WHL

Seattle is selling hockey tickets the way Starbucks sells coffee

Seattle is selling hockey tickets the way Starbucks sells coffee

So all of a sudden, Seattle is a hockey town? Seriously?

I must admit, I'm shocked. Deposits for season tickets for a potential NHL expansion team were taken for the first time Thursday at 10 a.m. online and in just 12 minutes 10,000 commitments -- at either $1,000 or $500 -- were recorded.  That crashed the system, but within an hour, it's been said that 25,000 commitments were received.

It took the latest NHL expansion franchise, in Las Vegas, about six weeks to sell 10,000 season tickets. Of course, ultimately the tickets are going to cost a whole lot more than those deposits and refunds will be given to those who aren't serious buyers or who aren't satisifed with ticket locations. And of course, there won't actually be 25,000 season tickets available. The renovated Key Arena won't be that big. To an extent, this was more a test of hockey interest in Seattle than it was an actual ticket sale. And to a greater degree, it was a publicity stunt.

I'm hearing it was done to help the team acquire a list of possible ticket buyers because the expansion team is going to be granted to Seattle as soon as next week. We shall see.

All I know is what I've heard from my friends in and around the NHL -- league commissioner Gary Bettman is nuts about getting a team in Seattle, even though Portland has been a better hockey town than Seattle for only about the last 50 years. You can talk about the professional WHL and the Buckaroos vs. the Totems or the junior WHL with the Winterhawks vs. the Thunderbirds.

In fact, I think I've figured out how all those ticket deposits came in so fast.

About half of them probably came from Portland.

Portland Winterhawks making the news in the offseason

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Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks making the news in the offseason

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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.

Portland Winterhawks fail to get off launchpad versus Rockets

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Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks fail to get off launchpad versus Rockets

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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.

Portland Winterhawks advance by taming the Cougars

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Portland Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks advance by taming the Cougars

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It appeared at the outset that the Portland Winterhawks would have more than their work cut out for them when they took on the Prince George Cougars in round one of the WHL playoffs. The Cougars had just won the BC Division Championship, were within a hair of being the Western Conference Division leaders, had their most ever wins as a franchise and were hosting a playoff series for the first time in seventeen years. Someone obviously didn’t tell the Portland Winterhawks all of this.

In six games, the Cougars found defeat, one that occurred with Portland winning the last three games straight, two at home and one on the road to advance to the second round. It wasn’t easy as the Hawks would find out in games two and three. After winning game one by a 4 to 2 margin in Prince George, the Hawks got hammered 5 to 1 in Cougar country and then follow up with a 6-1 drubbing in Portland a couple nights later. In both games, Shane Farkas was called in to replace Cole Kehler in the Portland net, where he stopped all shots he faced. Unlike regular season games where goals mean the world, they only focus on each individual game, a message Vice President, General Manager and Coach Mike Johnston would reiterate to his players as they looked to rebound in game four. Cole Kehler had been Johnston’s starter and even with the two lopsided losses, he would run with Kehler through the series.

With an opportunity for a split at home, the Hawks started off giving the visitors the advantage on the scoreboard, but never gave up hope; they would find ways to eat at the lead and finally Matt Revel with a pair of goals, helped to knot the series at two with a 5-4 win. The teams then headed back to Prince George with thoughts on their minds that the series was indeed winnable. However, like so many of the games even during the regular season, the Hawks gave up the opening goal of the game. That goal, just over a minute into the game, electrified the nearly sold out crowd and the Hawks could have as easily packed it in to face the inevitable at home.

Something seemed to resonate within the team as they found a way to claw back with goals by Brad Ginnell and Joachim Blichfeld to take the lead at the end of the first and carry through the second period of play. In the third, the Hawks turned it up by adding their third goal, also by Blichfeld and the Cougars were now the ones reeling. Two goals by the Cougars just three minutes apart, midway through the third period, put the home squad on an even keel and the Hawks had to once again find a way to recover. Ryan Hughes would carry that weight just over a minute later with a goal that seemed to spark big life into the Hawks and a late goal by Cody Glass that seemed to fool everyone especially Ty Edmonds in the Prince George net, put the Hawks on a winning track in the series, now up 3-2. Cole Kehler, the one feeling the pressure to perform from the last two disappointing losses, was named the game’s first star.

