OR Sports News

Looking forward to this weekend’s Pac-12 football match-ups

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© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Looking forward to this weekend’s Pac-12 football match-ups

By SEBASTIAN PYCIOR
The Pac-12 finished the first-half of their season, paving the way for an exciting second-half finish. The Cougars are still without a loss and coach Gary Anderson has already, albeit mysteriously, left the Oregon State program. The state of Washington finally anticipates an exciting Apple Cup this Thanksgiving, and while it will be great having an Apple Cup holding significance again, ticket prices for the game have already skyrocketed.

Barring some miraculous upset, things look to be relatively quiet this weekend for the northwest college football programs.

#8 Washington State at California:

The Cougars didn’t give up 300 yards on the ground to Oregon last week as I’d predicted would happen. Their defensive front made a big statement as they took advantage of a Ducks team without their starting quarterback. The Cougs stopped the Ducks’ running game easily, forcing the Oregon team into an inefficient passing game, which sealed the victory for Washington State.

Cougars’ quarterback, Luke Falk, had his difficulties in the game as some passes were thrown short, and he posted his worst QBR of the year against the Ducks. Falk has been sacked 19 times so far this season, so it’ll be interesting to see what solutions the team has to keep their quarterback safe and away from constant pressure, especially up against a solid defense.

All that said, California shouldn’t be a threat for the Cougars Friday night. Falk and Leach look to keep everyone involved on offense and this should easily elude California’s questionable defense. Of course, there’s always a possibility that the Cougars could “Coug’ it” Friday night, given their reputation.

#5 Washington at Arizona State:

The Huskies look to take advantage of a weak Arizona State team on Saturday. Running-back Myles Gaskin should post his best numbers of the year against this team, since Arizona State’s defense is relatively poor. ASU hasn’t been able to compete well this year, barely beating Oregon and New Mexico State, while losing every other game.

It’s likely another easy win for the Huskies this season. It’s imperative that they strive for a large-margin win to avoid any possible blemish on their resume, as they’ll be compared to the other teams contending for a national playoff spot.

Oregon at #23 Stanford:

Both Oregon and Stanford have been fighting for third in the PAC-12 North division, but Stanford has been looking better as of late. If the Oregon Ducks can’t get their running game going early on Saturday, then they’ll struggle to find another answer on offense. Their backup quarterback had trouble completing passes to keep drives moving against the Cougars, dismantling their game-plan. Since they were forced to punt the ball often, their defense stayed on the field longer, which resulted in them being tired early in the game. Stanford should be able to run and win this game with ease.

Colorado at Oregon State:

The Oregon State program is in disarray after their coach left unexpectedly in the middle of this season. He did leave near $12 million on the table for OSU, agreeing to get the rest of this year paid out before he goes. It’d be surprising if any players can muster the will to play hard against Colorado after this sudden coaching change. The team isn’t playing very well at all on the offensive or defensive side as it is, so it’ll be curious to see whether the interim coach can get something extra out of the players. The Buffalos should walk away this weekend with a win after a rough start to their conference schedule.

The Thorns seek revenge in this weekend's NWSL Championship

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The Thorns seek revenge in this weekend's NWSL Championship

By JOHN STUPAK
The Portland Thorns are playing for the NWSL Championship tomorrow.

For the first time since 2013, the Thorns will be playing for all the marbles against this year’s regular season Shield winners, the North Carolina Courage.

Portland dispatched the Orlando Pride on October 7, 4-1, to move on to the final test of the season in what has been a four-year mission to get back to the mountain top.

The Thorns will be facing a team that, minus the name, is almost exactly the same team that ousted Portland in last year’s playoffs. The North Carolina Courage were the Western New York Flash in 2016 before changing ownership and location.

It was Lynn Williams who broke Portland’s heart last year, scoring two goals in overtime that ousted the Thorns. The Flash eventually won the title and now seek to become repeat champions.

Williams will back on the field for the Courage and the Thorns will have to find some way to contain her, not an easy task given how explosive a scorer she has proven to be. Portland, however, has a top-notch defense behind defender Meghan Klingenberg and goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

The Thorns should have every body and weapon available to them, sporting one of the deepest teams in the league. During last week’s semi-final game, Allie Long, Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Nadia Nadim all came off the bench for Portland, something that would seem unfathomable for other teams in a playoff game, given the kind of talent those players possess.

The key to victory for the Thorns is to get out to a solid start and jump ahead. The Thorns are at their best when they are aggressive and smell blood. However, they have been known for the occasional slow starts and lapses in play that have cost them victories in the past. If Portland jumps ahead early and keeps the pressure on, it will be awfully difficult for the Courage to counter an equal attack.

The Thorns couldn’t have asked for a better matchup to wipe away the disappointment of last October. What better way to exercise the ghosts of 2016 than to cast out the very demons responsible for haunting you since the end of last year.

On a more downbeat note, this will also be the last game for both Nadia Nadim and Amandine Henry, both of whom will be playing in Europe next year. What a fitting farewell a NWSL title would be for those two players who have played like champions during their time in Portland.

