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

winterhawks-1-615x336.jpg

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

by 

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.

Portland Winterhawks Ground Rockets In Weekend Action

winterhawks-1-615x336.jpg

Portland Winterhawks Ground Rockets In Weekend Action

BY 

This past week, the Portland Winterhawks jumped up a spot to fifth in the CHL rankings and Cole Kehler, coming off a Goaltender of the Week nod by the league, was looking to stymie the Kelowna Rockets with back to back games in Portland. For the Rockets, it was also a chance to jump up in the CHL rankings where they had been an honorable mention and the matchup looked to be as good as anything on paper.

Returning to the lineup after a several game absence for Portland was Joachim Blichfeld, who had been out with a concussion. The Hawks also learned that Ryan Hughes would be out indefinitely from the collision against Spokane in what we first thought might have been a concussion, but in fact was much further south in the body to the tune of a broken ankle. Hughes had surgery on Wednesday and could be out into the new year. Rykr Cole, who initiated the hit, was suspended three games. With the news, the Hawks looked to prove they were more than just a one-line team.

Joachim Blichfeld showed no rust in his return as he scored Portland’s first goal while on the powerplay just over seven minutes into the game. Kieffer Bellows on the powerplay and Henri Jokiharju just over a minute after Bellows goal gave the Hawks a 3-0 lead after the first period. The Hawks ran into penalty trouble in the second period as Keoni Texeira took a major penalty and game misconduct for check to the head and seconds later, Carsen Twarynski put the Rockets on the board. The Hawks would give up goals late in the second and early in the third period to tie the game. Three minutes later, Brad Ginnell scored to put the Hawks ahead. With just over four minutes left in the game, Twarynski netted his second of the game to send the contest into overtime. It was almost the blink of an eye, 24 seconds to be exact, before Skyler McKenzie potted the winner to give the Winterhawks a 4-3 final in overtime.

Portland went three of four on the powerplay while limiting Kelowna to just one goal on four opportunities. Portland outshot Kelowna 39 to 21.

The next night, Portland learned that Texeira was assessed a two game suspension, which pulled him from the lineup and allowed rookie Nick Cicek the chance to play his first WHL game of the season. Shane Farkas also made a return to the net, his first appearance since allowing five goals in the Hawks 10-5 win over Seattle in Kent, Washington the week prior.

The Hawks close brush with a loss the previous evening seemed to fire their engines as they scored three goals in the first 16 minutes of the game. Mason Mannek, Kieffer Bellows and Jake Gricius put the Rockets on the defensive as they doubled the shots on the Rockets starting goaltender Brodan Salmond versus those on Farkas and the Rockets elected to make a change at the start of the second period. James Porter relieved Salmond in the Rockets net and the Hawks once again found themselves in penalty trouble. Twice during the period, the Hawks gave the Rockets a two-man advantage of which the Rockets cashed in on one time. However, it was the Hawks would score three during the period with Bellows notching his second of the game and Skyler McKenzie picking up a pair to put the home squad ahead 6-1. Goals in the third period by Illijah Colina on the powerplay and Joachim Blichfeld made it 8-1. The Rockets Kyle Topping would squeeze a late goal past Shane Farkas on the powerplay, but the game was never in question as the Hawks skated away with an 8-2 drubbing of the Rockets. The shots on goal favored the Rockets 35-32, due to the two-man advantage powerplay chances the Rockets had. Portland went 3 for 6 on the powerplay with the Rockets scoring their two goals on eight opportunities.

The quirky schedule continues with the Rockets and Hawks meeting again this coming week, this time in Kelowna which will end their season series in the regular season. The Hawks will then look at two more games in the month of October, a once a season meeting with the very strong Eastern Division Moose Jaw Warriors and a battle with the Everett Silvertips.

Portland should improve in the CHL rankings this coming week after their performance and moving to within a point of the overall lead in the Western Hockey League.

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks players will fan out to 12 Portland Metro and Southwest Washington Toyota dealerships on Saturday, October 28 from 12-2pm and will also appear at Les Schwab locations in Beaverton and Portland on November 7 from 4:30 to 6pm.

Winterhawks go 3-0 in three night road trip

winterhawks-1-615x336.jpg

Winterhawks go 3-0 in three night road trip

By 

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.

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

winterhawks-1-615x336.jpg

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

by 

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

blichfeld-joachim-kel-daynafjord.jpg
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.