Game six in Portland seemed vastly different. Portland came out strong and kept pace with the strong, physical play of the Cougars and though not scoring in the first, seemed to have the better-quality shots on net as the teams remained scoreless after 20 minutes. The second period was all Hawks as they dominated the scoreboard and the shots, outshooting the Cougars 22-9. Colton Veloso opened the scoring on a play that took several minutes to review, just over five minutes into the frame. It seemed that the Cougars were still reeling from the call as just under two minutes later it was Joachim Blichfeld who padded the lead. Just under five minutes later, while on the powerplay, Alex Overhardt seemed to be the one to deflate the Cougars bubble as the Hawks were now up by three as the second period ended. Prince George would get the shutout erased as Kody McDonald scored unassisted, but just over a minute later, Keegan Iverson netted his third of the playoffs to put the Hawks back up by three. The Cougars peppered shots on Kehler and with just over two minutes left, Colby McAuley scored to get the visitors within two. Time was running out as the Hawks sensed victory and shut the door on any more scoring by the Cougars.

In the end, the Portland Winterhawks scored a 4-2 win at home, a series they would win 4-2 and for numerology lovers, the Hawks would do it in this game with 42 shots. Prince George would end with 37 and a one for two on the powerplay, with the Hawks generating one goal on five powerplay attempts. Cole Kehler once again got the first star as he kept the Hawks in the hunt all game long and giving the home side their first taste of the second-round playoffs since 2015.

Almost all the matches are set for the second round as all teams, but one, have completed series. Kelowna Rockets defeated Kamloops Blazers in six games and will get Portland in round two. Seattle Thunderbirds will face Everett Silvertips following Seattle’s four game stomping of Tri-City Americans, with Everett scoring four goals to two over Victoria Royals. The Silvertips had a record game versus the Royals in game six as it took the regulation time plus four and a half overtimes to finally score a 3-2 win. That game ranks as the longest ever in the Canadian Hockey League history.

Out east, Regina Pats walked through Calgary Hitmen in four games and will face Swift Current Broncos after the team from Speedy Creek eked out Moose Jaw Warriors in seven games. The Medicine Hat Tigers will face either Lethbridge Hurricanes or Red Deer Rebels as these two teams battle in game seven on Tuesday night. All series in the second round are expected to start either Friday or Saturday with most teams’ games three and four looking to be Tuesday and Wednesday April 11 and 12. The WHL will start announcing dates within the coming day.

Portland Winterhawks split in opening first round games

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Portland Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks split in opening first round games

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As Portland prepared to travel the round-trip loop to Prince George, they were met with three pieces of big news. Cody Glass was named as a First Team All Star for the Western Conference in the WHL and that was followed by Cole Kehler being awarded the WHL Goaltender of the Week, his second honor this season. Within a day, he was also named CHL Goaltender of the week which is his first this season. Mike Johnston was also named Coach of the Year, in a bit of irony as it wasn’t his highest winning season and it follows the years of dark clouds held over him over the player support situations in 2012 where he was forced out of the coaching spot for the remainder of the regular season and had to watch his team from the stands during their time competing for the 2013 Memorial Cup.

With the awards in tow, the Winterhawks headed to Prince George for a pair of games before heading back to the Rose City for games three and four. In the early going of game one, Prince George held a strong advantage in shots and play as they used a great deal of physical strength to try to wear down the visitors. However, it was the Hawks Brendan De Jong who opened the scoring on the powerplay just over four minutes in with a blistering shot from the right point. The Hawks would carry the lead to near the end of the period when Jared Berthune answered for Prince George on a powerplay. Just under a minute later, Sklyer McKenzie found the open twine to give the Hawks the lead heading into intermission. Keegan Iverson would add to the total just over three minutes into the second period while on yet another powerplay and the Hawks would carry a 3-1 lead into the third. Prince George made it interesting very early in the third when Jesse Harkins was left out front to score for the Cougars, reducing the lead to just one. With time running down and the Cougars having their sixth attacker out, the Hawks continually made it difficult for the Cougars to get set up in the Hawks zone and finally Colton Veloso was set free into the Cougars zone where he drifted the puck into the empty net to secure the Hawks 4-2 win. The Hawks outshot the Cougars 35-25 and scored twice on five powerplay attempts, while the Cougars went one for three on the man advantage.

With a day off in between for the Telus Cup Midget Tournament in Prince George, the two teams went back it on Sunday. The cougars, stinging from their loss on Friday, took it to the Hawks on as the Cougars scored five straight goals, by four different scorers before the Hawks could get their only goal, which occurred on the powerplay. The Winterhawks outshot the Cougars 41-36 and both teams went one for four on the powerplay. The Hawks were physically in a battle with 86 minutes in penalties being called and a whole lot more that should have been called in the game. Though the game goes as a 5-1 loss for the Hawks, they did earn a split, always important when having to return home and the advantage now going to the Hawks in terms of leveling the home ice advantage.

