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Portland Winterhawks Pushing Hard into Second Half of Season

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


Heading into the Christmas break, the Portland Winterhawks were looking to close the gap in the standings that has dogged them since the start of the season. Holding at least a .500 record for the past month, has done a great deal to help them avoid sliding further back. The past two weeks have featured games only against divisional opponents which have allowed them to eat away at some of the distance between them and the leaders. After this past weekend's action, the Winterhawks sit just 5 points out of first place, while sitting in fourth place in their own division, which shows just how tight the race is now.

Portland passed the halfway mark of the season on New Year's Eve with the annual battle with Seattle. True to form, it was a battle with frustration spilling out on the ice as Portland helped to unseat the Thunderbirds from the top spot in the US Division with a strong 4-1 win. The battles took place later in the third period after Portland had built a 3-0 lead and pressed for more. The fifty plus minutes in penalties handed out near the eight-minute mark of the third, gave Seattle their only score on the powerplay. Portland would add an empty net goal with seconds remaining in the game to seal the deal.

Hailing in the New Year, Spokane made a doubleheader in Portland a success for the Hawks as Portland took it to the limit in a wild scoring affair in the first game, a 6-5 win as a result of a shootout. Portland had built up a 3-1 lead in the first period, only to see that evaporate as Spokane kept pace with the home team throughout the game, scoring their tying goal with just under three minutes to play in the third period. The overtime period nearly was the Hawks downfall as they went through a bad line change and ended up with too many players on the ice. That penalty, midway through the overtime, tested every ounce of the Hawks mettle. During one series of chances, a Spokane shot blasted Portland goaltender Adin Hill in the side of his mask, felling Hill and sending his mask flying and immediate stoppage in play. The end result, a huge mark on the side of Adin's head, but according to equipment and athletic therapist Rich Campbell, had not resulted in a concussion. The delay seemed to spark the Hawks who were unable to score during the overtime and thwarted all seven Spokane opportunities.  The shootout started well for Spokane who scored on their first attempt, but stopped on the next two. Portland missed on its first shot, but goals by Jack Dougherty and Dominic Turgeon gave Portland it's first win of 2016 in a 6-5 shootout win. Both teams scored once on three powerplay opportunities as Spokane held a 39-29 shots on goal advantage.

The two teams would meet less than 24 hours later, however this time, Portland wasn't about to let the game get that close. They did give up the opening goal on the powerplay just a minute and a half into the first period, but from there, it was all Portland. Two goals less than forty seconds apart in the first period and scoring on three of five powerplay chances, along with a short-handed goal by Alex Schoenborn, gave the Hawks a 5-1 win over the Chiefs. Spokane would go one for five on the powerplay and give up the short-handed goal with the shots knotted at 31 apiece. 

The wins put them two points behind Spokane with a game in hand and seven points above Tri-City Americans, who hold down last spot in the US Division. Portland will play three games in three nights this coming weekend. The first will be a return match with the Seattle Thunderbirds, this time in the no so friendly confines of ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington before returning with two games against the Kamloops Blazers, who sit tied with Portland in the Western Conference.

With trade deadline coming up this weekend, several teams who are looking to make a splash in the playoffs are making some big moves. Among them, the Red Deer Rebels, who will host the Memorial Cup this year. The Rebels have literally mortgaged the future for the now. The Rebels traded several high draft selections and younger players to obtain some strong scoring punch. This practice is not uncommon though, but it carries some major risks. Three years ago, Saskatoon Blades did the same thing as hosts for the 2013 Memorial Cup and promptly exited the playoffs in the first round and had a very poor showing in the Memorial Cup that Portland would end up playing in the final for. Most experts do not believe Red Deer will fall under the same umbrella, but it shows there are risks with loading up a team.

Ice Chips:  The January 9th game versus Kamloops will be a book drive in conjunction with Portland Public Schools. Fans are asked to bring new and gently used books to help fill local family libraries and reading programs. Books will also be sold on the concourse with the goal being to fill as many hockey bags as possible in one night. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is organizing a fan trip to Seattle for Saturday, March 19th. Seats are being sold now on this one day trip to ShoWare Center to close out the regular season on the road. Details available at any home game.

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.


Related Slideshow: 5 Sports Teams With Offensive Mascots

Native American activists see the logo of the Portland Winterhawks as offensive and are demanding the team make a change. Here a some other mascots certain people find offensive. 

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