Portland Winterhawks making the news in the offseason

whawks.jpg
Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks making the news in the offseason

By 

With the loss in the second round of the 2017 WHL playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks went to work and have been keeping busy during the offseason. The Hawks saw overage captain from this past season, Keegan Iverson, sign an amateur tryout with the AHL Ontario Reign. The Reign, which is the farm team for the Los Angeles Kings, were impressed enough with Iverson to sign him to a regular contract for the 2017-18 season. The Hawks also saw assistant coach Oliver David, who had signed with the Hawks this past season from the Dubuque Fighting Saints where he was their assistant coach, make a deal with the Saints to return there, this time as their head coach.

The Hawks also saw a departure in the front office with Community Events Coordinator Lesley Dawson leaving the team after several successful seasons with the team. Coming in is Lesley Pfau, who is the current Director of Marketing for the Winterhawks as she takes on a larger portfolio.

The season for the Canadian Hockey League ended with the Memorial Cup. The Seattle Thunderbirds, who ended up winning the WHL Championship, had a very rough outing in the cup tournament, losing three straight games, with two being blowouts to end their season. The host team Windsor Spitfires ended up winning the Cup and once again bringing up concerns on how the cup favors host teams especially those which bow out early in the playoffs. Most would agree that the real trophy is their home league championship and that the Memorial Cup is more to be considered akin to an All-Star Game where the skill players play and those teams playing in it have loaded their teams with older players. Those teams which will dismantle the team the following year with so many overage players, lead into the “cycling system” with the team needing a couple of years to redevelop. The Portland Winterhawks have been the anomaly since 2011, with their teams not only situating well in the playoff race, but also competing close to the championship and an appearance in the Memorial Cup Tournament. The exception was the 2015-16 team which was swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Due to their strength in developing players, the Hawks have been courting those in university hockey and potential draft eligible players and landing a few. Recently, Kieffer Bellows left Boston University for the Hawks as a 19-year-old. Bellows, son of NHL great Brian Bellows, was drafted by the New York Islanders last year and the move is to strongly develop his stock. There may be others coming especially with the most recent NHL draft.

First off, four players from the current roster were picked by NHL teams. Cody Glass, projected to be a high first round selection, was selected by the new expansion team Las Vegas Golden Knights as the sixth overall selection. Later on in the first round, Henri Jokiharju who was looked at as a late first round selection by pundits, was selected at spot 29 by the Chicago Blackhawks, who had traded down the draft to get him. The sixth-round saw Brendan DeJong get called by the Columbus Blue Jackets at spot 166 and the Winnipeg Jets finished the Hawks selections with pick 198 and Skyler McKenzie.

The draft also saw a few players who were drafted in the CHL draft in previous years by the Winterhawks get drafted by NHL teams this year. Ryan Poehling (18) a Winterhawks list player, drafted by Montreal and Jake Oettinger (19) by Dallas in the first round and by the Winterhawks in the ninth round of the 2013 CHL draft have possibilities of being talked to about looking into the Winterhawks organization by their draft teams, Scott Reedy was picked by San Jose in the fourth round and Cole Guttman by Tampa Bay in the sixth round. Both Reedy and Guttman who are eighteen, have committed to their Universities for the coming season, Poeling and Oettinger ended their freshman years this season. It could be an interesting camp for the Hawks this season.

The NHL schedule has been released, meaning the WHL schedule isn’t far behind. Originally thought to be mid-June, the timeline looks to be within the next week. Teams have already leaked some details with season openers starting September 23 and 24. The preseason schedule has been released and the Hawks will once again play in the Everett Holiday Classic and the Tri-City tournament which start Labor Day weekend and conclude the following weekend. The Hawks have not announced any preseason games in Portland and have yet to announce the training camp location and dates, though a safe bet would be August 24 through 27 and with the success of last year’s run at the Memorial Coliseum, it’s a likelihood that this will continue. Space concerns at the Winterhawks skating center as well as safety issues with so many people wanting to go led the Hawks to moving the event to the Coliseum.

With the nice weather happening now, it must mean it’s time for the annual Winterhawks Golf Tournament. Monday, July 24 at The Reserve in Aloha will be the site of the one day charity fundraiser. Shotgun begins at 1:30 with check in one hour earlier.

Rates include a cart, on course refreshments and a dinner where Winterhawks GM/ Coach Mike Johnston will speak about the team and the charity which is the Knight Cancer Institute at OHSU. Contact Kyle Gustafson kyleg@winterhawks.com or Paul Doherty (503) 899-7203 or email hawksgolf@winterhawks.com for more information on this always highly anticipated event.