The Winterhawks will now play at least a five game series with games three and four taking place at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday and Thursday and game five now in Prince George on Saturday April 1st which means both teams will leave Portland following the Thursday game for the 14 hour trek back to the CN Centre. Game six, if necessary will go Monday in Portland which would require both teams leaving Prince George immediately following game five. If the series were to go to the maximum seven games, the two teams will have traveled just under 4,400 miles in ten days as the series is scheduled as 2-2-1-1-1, instead of the 2-3-2 series that Portland requested.

The other teams around the WHL are battling it out for the first round and most are going per most pundits’ thoughts. The Everett Silvertips won game one, but lost game two against the Victoria Royals and head to Victoria for the next pair. Seattle won two straight at home against Tri-City, which puts the Americans backs against the wall in that they need at minimum a split or better still, two convincing victories at home to keep their series alive. Kelowna powered through Kamloops in the initial two games in the Okanagan which now heads back to Kamloops. Out east, the Scotty Munro champions Regina Pats have certainly looked the part in their pair of wins against the Calgary Hitmen with the series shifting back to Cowtown for the next two. Medicine Hat has steamrolled the Brandon Wheat Kings in the first two games at home and looks to have a lock on the series as it heads back to Brandon for the next two games. What makes it tougher for Brandon is that they must play in a different arena, two hours due north in Dauphin Manitoba in a rink that seats just a third of the fans that the Keystone Centre does in Brandon due to building conflicts. The Red Deer vs Lethbridge and Swift Current versus Moose Jaw series are knotted at one apiece as they series now shift for games three and four.

Portland Winterhawks Vs. Prince George Cougars – Round 1 Preview

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Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks Vs. Prince George Cougars – Round 1 Preview

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The WHL playoffs are locked in place, and the Portland Winterhawks are on the way to northern British Columbia for a long, tense weekend against the Prince George Cougars. Predictions and speculation brackets, including our own Stuart Kemp, have the Cougars sweeping the Hawks in six games and laying them dormant until autumn, especially given the disappointing performance against the Spokane Chiefs this last Sunday.

With a 45-21-3-3 record, the Cougars are not the highest rated team in the Western Conference. The Hawks could have ended up facing the Everett Silvertips, who have a nearly 70 percent win rate. What might be a bigger deciding factor could be the travel. Passage up through BC to Prince George and the inevitable trip back here to Portland will take a toll on players looking to recuperate and adjust.

Looking at the last few Winterhawks games as a reference, I believe Prince George is beatable, but the team presents some specific obstacles that the Hawks have a tendency to trip over.

For starters, the Cougars have left wing Jesse Gabrielle. He has a plus-minus of 17 and is the fifth highest shorthand goal scorer in the league. He can be dangerous in the high slot area against Portland. Spokane snagged a myriad of turnovers from the Winterhawks last Sunday, many of them in the neutral zone. If Prince George gets a similar chance it will spell doom for a less-prepared Shane Farkas if he gets a turn in the goal.

Speaking of goalies, Ty Edmonds will likely become the ongoing offensive problem for the Hawks for the duration of round 1.  The Winnipeg native has a 0 .916 save percentage, and his GAA is a 2.48 for the regular season in Prince George. If that season closer against Spokane is any indication, a sharp goalie can derail Portland shooters indefinitely unless they start commanding the puck in the offensive zone and pass more decisively.

Beyond all of this, there are recent matchups off which to go for predictions. Prince George is the much better team on paper, but the Winterhawks beat them recently on March 8 by outlasting them. Late in the third period is when Portland comes alive, and that might be what it takes to stay alive to see round 2 of the bracket.

The Cougars will come to Portland for games 3 and 4 on Wednesday and Thursday. Tickets are still available at www.winterhawks.com but if you are looking to catch the away games, there are viewing parties happening at the Sports Look Bar and Grill in Hillsboro, the Oregon City Ice House, and several Buffalo Wild Wings locations in the metro area.

Portland Winterhawks fortify their playoff position, size up likely foes

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Portland Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks fortify their playoff position, size up likely foes

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The comeback has been swift and opportune for the Portland Winterhawks, having nabbed seven wins from their last eight games and clinched a berth in the WHL playoffs. At this point, with only two back-to-back games left to close out the regular season play, the team’s focus has certainly shifted toward keeping the coveted third slot in the US Division and preparing for battle against their round 1 nemesis. Going off the stats right now, anything is still possible.