So get out your Thorns scarves, your good luck charms, and all the good vibes you can send towards Orlando. Take a break from all the politics and downer news in the world and settle in for what should be a fantastic match on Saturday afternoon. If the Thorns compete at the level they are capable of playing, then expect another championship in Soccer City, USA this weekend.

NWSL Championship Game

Portland Thorns vs. North Carolina Courage
1:30pm on the Lifetime channel.

Winterhawks go 3-0 in three night road trip

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Winterhawks go 3-0 in three night road trip

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For the Portland Winterhawks, who had played just three games in two weeks, it was time to see how they would fare in a three games in three nights road trip. Starting in the northeast corner of Washington, the Hawks would battle the Spokane Chiefs, a team that had started the season surprisingly strong and was leading the division.

It didn’t take long for Spokane to show their muster as just over a minute into the game; Jake McGrew took advantage of errors in the Portland zone to score on Cole Kehler. However, that would be the only puck to get past Kehler and it seemed to ignite the Hawks. Just a minute later, Ty Kolle scored his first of the season to knot the game and keep it that way through the first period. The second period was all Hawks with an early goal by Bronson Sharp and goals by Sklyer McKenzie on the powerplay and Keoni Texeira late in the second, put the Hawks out of reach of a Chiefs comeback. The third period saw much of the same as Ryan Hughes on the powerplay and Cody Glass toward the end of the third, rounded out the scoring.

Cole Kehler stopped 30 of 31 shots as he was named the game’s first star, while Dawson Wetherill went the distance for Spokane stopping 28 of 34 Portland shots. Portland scored on two of five powerplay opportunities while Spokane was unable to convert on its seven chances with the man advantage.

Less than 24 hours later, Portland was at the ShoWare Center with a televised game against the Seattle Thunderbirds. The previous televised game in Portland saw the Hawks dismantle the Thunderbirds and they were hoping for a repeat. Earlier in the week, Turner Ottenbreit learned of his fate with being handed a six game suspension for his hit on Joachim Blichfeld on September 30 in Portland.

The Thunderbirds started the game in similar fashion to the Hawks versus Spokane game with an early goal just over a minute into the first period as Zack Andrusiak snapped a shot over the right shoulder of Shane Farkas to give the Birds an early lead. Midway through the first period, Keoni Texeira evened the game with blast from the point on the powerplay. Just a minute later, Skyler McKenzie put the Hawks in the lead and late in the period, Ryan Hughes added another Portland marker to put the Hawks up by two.

Early in the second period, Henri Jokiharju notched his first of the year, but was replied back by Sami Moilanen for Seattle to keep the Thunderbirds close. Less than sixteen seconds later, Jake Gricius scored his first of the year followed by Jokiharu’s second of the night, spelling the end of Seattle’s starting goaltender Matt Berlin. With Liam Hughes taking over net duties, Portland swarmed the Seattle zone time and time again and finally broke down the wall with Skyler McKenzie grabbing his fifth of the year. Seattle’s Matthew Wedman would add a late goal in the second period to make it a five goal game.

The third period saw Ty Kolle and Cody Glass score early before Sami Moilanen scored his second of the game. Mason Mannek, who made the Hawks roster this season for the first time, scored his first goal of the season to put the Hawks into double digits. Late in the game, Blake Barger scored for Seattle to make it just a five goal game.

Portland outshot Seattle 39-28 and went 1 for 2 on the powerplay. Seattle went 2 for 3 on the powerplay and, with the loss, dropped to the bottom of the US Division while Portland moved to the top.

Up next was a return date with the Spokane Chiefs, a team they will play twice at home in just three days. The Sunday afternoon matchup saw the Hawks take the lead just over five minutes into the game with Skyler McKenzie notching his sixth goal of the season. Just over a minute later it was Keoni Texeira with his fourth of the season to put the Hawks up by two.

Spokane made the board with Riley Woods scoring his fourth goal of the year, but the Hawks held the strong advantage in shots on goal. The second period was all Hawks as they scored four goals in ten minutes to put the game out of reach. Conor MacEachern, Mckenzie with one on the powerplay and a pair by Ryan Hughes including a short-handed goal which came as a result of a five minute powerplay to the Chiefs, were all the Hawks needed and then some. Donovan Buskey, who started the game for the Chiefs, was replaced by Dawson Weatherill who promptly gave up the short-handed goal to Hughes. The lengthy powerplay to the Chiefs came as a result of a cross check major to Brendan DeJong who will learn of any additional penalty on Monday. The Chiefs player was able to skate off on his own which may reduce DeJong’s time off. In the third, Henri Jokiharju put the Hawks up by six, before Spokane’s Eli Zummack completed the scoring to make it Portland 7 Spokane 2. The Winterhawks outshot the Chiefs 33 to 23 and blanked the Chiefs on six powerplay chances including the major, while Portland took one goal on three opportunities on the powerplay.

