scored 47 more goals than the Everett Silvertips thus far.

Portland has three games remaining and on paper has the easier schedule. They play the Tri-City Americans twice and sandwich a game with Seattle where one section of the ShoWare Center will be decidedly all Portland. Everett has the tougher schedule with back to back games against the Victoria Royals and then has to head to Spokane to finish the season.

Of all these teams involved, the Tri-City Americans have the most to gain and lose. Currently they sit tied with the Kamloops Blazers for the last wildcard spot. Kamloops has back to back games with the Prince George Cougars, who currently hold the number three seed in the BC Division. Even if Kamloops wins both games against Prince George to tie for the seed, they would lose by virtue of wins by the Cougars. This would mean that the Tri-City Americans and Kamloops Blazers are strictly in a battle for the eighth and final spot as a wildcard entry. Should they tie in points, Tri-City would advance by virtue of more wins. 

Oliver Bjorkstrand continued his amazing points season with a lead now of six points over second place Trevor Cox of the Medicine Hat Tigers and an eight point lead over Tim McGauley of the Brandon Wheat Kings. With only two games left for those two players, they will have to hope for a miracle that Oliver completely shuts down and they score by the bucketload. This is unlikely, as Oliver has a 5-game scoring streak with 6 goals, 9 assists for 15 points. He has also had three other point streaks during the season that have led him to this position now. This past week, he was announced as the CHL Player of the Week, yet another accolade to his many thus far this season.

As a team, the Portland Winterhawks were acknowledged by the Canadian Hockey League in their Top Ten teams list at number 10. As with the current status in the US Division, it is the first time that the Winterhawks have been ranked in the standings. Everett was ranked eighth and Kelowna and Brandon were in the top five. 

Ice Chips: Portland announced its first round playoff schedule which would start at home on Saturday, March 28 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum and then switch to the Moda Center on Sunday the 29th. Games against Seattle would be Tuesday and Thursday, games against Spokane would be Tuesday and Wednesday. Any other games played in the round in Portland would be at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

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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