Portland currently has 82 points, far below the US Division leaders, the Seattle Thunderbirds at 96 and the Everett Silvertips at 95 points. Meanwhile, the recently rebutted Tri-City Americans trail with 79 points from the bottom wild card slot. It looks like a bridge too far, but Tri-City has three more games, while the Hawks have only two. Potentially, the season could end with these scores swapped, but that would depend ironically on the performance of the Spokane Chiefs, who have already been eliminated.

The Americans face Spokane twice this weekend, and then the Winterhawks will close the season against the Chiefs on Sunday night. Tri-City’s last two games against Spokane have been big 5-1 blowouts, though those were before the jaw-dropping losing streak that buried the team into the wildcard positions. It’s more than possible for them to pick it up and capitalize on Spokane’s lackadaisical defense of late, but I would be surprised if the Americans could pull off two wins in two nights against the Chiefs at the rate they have been playing.

Portland should be able to handle Spokane. The Hawks won two of their last three matchups with the Chiefs, though one came down to a shootout. Portland’s ups and downs during the regular season can be traced back to a few very hard losses against Spokane this year. The real hurdle this weekend for Portland is going to be Seattle. The Thunderbirds boast the best record in the Western Conference, and have beaten the Winterhawks in four out of five recent matchups with scores above five goals every time. On paper, they are merely the better team. The most likely scenario is that Portland will beat Spokane, but not Seattle. Meanwhile, it’s hard to say regarding Tri-City, but I’m predicting one win and two losses for them.

If I am right, the Winterhawks should start setting sights on the Everett Silvertips as the most likely round 1 rival. Abilities and offensive awareness are very evenly matched between these two, but the real testiment to Everett’s better record is their GA stats. The Tips have only 159 goals against them for the season, by far the lowest in the WHL. Their defensive pairs are formidable, and their bench is deep. And while Portland has found an offensive stride lately, Cole Kehler has been carrying most of the load on defense, with backchecks into the defensive zone taking way too long and a staggering amount of passing and rebounds being allowed from their opposition.

Playoffs begin March 24, and Winterhawks fans should be celebrating the late-season resurgence. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, that the playoff bracket is a tough pill to swallow.

Portland Winterhawks go down fighting this week

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Portland Winterhawks

Portland Winterhawks go down fighting this week

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While maybe not drastic enough to be considered a reversal of fortune, the last week of play has been a rough one for the Portland Winterhawks. There are less than a dozen games left in the regular season, and it isn’t enough that the team is losing but rather that the wrong rivals are winning at the same rate. If this decline continues, the rebuilding year might come to a premature end.

Last week saw the return of team captain Keegan Iverson to the roster after a month on the injured list, and it appeared to invigorate the backcheck skating and defensive posture of his fellow forwards. That Thursday’s game saw the Hawks beat the Kamloops Blazers 4-0 with only one bout for the penalty killing unit, and goaltender Cole Kehler was sufficiently supported to snag a 41-save shutout.

Unfortunately, the momentum was not maintained and the Hawks have had three straight defeats, two of which are significant blows to their playoff hopes. The Seattle Thunderbirds have left the Winterhawks in the dust with a 13-point lead in the rankings and the Tri-City Americans have also emerged as the dark horse contender for the third playoff slot with 75 points to Portland’s 68. The real frustration comes from watching great goaltenders like Kehler and rookie Shane Farkas have to suffer so many more shots on goal than they needed. The little mistakes have started to add up as well, with Portland giving up six powerplay conversions to Seattle in one game. As much as the Hawks need defensive cohesion for skaters, there is a serious issue with consistency in between the pipes. One night, 45 saves. The next game, choppy performances and a failure to hustle.

Credit should be given when it is due: Seattle and Tri-City have gotten serious. Play-offs serious. The Americans have won their last four games, and the Hawks have had trouble with them all season. Seattle, meanwhile, has a knack for drawing penalties during crunchtime and has stepped up their standard for two-way, aggressive play in the last two months.

Headed into March, Portland must hope that the sudden rise of the Americans has not stabilized the US Division rankings too rigidly. If so, Portland is stuck vying for that top wildcard position, which has quite a few suitors like the Vancouver Giants, who shall be the bane of next week as the adversaries of a three-time series. Every game counts from here on in, including games that Portland players aren’t even in.

Hawks sign defensemen Nick Cicek and Darren Gisti

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Winterhawks

Hawks sign defensemen Nick Cicek and Darren Gisti

The Portland Winterhawks have announced the signings of defensemen Nick Cicek and Darren Gisti.