The same two teams will walk across the concourse to the Memorial Coliseum on Tuesday to play again and it will be interesting to see if the Hawks, who have now outscored their opponents 23- 8 in three games, will be as lucky in as many tries against Spokane. With the win, Portland took over sole possession of first place in the US Division and a tie for third overall in the Western Hockey League standings

The Western Hockey League made some announcements this past week with the Board of Governors accepting the sale of the Seattle Thunderbirds to Dan and Lindsey Leckett, who co-own an HVAC and data center equipment manufacturing company in Edmonton, Alberta and satellite offices in Phoenix, Virginia, Seattle and Dublin, Ireland. The Lecketts also have stakes in two Alberta based hockey clubs. As per the agreement, General Manager Russ Farwell and President Colin Campbell will stay on with the Seattle Thunderbirds.

The WHL also announced that it was aligning its schedule with that of the OHL and QMJHL in running a 68 game regular season. Curerntly the WHL runs a 72 game season and that will hold for this year. Two home games and two road games will be removed, most likely in games versus divisional opponents and offer a better balanced schedule.

Slow Starts Are The Norm For 2017 Seattle Seahawks

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Slow Starts Are The Norm For 2017 Seattle Seahawks

By Julian Rogers

That won’t get it done against the NFL’s highest scoring offense in week 5

Slow start #4? No worries. The Seattle Seahawks limped to a 10–15 halftime deficit at home against the Indianapolis Colts, then exploded for 36 second-half points in an eventual route on Sunday night. Problem solved. Ship righted. Right?

Slow start #3? Some worries. The Seahawks managed only seven first-half points at the Tennessee Titans (week three) and ended up losing 33–27 in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicated.

Slow start #2? Yes, worries. The Seahawks, in their second outing and first home game, managed only six first-half points against the (still) winless San Francisco 49ers. They amassed 12 points on four field goals to get their first win of the season.

Slow start #1? Serious worries. The Seahawks could only muster three first-half points in a week one loss (9–17) at Green Bay. They did not score their first offensive touchdown until the second quarter of week three at the Titans.

Getting better

At least the trend is going up (ish) for the Seattle Seahawks. After only three first-half points against the Packers, they got six points in week two, seven in week three and cracked double digits in week four. At that pace, they’ll get maybe 12 first-half points against the Los Angeles Rams.

Anyone feeling good about Seattle’s chances if this trend continues?

You might feel good about it, depending on whether or not the Seahawks can convince the Rams to start the game in the third quarter. Since that seems unlikely, the blue birds need to find a way to get their offensive engine jump-started earlier in the contest. Since the Sean McVay-led Rams of 2017 are averaging a league-best 35.5 points per game, the Seahawks must counter with nine points or more per quarter to keep pace.

This is the very definition of a tall task. In their 16 quarters of play, the 2017 Seahawks have scored nine or more points in a quarter three times; two of which were in Q3 and Q4 against the Colts. The 12s had better hope the latter half Seahawks are the new Seahawks for the rest of the season.

And they might be. There were definite signs of life as the Colts faded from competitiveness in the latter half of the game.

Tomorrow never knows

Time and again, we’ve learned that how a team plays in the first quarter of the season bears little resemblance to how they play in November, December and (hopefully) January. The Seahawks, by dint of their 2–2 record, combined with the 3–1 record of the NFC West Division-leading Rams, are essentially starting the season over, one-quarter of the way in.

The winner of this game will have early (for what it’s worth) control of the division. The Seahawks are right there, and have determined what works — and perhaps more significantly, what doesn’t work — on offense.

We’ve seen what the Seahawks are now: a sketchy passing attack for most of their 2017 possessions. Poor run-blocking that’s getting worse. Russell Wilson running for his life on almost every down. The Seahawks consistently move the ball when they spread defenses out and go up-tempo. The results say: Do more of that.

Despite the two-halvesness nature of the Seahawks’ offense, a quick examination of the team’s offensive statistics does reveal a remarkable symmetry in the Colts game. Three different receivers totaled more than 60 yards in receptions; none as much as 70. In total, eight different receivers caught passes, including four receivers, two running backs and two tight ends. Quarterback Russell Wilson is a master at running Darrell Bevell’s offense and remains willing and able to target any individual based on matchups and opportunities on any given play.

His trustiest target, No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin, was not among the top three receivers in the Colts game, with only 35 receiving yards. No matter. Given favorable field position, thanks to a highly effective defensive performance, Wilson was able to find all of his receiving weapons when he needed to, despite tossing two interceptions (21/26, 295 yards, 2 passing TDs, 1 rushing TD, 2 INTs, 1 safety).

While the Seahawks have churned their way through running backs (as has become their recent custom) due to injury (Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise, Chris Carson) ineffectiveness (Eddie Lacy; all of the others, at times) and inexperience (J.D. McKissic), they may have just found the right combination against the Colts.

Now that Carson is out long-term with a nasty lower leg injury, Eddie Lacy looks to be the current workhorse back, with McKissic providing the occasional big-play spark. Lacy’s most recent stat line: (11 rushes for 52 yards) combined with McKissic’s (4 rushes, 38 yards and 1 reception for a 27-yard touchdown) are a more than solid combination.

They’ll need it to keep pace with the NFL’s second-leading running back (to rookie phenom Kareem Hunt), dual threat Todd Gurley (86 carries, 362 yards [4.2 YPC], 4 TDs and 3 receiving TDs).

