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Winterhawks Shredded by Everett Silvertips, Bow Out in 1st round

Friday, April 01, 2016

 

When the 2016 season began with a 1-7 start, many fans wondered if Portland would be able to field a competitive team, let alone even take a sniff into postseason action. Suddenly, the team started making some inroads as the other teams in the US Division took a bit of a nosedive. By Christmas, the Portland Winterhawks were battling for a second place spot, though the other teams were staking their claim as well.

As the regular season was winding down, the Hawks found themselves in a dogfight for the last two available spots with Seattle leaping over Everett for top spot in the division and no other teams able to catch those two teams. It was left to Spokane, Portland and Tri-City to battle it out for the last two spots in the playoffs. As the final handful of games rolled around, Tri-City made a last second push, but found themselves being in a too little too late position and it left Portland and Spokane to jockey for the better spot and less travel. Portland lost it's game versus Spokane, but gained an overtime point followed by a second one against Seattle to get the third position in the division owing to more victories during the season. 

Going into the playoffs, Portland was on a five game losing skid, though three of the games were decided in overtime, but certainly not a great position to be in heading into playoffs. The matchup for Portland would be the Everett Silvertips, a team that they seemed tp match up well with as they were close in the season series with only one game that had more than 5 goals scored in the game. Portland traveled to Everett for the first two games, but seemed to be lacking the spark and jump as Everett took both games, shutting out the Hawks 3-0 and then following up with a 3-1 win. Heading back to Portland down two games, the Hawks looked to bounce back with loud crowds. The Hawks found similar issues that they had during the regular season, giving up the first goal of the game, a tough situation to dig out of, though to be fair, the Hawks made more of a concerted effort. 

The Hawks were going to have some issues due to lack of scoring depth. Over sixty percent of the scoring had been wiped out with the graduation of Chase DeLeo, Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic to the NHL.   Now without Paul Bittner, who had suffered an injury earlier in the season and had undergone season ending hip surgery, Carl Ericson, who had been tapped to assist the scoring depth due to a leg injury that would lead to his departure from the team and being replaced in a trade with Brandon for Rihards Bukarts to shore up the scoring, the Hawks would learn that Dominic Turgeon would be taken by the Detroit Red Wings for season ending shoulder surgery. Turgeon, the captain for the Hawks, had been signed by the Red Wings earlier in the year and was playing with a shoulder harness which had been signed off by both the Hawks and Wings, but with the hole the team was in and wanting to ensure that Turgeon was ready for pro play next season, the decision was made to have the surgery now to allow for full rehabilitation. Yet another cog in the gears of the Winterhawks was gone and while it allowed the youth to develop, it took away from the Hawks firepower which struggled to get pucks past Everett backup goaltender Mario Petit.

Portland would drop a 5-3 decision to Everett which put the Hawks backs up against the wall in a deciding game four with Everett at home. Once again, Portland would give up an early goal, but showed a ton of heart as they found a way to tie the score before the end of the first period. Everett would regain the lead very early in the second, but Portland would tie it again midway through the frame. A late powerplay for Everett proved to be the undoing for Portland as Everett would score just forty seconds before the end of the period. The do or die mode set in for the Hawks as they feverishly fired pucks at the Everett net, but Carter Hart, making his return from injury in the Silveertips net found ways to thwart the attack. A late pinchup in the Everett zone freed the Silvertips on a two on one and they made no mistake as Brandon Ralph stuck the final dagger in the heart of the Hawks to given them a two goal cushion.

Time wound down, horn sounded to end the game and while Everett celebrated the win, the Hawks emptied the bench, hunched over as they would be out in a sweep in the first round, a situation that hadn't happened  in a decade. When the final obligatory handshakes were over and Everett loaded their bus to gear up for the next series, the Winterhawks were clearing out lockers and preparing for the longest offseason any of the players had ever seen. For overage players, Alex Schoenborn who signed with the San Jose Sharks in the same week that his father passed away, Rihards Bukarts who will return to Europe and Blake Heinrich who was originally drafted by the Washington Capitals, but was now a free agent and is considering his options, they will not return to the team.Players like Paul Bittner who is practicing with the Columbus Blue Jackets AHL affiliate Lake Erie Monsters, Dominic Turgeon, who will jump to pros next season and Adin Hill who was drafted by the Arizona Coyotes and would be an overager next season are doubtful for next season. Rodrigo Abols who came to the Hawks this season as a Euro draft player, struggled in his debut and will have a tough time returning as both an import and overager. Keegan Iverson, drafted by the New York Rangers and Jack Dougherty, drafted by the Buffalo Sabres could be back as overagers, though that will be determined during the offseason as to whether there is further development needed in junior hockey.

With the final year of sanctions against the Hawks in place which Portland will forfeit their first round selection, but be able to draft players in subsequent rounds, they will be looking to fill in some serious goal scoring holes and get players they can develop for the following seasons. Many feel that Portland will have a competitive team for next season, but will have holes that may not be easily filled.

In the Western Conference, Seattle Thunderbirds swept their series with Prince George Cougars, Victoria Royals lead their series against Spokane Chiefs 3-1 and Kamloops Blazers are tied at 2 games apiece with Kelowna Rockets. The Eastern Conference has Brandon Wheat Kings tying their series with Edmonton Oil Kings after dropping their first two at home, Calgary down 2 to 1 in games with the series on an odd schedule due to the Calgary Flames NHL team in the playoff mix. Moose Jaw Warriors hold a 3-1 series lead against Prince Albert Raiders and what could be the upset of the season thus far, Regina Pats who hold the seventh seed, hold a 3-1 games lead over Central Division leader Lethbridge Hurricanes with the series shifting back to Lethbridge this weekend.

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club will be a part of the annual 82nd Avenue Parade of Roses taking place on Saturday, April 30th originating from Eastport Plaza on Portland's east side at 9:30AM. Upwards of 10,000 people line the street from Eastport Plaza to SE 80th and Yamhill.

 

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