WINTERHAWKS SIGN FIRST ROUND NHL PICK KIEFFER BELLOWS

WINTERHAWKS SIGN FIRST ROUND NHL PICK KIEFFER BELLOWS

The Portland Winterhawks have announced the signing of 2016 New York Islanders first round NHL Draft Selection Kieffer Bellows.

The Winterhawks initially selected Bellows in the seventh round of the 2013 WHL Bantam Draft. Bellows, from Edina, Minnesota, was selected 19th overall in the 2016 NHL Draft by the New York Islanders after winning titles at nearly every level.

First, he led Edina High School to a state title in his home state of Minnesota, picking up 27 points in 25 regular season games, and seven points in five playoff contests. He then won the 2015 Clark Cup in the USHL as a member of the Sioux Falls Stampede, where he scored 33 goals as a 16-year-old rookie, and added 9 goals in 12 playoff games. After winning the title in Sioux Falls, Bellows joined the United States Development team, where he fired home 66 goals in 85 games in his draft season, drawing attention from the New York Islanders.

Following his first-round selection, Bellows played last season in the NCAA with Boston University. During the season, Bellows was selected as a member of the United States’ World Junior team. He recorded two goals in the gold medal game against Canada, helping propel the United States to their first Gold Medal since 2013.

“We’re very fortunate that Kieffer has chosen to come to the Winterhawks this season,” said Winterhawks Vice President, General Manager and Head Coach Mike Johnston in a press conference Tuesday. “He has an impressive resume as a player, but also is learning how to win. Kieffer has a good scoring touch, and comes from great bloodlines with the NHL experience of his father, Brian Bellows, who won both a Stanley Cup and a Memorial Cup.”

“I’m very honored and privileged to be a part of this organization,” said Bellows Tuesday. “I can’t thank my mom and dad enough for helping me get to this point in my life. I’m very excited to help this team as much as I can.”

Bellows comes to the Canadian Hockey League, following in the footsteps of his father, Brian. Brian was a member of the 1982 Memorial Cup Champion Kitchener Rangers, where he put up a massive 97 points in just 47 regular season games. He was then selected 2nd overall in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft by the Minnesota North Stars, and would go on to a lengthy and successful NHL Career, notching 1,022 points in 1,188 career NHL Games. Bellows won the Stanley Cup in 1993 with the Montreal Canadiens, was selected to participate in three all-star games, and was named a second-team NHL all-star following the 1989-90 season.

A Guide To The Portland Winterhawks 2017 Bantam Draft

portland_winterhawks.jpg

A Guide To The Portland Winterhawks 2017 Bantam Draft

After a season filled with ups and downs, the Portland Winterhawks are looking into the promising future after an eventful 2017 Bantam Draft. Hundreds of prospects from all over Canada and the western United States hoped to make the protected list of 50 players for each WHL team, with an invite to development camps and the August training camp attended by all active players. For the first time in several years the Hawks were finally able to select a first round pick, and the rest of the team’s new prospects make up a wide variety of skills that will come in handy when they become eligible.

According to interviews leading up to the draft, Vice President/General Manager/Head Coach Mike Johnston is focused on building a roster focused on the main deficiencies Portland had this year: speed and puck handling. The 2016-2017 Hawks had a very solid offense with a strong emphasis on patient and strategic positioning; the real problem was carrying the puck through the neutral zone and pulling off the passes that enable such a playbook.

This is the last Bantam Draft to include the sanction punishments on the Winterhawks from the ruling in 2013, and though their first round pick has been forfeit every year, the organization has been able to trade for draft picks as normal. Cody Glass was the last player selected in the first round by the Winterhawks. That was in 2014, and the pick was acquired in a trade with the Calgary Hitmen.

For 2017, Portland used the first round to select Winnipeg native Seth Jarvis. The 15 year old forward nabbed 66 points this last season, and hopefully will inject some energy into the breakaway sprints that the team has needed to stay afloat in the rankings.

For the third round, the Hawks picked Ryan Helliwell from Vancouver, British Columbia at 55th over erall. The defenseman had an impressive 74 points during his last season, a real two-way player. The fourth round pick for the Winterhawks seemed to echo this ideal: Cross Hanas of Dallas, Texas is a nimble forward with an impressive backcheck and an ability to cut across the ice fast in times of need.