What the Seahawks have known about Gurley since his rookie season of 2015 is that he is the whole deal for the Rams offense. So far in 2017, he’s the real deal — and a complement to the blossoming second-year quarterback Jared Goff’s suddenly potent passing attack.

Goff, whose trajectory has spiked upward, has been (I’ll say it) surprisingly aided by the addition of two former Buffalo Bills receivers, Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, and Eastern Washington rookie Cooper Kupp. Not only are the Rams the highest scoring offense, they also own the fifth-ranked passing offense and the 15th-ranked rushing offense. The Seahawks, after the second-half outpouring against the Colts, are 13th and 11th, respectively.

The biggest difference: In Los Angeles, the sexy yards come from Gurley. In Seattle, they come from Wilson.

Good day sunshine

It’s a new day in the NFC West with the Los Angeles Rams leading the division with the league’s highest flying offense. It’s a new opportunity for the Seahawks, who have managed to stay within a game of the Rams while sorting through their offensive slow starts and injury woes. Could this week five matchup be a defining moment in not only the 2017 season, but the course of both franchises going forward?

Regardless of records, recent history tells us that the Seahawks have a hard time against the Rams, whether in Seattle, Los Angeles or St. Louis. The Seahawks are 2–4 against the Rams since the 2014 season. The Seahawks were a playoff team in those years; the Rams were also-rans.

Whoever triumphs on Sunday will own the division now that the preliminary month has concluded. This is no “must win,” but it will be a determinant win — for one franchise.

The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Winterhawks season opener

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The good, the bad, and the ugly of the Winterhawks season opener

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With a full roster to start the season, the Portland Winterhawks elected to sit out Evan Weinger as the fourth overage player as they took on the Everett Silvertips in Everett.

The Good: A six goal second period led by Keifer Bellows with two goals and singles by Cody Glass, Alex Overhardt, Skyler McKenzie, Joachim Blichfeld and Conor MacEachern helped the Hawks blow past the Everett Silvertips 7-4. The Hawks scored four goals in less than six minutes to chase starting goaltender Dorrin Luding from the net. Danton Belluk came into replace Luding and gave up the last two Portland goals of the second period and one in the third period. The Hawks were strong on the penalty kill in knocking off all but one powerplay for Everett. The Hawks were also very strong physically in front of the net as they controlled the shots on goal 30 to 26, most of which came during the second period. As was expected, Keifer Bellows lived up to his reputation coming into Portland with a freshly signed three-year entry level deal with the New York Islanders. Others making a big impression on the ice in addition to the goal scorers were Ryan Hughes and Skyler McKenzie who may not be the largest in stature, but add a great deal of heart to this team.

The Bad: A tough first period by the Portland Winterhawks saw them give up the first two goals to Everett by Matt Fonteyne less than five minutes into the game and Reece Vitelli with three minutes left in the period. The Hawks were also outshot in the period and spent almost a third of the period in the penalty box.

The Ugly: A total of ten powerplays to Everett during the game, including several five on three opportunities meant the Hawks were rarely able to skate five skaters for the majority of the game. Portland found themselves with just two powerplays in the game. Portland’s Conor MacEachern took four of the team’s penalties, with Joachim Blichfeld taking two which kept an imbalance of forwards and defense during the game. The squad looked rather disorganized for the first few minutes of the game, but grew to acclimatize to each other as the game progressed. As has been a trademark it appears on Winterhawks teams each season is a very slow start, then finding ways to ramp up and creating opportunities during the game.

The Hawks have an unusual start to the season with just the one game thus far in the first week with a week in between until the next one. That game will be versus the Seattle Thunderbirds on September 30th, emanating from the Moda Center and will be the first of nine televised games between the two teams. The Hawks will then play two games at home, have a five-day break and then play three games in three nights, two on the road and one at home with a day off until their next game. In what has become the norm in the quirky schedule each season, Portland will play the same team four times in a span of a week. The Kelowna Rockets will be in town mid-October before heading up to Kelowna the next weekend.

The Winterhawks will host their first player appearance of the season at the Aloha Papa Johns on Tuesday with four players demonstrating their pizza making skills and delivering a pizza party to a lucky family. The event will run from 4:30 to 6pm.

Ice Chips: The Winterhawks unveiled their full promotional schedule for the season, which includes a beer tasting event October 14, the annual toy drive on December 3, ladies can shoot for a ham postgame December 8, and the annual Teddy Bear Toss on December 9. Single game tickets have just been released for public sale.

Hard times ahead for Beaver fans

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© James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Hard times ahead for Beaver fans

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After seeing the strong close to the 2016 campaign by the young Oregon State Beavers, I’m sure the fan base had the mindset that they’d be in store for a big year. By that I mean a bowl bid and possibly an upset.

Let’s cut to the chase; it’s not happening.

Gary Andersen is in his third year as the head coach and I’m typically a fan of giving coaches four years, but it may be time to cut bait after this season. They were blown out again by Washington State, sound familiar? To make matters worse, starting quarterback Jake Luton exited Saturday’s game with a thoracic spine fracture. That doesn’t bode well for an offense that isn’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard.

