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Woes One Week, Highlights the Next for the Portland Winterhawks

Saturday, January 16, 2016


One could surmise that the Portland Winterhawks were going to have an unusual season this year. Based on the lack of a "name" player in which to sell the game to new fans to, it has been left up to the roster to see where the standouts would be. Trading for Rihards Bukarts earlier this season has proven to be a boon to the team, bolstering an offensive lineup that has been struggling at times to hit the scoresheet.

The past week showed just that with a rough stretch of three games in which the Hawks could only salvage an overtime loss, earning them just one point out of six in a very competitive US Division. It started with a loss in Kent, Washington to the Seattle Thunderbirds by a 3-1 margin, but by most accounts, could have been more lopsided if not for the efforts of goaltender Adin Hill.Neither team score on the powerplay and Seattle held a  two shot advantage in the game.

The Winterhawks would have little rest as they would play back to back games against the Kamloops Blazers, one of the many who are scrambling for a foothold in the playoff race.

Portland battled hard against the Blazers in the first game, often it seemed against more than just the team.The Winterhawks would play catch-up throughout the game, trading goals with the Blazers starting late in the first period. Kamloops led early in the second before Evan Weinger would tie it up. Kamloops took the lead with just 45 seconds before the end of the second period. It would stay that way until the final minute when Portland pulled Adin Hill for the extra attacker. Rihards Bukarts would find a way past Kamloops defenders and using a screen, fired a shot that eluded Kamloops goaltender Dylan Ferguson to send the game into overtime.

While some might view only as an opinion, the game felt very lopsided when it came to officiating.  Three successive non-calls, a delay of game, a high stick to the face of Cody Glass, incidentally by the same player and then a boarding or charging call as time expired in the Winterhawks zone, seemed to deflate the sails of the Portland squad. Portland was unable to gather much momentum in the overtime and Kamloops would capitalize on a Portland turnover to steal the win.

The next night, it seemed to go from bad to worse as the Winterhawks were unable to offer up much offense past the first period and dropped a 3-0 shutout to the same Kamloops team. In the two games, Kamloops scored once in nine tries, Portland went 0 for 7. Portland outshot Kamloops 32-30 in the first game but badly outshot 35-21 in game two.

Portland would start the week with a game against the Regina Pats. Based in the Eastern Division, the Pats are battling for a spot in the playoff division leaders race and are on their current Western swing. The Pats had waltzed past the Spokane Chiefs 7-2 and battled hard in an overtime win against the Everett Silvertips leading to the matchup in Portland. In what has almost become a ritual, the opposition took the early lead in the game. Regina took the lead midway through the first period and despite many opportunities by Portland, they just simply couldn't find the back of the net.

What might be thought of as the turning point of the game wasn't a score, but a fight. Towards the end of the second period, Skyler McKenzie, a 5'7, 160 pounder for the Winterhawks, took on Lane Zablocki a 6'0, 180 pounder from the Pats in a highly spirited affair. For his troubles, McKenzie would spend the first 14 minutes of the third period in the penalty box. During the intermission, no one is sure what was said in the dressing room, but whatever happened, inspired the Hawks to a whole new level. Just three minutes into the third period, Dominic Turgeon would knot the game at one and the Hawks seemingly would take control from there. Just over three minutes later, Keoni Texeira would notch his sixth goal of the season and all of a sudden, the Hawks had their first lead. As the time wound down, the Pats pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker. A blocked pass by Keegan Iverson in the Winterhawks zone sent Skyler McKenzie down the wing and fired into the empty net. The Pats pulled the goaltender again and found the same situation occurring just forty seconds later.  It was Iverson, again forcing the puck out of the Hawks zone and using himself as the bait, slid a pass to McKenzie for his second goal of the night. Neither team scored on the powerplay and Portland was outshot 35-24.

The WHL trade deadline passed with the Hawks electing to make no deals and stand pat with the current roster. Several teams did make deals including Regina who landed disgruntled scorer Cole Sanford from Medicine Hat for two players and three draft picks. He would score in his debut with his new team as they faced the Everett Silvertips, but was a non-factor in the game versus Portland.

Ice Chips: Saturday will feature the Great Airplane Toss at the Moda Center when Portland faces Saskatoon. Michael Bullion, Evan Weinger, Keegan Iverson and Skyler McKenzie will appear at Les Schwab off Mill Plain and I-205 on Wednesday, January 20th from 4-6pm. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is organizing a fan trip to Kent, WA and is signing people up at home game through February 12th. Details at http://www.pwhbc.com/fantrips.html.

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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