The fifth round pick was for a goalie, Dante Giannuzzi, which may be a very sound investment. A 90.9% save percentage and three shutouts is a great start for someone to likely be backing up Shane Farkas in a few seasons. To balance out that defense choice, the sixth round pick for Portland was another forward from Manitoba, Tyson Kozak, who posted 57 points (28 goals and 29 assists, extremely balanced play for a center) in only 36 games this last season.

The seventh round saw an uptick in offensive ranks, with forwards Robbie Fromm-Delorme from Richmond, BC and Aidan Thompson of Fort Collins, Colorado both selected. It was after the eighth round, wherein the Hawks acquired defenseman Ethan Edwards of St. Albert, Alberta, that a few trades took place. The Winterhawks picked up a ninth round pick from the Lethbridge Hurricanes–defenseman Trey Taylor–and a tenth round pick from the Spokane Chiefs, personified as forward Ethan Leyer.

Portland finished out the draft with three young forwards from the States, with Fargo native Tyler Kleven in the tenth round, and both Chase Yoder and Jackson Nieuwendyk in the eleventh.

Now, the obvious congratulations are in order for these young men, who are all taking their first steps into a larger world and one closer to careers in pro hockey. But what does this mean for the Portland Winterhawks? Well, very little in the short term. Most of these players are 14 or 15, and won’t be eligible for WHL play for a season or two. But there is a lot of raw talent acquired at once here. The rebuilding year (or years) eventually must yield some results, and it is reassuring that Coach Johnston and his very dedicated scouts are playing the long game.

The Kelowna Rockets stymie the Portland Winterhawks

hawks1234.jpg
Portland Winterhawks

The Kelowna Rockets stymie the Portland Winterhawks

BY 

The second round of the WHL playoffs has proven to be a perilous one for the Portland Winterhawks. The Kelowna Rockets have solidified their lead to 3-1 with a severely stinging victory in Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Amid lots of physical animosity on the ice, the Rockets proved Wednesday night that they may be the most intimidating team from the BC Division without sacrificing their puck handling and passing finesse.

The 7-2 score tells the story, too. Kelowna’s goals were spread out from the first two minutes of the game to the last two minutes, and from five different players. By contrast, both of Portland’s goals didn’t come until halfway through the third period.

Though the stats don’t look like it, Portland goalie Cole Kehler has actually been quite solid with the wrist shots coming at him on the ice, but the shots to the crossbar have been escaping and scoring over his shoulders consistently all week. It could be slow hands, or it could be just a case of too many shots on goal for one man to take. Either way, Kehler was relieved by Shane Farkas for the third period, and the Rockets persisted in scoring one more for good measure.

The real cause of death for the Hawks was the ludicrous 16 penalties adding up to 64 PIM, including one on a Kelowna breakaway that gave Nick Merkley a penalty shot that eluded Kehler. That goal, along with Portland fans’ skeptical response to the call, was the emotional rock bottom of the night. As if that weren’t enough, penalties from the previous game–and from both teams–continued to haunt Portland.

Game 3 saw the Winterhawks lose two of their highest scoring forwards, Evan Weinger and Alex Overhardt, to suspensions. Meanwhile, Skyler McKenzie was injured. That’s a sizeable chunk of the Portland offense right there, and all three were off the ice for Game 4 when offensive intensity was needed most. The suspensions were the result of what the WHL calls “supplemental discipline,” in which the opposing team submits a video clip of an incident after the game is over, looking for reparation. This is typically reserved for situations that resulted in injuries. League official Richard Doerksen reviewed Weinger and Overhardt’s actions, in which Erik Gardiner and Braydyn Chizen of the Rockets were both injured, and doled out the punishments hours before Game 4 started. Weinger was assessed two minutes for cross-checking initially, while Overhardt had no penalty called.

The same process was used for Kelowna’s Cal Foote when he elbowed McKenzie in the head and gave him a concussion that same night. As of Thursday night, Foote’s suspension has been finalized as three games, likely sitting him out for the rest of the series. Weinger got two games, so he will also be missing from Game 5. Overhardt got one game and so is now eligible again.

Doerksen was called upon again after Game 4 concluded, with Carson Twarynski checking Portland team captain Keegan Iverson from behind late in the third. The hit started some post-whistle shoving matches, and Twarynski was assessed a five-minute major on the spot, including game misconduct. After review, he was also slapped with a suspension that is still listed as “TBD” for length of his sentence. As Iverson was not injured, it’s possible Twarynski could get a more lenient punishment.