The team simply doesn’t have any fight. On their putrid offense, they rank 93rd in points per game and 100th in yards per game. The running game was thought to be a strength the offense with junior running back Ryan Nall, however, they currently sit at 106th nationally. Ranking 71st isn’t bad when you examine their passing attack. On the contrary, when you take into account that they’re typically playing from behind defenses are playing soft coverages allowing for easy completions and yardage.

There’s not much to enjoy when looking at their defense either. They rank 106th or worse in points, passing, and rushing yards allowed per game. Essentially every major category defensively. If you exclude their game against FCS opponent Portland State, they’ve been outscored by a whooping 94 points! I’m no math major, but that doesn’t sound like a team that’s competing.

They’ll host Washington this upcoming Saturday before heading to the coliseum to face the USC Trojans. Not exactly an ideal schedule for a team that’s struggling. I expect both teams to roll against the Beavers.

Overcoming stress from your NFL Fantasy picks

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© Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Overcoming stress from your NFL Fantasy picks

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This is going to be a fantastic year. Right? You read countless articles. You bought different strategy guides to help you get the right pick, and you watched the NFL network for two hours each night before bed. What did all that get you in the end? A humiliating 1-4 record.

That being said, welcome to the world of NFL Fantasy football.

Maybe it’s not your fault (since all the experts said draft Jimmy Graham). Or maybe it is. After all, no one forced you to pick that player.

Regardless of how you got here, let’s face it – if you’ve only got one or two wins this season, it’s pretty much over for you.

Accepting defeat in any form is never an easy pill to swallow, but losing at fantasy football can put you on a whole different level. In some cases, you lose lots of money, get endlessly tormented by friends and/or co-workers for months, and, perhaps worst of all, dread turning on the TV every Sunday.

Understanding Stress

Sports participation – like the NFL Fantasy – can place a lot of psychological demands on anyone. From youth league to the professional level, athletes like Eddie Lacy are forced to cope with the stress that arises from competing head-on with others in activities that are not only important to the athletes, but to the fans as well.

Before discussing ways of reducing stress when it comes to football fantasy, we need to explore what it means to be stressed. Normally, the term is used in two different, but related ways. First, we use the term to refer to a situation in our lives that places some sort of physical or mental demand on us. Family conflict, work pressure, and sporting events (fantasy football included) are all examples of events to make us say “there’s a lot of stress in my life right now.”

The second way in which we use this term is to refer to our mental, emotional, and behavioral responses to these demanding situations. Tension, or depression are examples of such reactions, as well as upset stomachs and sleepless nights, two of eight signs that stress is affecting your health. This is the type of stress that can cause you to say, “I’m feeling a lot of stress right now.” Who would have thought fantasy football could be so time consuming and stressful?

Coping Mechanisms

Although drafting a solid team is a vital part of championship success, you simply cannot stop there. Remember: this isn’t a Daily Fantasy Sport; this league is a season-long commitment. Moving forward, there are three important moves to make once the season begins in order to improve your rankings and lower your stress level.

Monitoring athletes on the waiver wire and completing beneficial trades are, of course, the most notable ways to capitalize at the expense of your opponents. Lastly, arranging your starting lineup is very important but not as easy as it seems.

  • Waiver Wire

If one of your players sustains season-ending injury, drop him immediately in favor of a healthy player with some potential. Don’t be that person who refuses to drop their star player just because you like seeing their name on your roster.

  • Streaming Defense and Kickers

This is a common one in fantasy football. Depending on which defense and kicker you draft, it might be worth replacing them on a week-to-week basis. If you have a decent defense but there is another one on the waiver wire with a matchup against the worst offense in the league, it can be beneficial to make the switch. If you, however, draft the NFL’s projected number one defense, this strategy does not apply.

  • Trading

Assess your roster. At what positions are you lacking depth? Look at your strongest positions. Then look at your weakest positions. These are important things to keep in mind when moving forward with trade proposals. Be patient with your star players. Don’t try to trade one of your first two draft picks early in the season, especially when you are offering them a discount price. Normally, top players will return to form if they struggle through the first few games. Lastly, don’t be that person who proposes a bunch of unfair trades. You simply cannot get a superstar for nothing.

In the end, although fantasy football can be extremely tiresome and stressful, it’s meant to be a fun activity for family, friends, and co-workers. If you’re feeling overwhelmed from the heat others are giving you, step away from the competition. No activity that’s meant to be fun should be that traumatic.

Winterhawks flying high in preseason, changes in roster both on and off the ice

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Winterhawks flying high in preseason, changes in roster both on and off the ice

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With 11 players either drafted by NHL teams or invited to NHL Training Camps, the Portland Winterhawks certainly have the largest contingent representing the Western Hockey League. Forwards Ryan Hughes and Alex Overhardt head to the Nashville Predators, defenseman Henri Jokiharju will head to the Chicago Blackhawks, forward Skyler McKenzie and goaltender Cole Kehler will take in Winnipeg Jets camp, forward Joachim Blichfeld heads down I-5 to San Jose to be with the Sharks, forward Evan Weinger will take part in the Los Angeles Kings camp, defenseman Brendan DeJong will attend Carolina Hurricanes camp, forward Kiefer Bellows will attend NY Islanders camp, and the newest addition to the NHL, the Las Vegas Golden Knights, will introduce their sixth overall draft pick, forward Cody Glass, along with defenseman Keoni Texeira.