Cicek, in his 16-year-old season, was the Hawks’ seventh round pick in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft. He played last season for the Winnipeg Monarchs of the Winnipeg City Midget League (WCML) and posted 11 goals and 25 assists for 36 points in 35 games.

Gisti, in his 17-year-old season, was added to the Hawks’ protected list in August. He also played in the WCML last season with the Winnipeg Hawks, and he totaled 18 goals and 17 assists for 35 points in 30 games. He is playing this season for the Dauphin Kings of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League.

“Nick and Darren both had impressive performances in training camp and in the Neely Cup, and we look forward to them advancing their careers with the Winterhawks in the years to come,” said Portland Winterhawks Vice President, General Manager & Head Coach Mike Johnston.

Winterhawks season tickets and packages are on sale now, visit winterhawks.com for full details on pricing and availability.

Portland Winterhawks split the weekend and now hit the road

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Portland Winterhawks split the weekend and now hit the road

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This past weekend, the Portland Winterhawks unveiled the new video screens and scoreboard at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Everett Silvertips, but most agreed the highlights didn’t need to be shown. It was a strong effort by the Tips versus a weaker effort by the Hawks that resulted in a 3-1 win for Everett. The score to many was flattering as the Tips earned every one of the goals that they scored. In a positive, Keegan Iverson returned to the lineup and announced that night as the new team captain. Alex Overhardt scored a shorthanded goal to tie the game at one before Everett picked up a late goal in the second period and added insurance early in the third to salt it away. Portland did make a strong showing shots wise in the third, firing 15 shots Everett’s way to just 3 for the Tips, but Carter Hart stopped them all to preserve the victory. Shots on goal were close at 33-32, with Everett scoring a power play goal on five tries, while the Hawks were blanked on three chances, but did get the shorthanded marker.

Portland had no time to wallow in the loss, instead focusing on the Seattle Thunderbirds the following night. As part of an eight game road trip that would see the team head east, the Hawks took it upon themselves to relive the first meeting with Seattle, one that had earned them a 7-3 win. This night in the ShoWare Center, on an evening where Seattle’s home opener would take place and banners representing last season’s US Division and Western Conference were raised, it was Portland gaining victory.

Five different scorers piled on 6 goals to skate away with a 6-1 win. Portland would get four goals on five power play chances plus a penalty shot goal late in the contest while Seattle would go scoreless on seven power plays as the Hawks shutdown their offense most of the night. Ryan Toth who was looking to redeem himself after the last Portland game, could not be faulted on any of the four goals that got past him before he was replaced by 16-year-old Carl Stankowski midway through the second period. Stankowski would also not be faulted on the two that got past him either as the Hawks looked to gain a little traction heading on the road for eight games (including this one) over 2 weeks. The second televised game for Portland on CW32 was tonic for the Hawks who have now outscored Seattle 13-4 in the two games thus far. The only player left off the Seattle roster was Matthew Barzal, still with the NY Islanders and no timeframe for his return.

Portland again had no celebration time as the time would have a 15-hour drive to Swift Current, Saskatchewan to begin their 6 game Eastern Conference swing. The team will play Tuesday in Swift Current versus the Broncos and then yo-yo across the province with nearly five hour trips up to Prince Albert, down to Moose Jaw, up to Saskatoon and a six-hour trek east to Brandon, Manitoba before ending the trip through Saskatchewan with a game in Regina. With less than two days to travel, the Hawks will end the grueling trip in Spokanem before their next home game on Tuesday, October 18th versus Tri-City Americans.

The Portland Winterhawks have announced the signings of defensemen 16-year-old Nick Cicek and 17-year-old Darren Gisti to standard WHL contracts. They will both remain with their respective Manitoba Junior leagues for the time being. Ethan Middendorf, a 17-year-old goaltender who is currently on the Winterhawks roster, has been loaned to the Vancouver (WA) Rangers of the Western States Hockey League. With Middendorf coming off concussion issues the past two seasons and in need of active playing time, the Rangers were able to offer both playing time and a location close to the Portland Winterhawks home base. Middendorf played a double overtime game in his first appearance making 32 saves in a 6-5 loss.

Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks will celebrate Toyota Hockey Family Day on Saturday, October 22nd at 12 different Toyota dealerships from Salem, OR to Longview, Wa. The event from 12-1 will feature Hawks players at all dealerships plus more. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club announced that its fan trip to Canada with games in Prince George, Kamloops and Kelowna is close to a sellout and the local trip to Everett in December is well on its way to a go. For further information on the fan trips or the Booster Club please visit http://www.pwhbc.com .