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Portland Winterhawks Soaring to Start the Season

Tuesday, September 20, 2016


The Portland Winterhawks enter their final week of preparations for the 2016-2017 campaign following a strong showing in pre-season tournaments. Portland picked up three wins during their initial run in Everett, WA and added two more after losing a shootout game in Kennewick, WA. With the tournaments over, the Hawks returned to practice and final roster cuts sending Easton Easterson and Connor Bowie back to their respective junior clubs which brought their roster to 29 players. During this week, the Hawks made two quick trades, first sending forward Tanner Nagel to Lethbridge for goaltender Shane Farkas and then defenseman Jackson Caller to Saskatoon for a fourth round draft choice next year. All players involved are 17 years old. Farkas was left with his junior team as the Winterhawks already have three goaltenders on the roster. Cole Kehler and Michael Bullion, both 19 years of age, appear to be battling for the starting position for the team with no one certain as to who will get the job. Both players were strong during training camp and equal during the tournament games.

Ethan Middendorf, 17, did not play in any tournament games with many feeling that it was a battle between Kehler and Bullion to see if either wasn't up to the task and with that not happening, it will probably take several games to get a feeling of who will take the top spot. For Middendorf, he now has competition in Shane Farkas as both are the same age. Portland Winterhawks Coach and General Manager Mike Johnston has rarely given the young goaltenders a push, waiting a year or two before he puts them in steady competition and this appears to be a similar situation.

This past week has also been a bit of a traveling one as the team took the Winterhawks bus and headed to Bend, where they completed a whirlwind trip including whitewater rafting, floor hockey games and autograph sessions. During Mike Johnston's initial run with the team, he used a down time period to travel to Enterprise, where the players played ice hockey on a homemade rink. The purpose was as a team bonding exercise and with so many new faces aboard this season, the time seemed right to do something like this again.

The team will now prepare for the opening of the season with three straight home games, all against division rivals before heading out on the Eastern Swing. Saturday and Sunday, games will be played at the Moda Center versus Seattle Thunderbirds and Tri-City Americans with the following Friday being a battle with the Everett Silvertips at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum at which time the team will unveil the new scoreboard and video replay screens. The Swing will immediately follow the game versus Everett as the travel will take them to Seattle and then to Saskatchewan and Manitoba before ending in Spokane, WA. The team will then play its first home game in nearly three weeks against the Tri-City Americans.

Other teams in the WHL have also been making moves including Portland rival Seattle Thunderbirds. Following in what appears to be tradition, Seattle picked up a 20-year-old netminder to start their season. Ryan Toth, who was a starter during the regular season and played in games during the Memorial Cup, was dealt from the Red Deer Rebels to Seattle for a third round draft pick in 2017. Seattle's expected starter in Logan Flodell was then traded to Saskatoon Blades for defenseman Anthony Bishop. The addition to the Thunderbirds shores up their defense, which was hit by graduating players and players that will attend NHL camps. 

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club has started signups for the Canada Fan Trip and a local trip to Everett in December. Information on the trips is available at every home game and online www.pwhbc.com


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