The Hawks, meanwhile, will be hard at work trying to assess who will remain on their roster when they start the regular season in just over two weeks. Among the decisions will be the glut of overage players on their roster. Goaltender Cole Kehler is in a battle for the job with two netminders still on the list – Shane Farkas, whom the team picked up at trade deadline last season, and Evan Fradette, who is just sixteen years of age. Ethan Middendorf, who was off and on the roster last season and spent the majority of the season with the Vancouver, WA Rangers of the Western States Hockey League, has been dropped from the roster altogether, though he is still on the protected list. On the defensive side, Keoni Texeira is the only overage player who is in battles with the defense roster spot and is probably the safest to be on the opening night roster unless the Golden Knights in the NHL sign him to a deal and place him in their farm system.

The forwards situation is the most stressful with Alex Overhardt and Evan Weinger having invites to NHL camps and Colton Veloso, who wasn’t given an invite to a camp, but provided the best reason for being on the roster with a strong Winterhawks camp and preseason tournament games. With teams having to pare down to just three overage players by mid-October, the phones are sure to be buzzing from teams who may be in the market for strong players from the Winterhawks system.

The Hawks, in addition to Ethan Middendorf, removed defenseman Darren Gisti and forward Easton Easterson from the roster which left them with nineteen forwards, ten defensemen and three goaltenders for thirty-two players. The roster will have to undergo close to nine more reductions before the final rosters are set. Teams are only allowed to carry three overage players on their firm roster. Currently, the Winterhawks have five players listed as overage on their roster.

The players that were on the roster, with the exception of Cody Glass who was attending a camp in Toronto, Ontario, took part in the annual “tournaments” in Everett and Kennewick. Portland faced off against Spokane, Tri-City and Everett in the Everett tournament, winning one and losing two in regulation. In Kennewick, they won all three games as they played Spokane, Kootenay and Red Deer. It’s tough to call these games tournaments as teams don’t play round robin games, instead looking to matches that assist their teams to get better assessment of players.

With the Hawks done in preseason games, they will spend the next week making final cuts, looking for homes for players that won’t be on the roster for the time being to keep tabs on their progress and gearing up for their first regular season game on Saturday, September 23 in Everett versus the Silvertips.

Three people left the Winterhawks organization at the end of the season. Kevin Williams, who was in charge of game night operations, was replaced by Yinka Omolayole, who was working with Community Events for the past two seasons. Lesley Dawson, who was in charge of Community Events, was replaced by Leslie Pfau as the new Director of Marketing and Events and Piper Criscola who will manage Public Relations and Community Engagement. Both new additions were long time employees of Entercom Media and bring that experience to the squad.

One question still to be resolved is that of game broadcasts. The latest departure may have more significant impacts to both the team and how it airs games. Todd Vrooman, son of long time broadcaster Dean “Scooter” Vrooman, left the team in July, though it wasn’t announced until just a short time ago. Todd had been the current voice of the Winterhawks for the past six seasons as well as involved heavily in the podcasts and Hawkey Talk, which was a weekly Monday night show on KPAM 860AM, the same home for airing Winterhawks games. Todd had also been involved with Winterhawks programs in schools and other events which took a great deal of what little free time he had left.

Ron Callan, who hosted the Monday night Hawkey Talk, acknowledged that he has not been contacted for resuming the show this season and no mention has been made by the Winterhawks as to a replacement for Vrooman, which could mean that Andy Kemper will handle home game details, but nothing has been announced for away games. The Hawks floated the livestream broadcast via their app on phones before which received mixed reviews and would certainly eliminate those who rely on radio for broadcasts to hear their team on the road.

While nothing has yet been announced, with so little time before the season begins, chances are that the Portland Winterhawks will be the only team in the Western Hockey League without a radio broadcast. Jeremy Imig, who has been instrumental in helping get games on the air with CW 32 the past couple of seasons, may be pressed into action to get broadcasts out on a larger scale. To date, no announcement has been made on televised games this season.

Hockey Season Has Arrived – Portland Winterhawks Open Training Camp

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Dayna Fjord/Portland Winterhawks

Hockey Season Has Arrived – Portland Winterhawks Open Training Camp

For some, the wait has been unbearable, for others, it’s been a nonstop ride. Following the exit in the second round of the Portland Winterhawks, the team went on a searching mission to build back the legacy the team had going for it for nearly six seasons.

Fans will have a chance over the next four days, to see prospects and current players scrimmage in two sets of games in the afternoon through Saturday with a final pair of scrimmages taking place Sunday morning. Due to renovations at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, the event will take place at the Moda Center. Tickets, which are available through www.winterhawks.com are $6 per day in a format known as the Neely Cup. Named for standout Winterhawk and NHL alumni Cam Neely, the teams which are as equally divided as possible will compete against each other for the rights to call them champion. Similar to regular season, teams will be awarded points for a win and the top teams will compete on Sunday for the cup which the last two teams will compete for third overall.