There’s something to be said about the lack of self control on the part of players in this series, but more obvious is the lack of control referees have had over the games. Fans can point fingers for the entire off-season if it makes them feel better, but the bottom line going into a desperate situation for Game 5 is that the Winterhawks are at a further disadvantage, and they have seemed outmatched all week in general. Forcing a Game 6 is necessary for Portland to stay on the bracket, and the three-game streak that vanquished the Prince George Cougars proved that the Hawks are capable of great things when their backs are against the wall. But can lightning strike twice for this team amid this depletion of the ranks? We will find out tonight in the VMC.

Portland Winterhawks fail to get off launchpad versus Rockets

hawks.jpg
Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks fail to get off launchpad versus Rockets

BY 

As the rounds go deeper, so does the competition and the Portland Winterhawks found that out as they faced the Kelowna Rockets in the first two games of the series in Kelowna. The Rockets had previously dispatched the Kamloops Blazers in six games, despite stellar goaltending in the Blazers net. The Winterhawks, coming off an impressive upset series win over the Prince George Cougars, knew that they had some retribution owed to the Rockets who took the regular season series 3-1. The first two periods were scoreless despite the Rockets having a lopsided lead in shots on goal. What shots the Hawks were able to get in those first two games in the first period, were perimeter shots as the Rockets punished the younger smaller Hawk forwards.

It was the second period in both games this past weekend where the Rockets would score. The first game saw the Rockets bang home three goals in a span of just under two minutes and add a fourth late in the period on the powerplay to seemingly walk away with the game. Brad Ginnell and Cody Glass on the powerplay would counter for the Hawks with the only goals of the third period, but could never catch up despite having a powerplay for nearly the last two minutes of the game. The shots on goal of 54-29 showed the Rockets domination in the first two periods as the Hawks could only muster low single digits in the first two periods, but actually owned the shot lead in the third by a 17-11 margin. The powerplay scores were even at one apiece, with four given to Kelowna and five for Portland in game one.

Game two showed the same non-goal first period, but the Hawks had managed to trim the deficit of shots on goal to just three in the first period. Again the second period seemed to be the unraveling as the Rockets scored twice, with one of those on the powerplay just over two minutes apart, before the midway point of the frame to own a solid two goal lead. The Hawks responded late in the second period with Joachim Blichfeld scoring off a quick Colton Veloso pass to bring the game closer on the scoresheet. It was penalties that hurt the Hawks, giving Kelowna seven powerplays to just three of their own that would hurt the visitors. Though the Hawks gave up just one powerplay goal on those seven chances, losing that much ice time to man advantages made it nearly impossible to counter the Rockets relentless attack.

The third period seemed to appear to be a Hawks turning point as they forced the Rockets back several times to their end, but just having no puck luck. On at least four rushes, the puck would sail just past the crease of Kelowna goaltender Michael Herringer or get close to the line and the Rockets would pile on Hawks players at the side of the net to prevent any further threat. James Hilsendager scored for the Rockets with just over five minutes left to put the Rockets up by two and Nick Merkley added two empty net goals with a Ryan Hughes Portland goal sandwiched in between those to leave the score at 5-2 for Kelowna. The Hawks were closer in shots with a 43-25 deficit, but it was the powerplays at 7-3 for Kelowna that made it a tougher than ever battle.

The two teams now head to Portland with games three and four set for Tuesday and Wednesday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum as the Hawks need to get at least a split for the series to go back to Kelowna on Friday.

The other three series have taken on some interesting tones. With the return of Matthew Barzal to the Seattle Thunderbirds lineup and continued strong goaltending by Carl Stankowski, the Everett Silvertips find themselves in an 0-2 deficit with the series heading to Seattle for the next two games. The close, one goal games, have put the Thunderbirds within reach of the Western Conference final for the second straight year.

In the East, the Regina Pats lost their first playoff game this season in a 3-1 loss to Swift Current Broncos in Regina, but roared back with a 6-2 mashing of the Broncos a night later. The same two teams will square off in Swift Current this week. The Medicine Hat Tigers took the first game against the Lethbridge Hurricanes with a 4-0 shutout, but saw the Canes came back in a seesaw battle. With the game tied at four, the Canes exploded for three goals in the third to take a 7-4 win in Medicine Hat. The teams will resume in Lethbridge on Tuesday.