With tremendous recruiting and design, the Hawks took top spot or near top spot from 2010 to 2016 and made many teams cringe when they were the opposition. Developing stars like Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Johansen, Seth Jones and now a new crop which includes Brendan Liepsic, Nic Petan and soon to include Cody Glass with his sixth overall selection in the 2017 NHL draft and Henri Jokiharju picked up 29th overall by Chicago in the first round, show the Hawks are looking to the future.

In the offseason, Assistant Coach Oliver David gained the opportunity to return to Dubuque and take over the head coaching reigns for the Fighting Saints. Recently, the Hawks found an assistant coach whose resume is a mile long of experience. Danny Flynn, who has been involved in coaching in both the OHL and QMJHL for over twenty years, brings championship experience. His teams have appeared in six Memorial Cup tournaments, most recently being last season with the St John SeaDogs of the QMJHL. Adding to this, he has also been an assistant coach with both the New York Islanders and Buffalo Sabres of the NHL and will bring a wealth of knowledge for when current Head Coach, General Manager and Vice President of the Portland Winterhawks Mike Johnston is involved with other team dealings and meetings and needs to assume bench control.

The Winterhawks also returned a familiar face to Portland in recently retired NHL star Paul Gaustad. Paul was named an Assistant Coach in Player Development. His role will be that of working with the forwards on ice and organizing development plans for players on the fifty-man protected list. Paul’s name is associated with the Paul Gaustad Fitness Award, which is given out at the end of the Winterhawks training camp to the player with the highest fitness testing result.

The Hawks look to be in strong shape this season with twenty year old spots (those born in 1997) to be fought for by Alex Overhardt, Colton Veloso, Keoni Texiera and Evan Weinger. The maximum allowed per team is three to be firmed up by mid-October. Goaltender Cole Kehler, who was also born in 1997, is classified as a “late birthday”, meaning that he is listed as nineteen years of age at the start of the season and will turn twenty during the season in this case, December 2017. A player can continue in the CHL until the year they turn 21, which would be next season during the season for Kehler,

Shane Farkas, who came to the team during the trade deadline and appeared in several games, looks to be in solidly for a spot which means that Ethan Middendorf, who spent the majority of his season with the Vancouver Rangers of the Western States Hockey League, will be hard pressed to crack the lineup. The Rangers, who operated out of Mountain View Ice Arena last season, merged with the West Sound Warriors in Bremerton, Washington to play there this coming season.

Players who have departed the team from last year due to age are Keegan Iverson, who signed a pro deal with the Ontario Reign which are affiliated with the Los Angeles Kings, Matt Revel and Shaun Dosanjh, who came to the Hawks at trade deadline and look to be headed to University hockey. Caleb Jones, who was drafted and signed by the Edmonton Oilers, will most likely report to their AHL farm team this year which leaves the Hawks in great shape this year, having lost the fewest impact players.

Following the completion of the Neely Cup, there will be a free event for the public as the Toyota Fan Fest brings the players, fun activities and more to the promenade of the Rose Quarter starting at noon on Sunday. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club will also be in attendance promoting upcoming trips, membership and more.

While the Winterhawks can claim to be in solid position for the upcoming season, the same cannot be said for teams up north. Both the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips are losing some key players in their lineup, and in the case of the Thunderbirds, their coach as well. Former Portland Winterhawk star Steve Konowalchuk, who came to the Thunderbirds as their head coach, has taken an assignment as an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks.

In other US Division news, the Spokane Chiefs added an assistant coach as well when former Portland Winterhawk Adam Deadmarsh signed on with the team. Deadmarsh, who was forced to retire early due to concussion issues in the 2011-12 season, will bolster a Chiefs bench and add credibility with the departure last year of long time general manager Tim Speltz.

The Tri-City Americans seem to be relatively solid for this season, but also suffered some loses of key players in the offseason.

Many are predicting the Hawks to be atop the US Division standings with Seattle having the toughest time making the playoffs as they rebuild. Spokane may be a tougher challenge this season, but they are a relative unknown in consistency and Everett and Tri-City may be the ones battling for that last playoff spot.

Following training camps, teams will start to play in “tournament games” to test lines, players and get a feel for gelling a team. The teams will do this for the next two weeks with regular season games starting in the third week of September. Portland will show off its team at home for the first time on September 30 versus Seattle.

Ice Chips: While no firm venues have been announced, the team has made some changes to its start times. Saturday games at home will now start at 6pm to avoid any conflict with Trail Blazers games and other potential later start events at the Moda Center. A schedule change in January with a game originally set as Monday, January 22 versus Brandon Wheat Kings, will now be played on Sunday, January 21. Currently, no game is listed or appears to be available with the very popular Daylight Game.

Week 1: Seahawks vs. Packers - Where each team is weak

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Week 1: Seahawks vs. Packers - Where each team is weak

BY 

Tackling running backs and running over tackles

If you’ve ever wondered which circumstance is worse for your football team — no viable offensive tackles or no viable running game — the definitive answer will reveal itself on Sept. 10, 2017 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. These two potentially fatal weaknesses will be on full display when the Green Bay Packers host the Seattle Seahawks in NFL regular season week one.

The answer to this question may well decide the game. To make it interesting, the two old foes have split this weakness evenly with the Seahawks fielding a duct-taped lineup of underwhelming tackles and the Packers offering a doesn’t-matter-could-be-anyone lineup of ball carriers. Both opposing defenses are licking their chops at the prospect of taking full advantage of these glaring weaknesses.

On the left

George Fant was considered to be a rising talent at the long-suffering left tackle slot this season for the Seahawks. Whether or not it was actually true is now a moot point as the Fant experiment ended early in the Seahawks’ preseason week two exhibition against the Minnesota Vikings. Fant tore his ACL in an unfortunate friendly fire collision and is now lost for the season. Enter Rees Odhiambo, who took over for Fant for the rest of the game. As of now, the 2016 third-round pick appears to be the putative leader at that spot, where he had practiced some while also splitting time at guard (as the clear backup to newcomer Luke Joeckel).

When the answer to “who’s our left tackle?” is “next man up,” shortly on the heels of “let’s try this guy who never played tackle in college,” you know it’s less than ideal. Odhiambo will have to fend off the Seahawks’ two new panic Monday acquisitions, Matt Tobin, who was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday and street free agent Tyrus Thompson. Joeckel is also a possibility, but the Seahawks would prefer he stay at guard.

Offensive line coach Tom Cable was his usual effusive self in his assessment of the blue birds’ chances at fielding a respectable left tackle, “We have choices.” Coincidentally, Russell Wilson will also have choices: sprint wide left or wide right on every drop-back.

On the right

At the other end, the news may not be much better. Last year’s first-round selection, Germain Ifedi, has been moved from 2016’s position (guard) to right tackle. The job is his to lose and he may just do it. In his first 2017 preseason action, Ifedi allowed three pressures in 13 snaps. In week two, my impression of Ifedi was that he was doing an effective impression of a turnstile. Some say he improved over preseason week one, but I still counted two quarterback hits in about one half of action.

Theoretically pushing Ifedi at right tackle is 2017 second-round pick, Ethan Pocic. Pocic is also splitting time at guard (like Ifedi did in his rookie season) but he is built like a tackle (6’6”, 309 lbs.) and will ultimately sink or swim at the outside position. Against lesser competitors than Ifedi has had to go against so far in his two preseason games, Pocic appears to have a long way to go. He comically missed a second-level block against the Los Angeles Chargers’ backups in preseason week one. He got called for a hold in week two against the Vikings backups.

I think Russell Wilson is in trouble.

No rush

Also in trouble, the Green Bay Packers’ rushing game. Despite anointing surprise 2016 lead rusher Ty Montgomery as the starter and then drafting three rookie running backs in April, the Packers have yet to demonstrate any kind of impact from the position thus far into the preseason. Nobody is making the Packers forget Eddie Lacy.

Montgomery, the third-year converted wide receiver, is making his way through his first NFL preseason as a running back and has yet to demonstrate any of the sizzle that saw him gain 457 yards on 77 carries (5.9 YPC) in a partial 2016 campaign. To date, he’s had a total of three carries for zero yards, a lost fumble and a lower leg injury that held him out of the week two preseason contest in Washington D.C.

In his stead have been a litany of rookie running backs (three draftees, two free agents) who have yet to impress. Combined, the backs have received 31 carries for 74 yards, averaging a scant 2.38 yards per carry. It’s as if George Fant is carrying the ball for the Packers. Post-ACL injury.

The Packers’ running back culprits that will line up against the Seahawks in week one will consist of Montgomery and probably no more than two of the following five rookies: Jamaal Williams, BYU (round 4), Aaron Jones, UTEP (round 5), Devante Mays, Utah State (round 7), Kalif Phillips, Charlotte (FA) and William Stanback Virginia Union (FA) one or two fullbacks (Aaron Ripkowski, Joe Kerridge) who do not do anything other than pass protect and lead block.

Who of those two rookies will make it? Impossible to tell at this point and even more importantly—it hardly makes a difference. None have shown any ability to get more than what has been blocked for them. There is no rookie-vintage Thomas Rawls in the group.

The good news / bad news for Green Bay is that Aaron Rodgers and his deep, talented receiver corps remains the entirety of the Packers’ offense. They even imported two new free agent tight ends (Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks) to diversify the pass dispersals. The Packers will once again rely upon an aerial attack to move the ball and score. It’s worked in the past. It’s just never been the only option before. The Packers running backs will likely be judged more on their ability to pass protect and know assignments more than their rushing ability.

There will be two Achilles’ heels ready to snap in week one. The Seahawks’ and the Packers’ defenses could not be more pleased.

The Seahawks lost at Green Bay 10–38 in the last meeting between these two teams in 2016 week 14. Both teams were eliminated from the playoffs by the NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.