There have been a couple of minor waves. Isaiah DiLaua, who played with the Prince George Cougars in the role of a backup, was picked up by the Portland Winterhawks for an eighth-round conditional choice in the 2022 Bantam Draft. Isaiah played 36 games over two seasons with Prince George. Dante Giannuzzi, the Hawks’ regular backup, was scratched both home games in favor of Hofer. This odd situation plays heavily into the roster freeze set for October 10. Dante had a great camp and many on the sideline thought he would be at least a solid backup to starter for Hofer. With DiLaura now in the mix, no one is sure where they are going with the youth. The recent trade of Evan Fradette to Medicine Hat and Shane Farkas to Victoria just prior to training camp leaves the Portland goaltending situation still unsettled.
Other teams are having to insure themselves with goaltenders and other players, as the season starts two weeks prior to the NHL and ends two weeks before their season does, which can make things very tricky when trying to assemble teams.
On another Winterhawks note, Brendan DeJong, who was looking at going pro this season, has signed with the Wichita Thunder of the ECHL. DeJong was originally drafted by Carolina Hurricanes of the NHL, but never signed. This resulted in him being a free agent. Players can be drafted in the year of their 18th birthday but can remain unsigned until the NHL draft of their 20th birthday. DeJong attended the Bakersfield Condors’ training camp of the AHL during which he signed with Wichita. Both are under the system of the Edmonton Oilers.
The WHL has announced a one-year partnership with Endeavour. Formerly known as Neulion, the streaming service was looked at by many as being on the outs after performance issues cropped up during the season. Part of the issue is on pricing, which seems to have been rolled back considerably. Topping out at $180 for any and all games, the price is about half the cost in previous years. The local away games are $70, which is reduction of about $20 and the local access to home and away is also down about $20 to $150. New this year is an access pass monthly subscription of $40 to renew monthly during the season. Playoffs will begin March 27, 2020 with the regular season starting on Friday September 20, 2019.
The day prior to the start of the Hawks season, it was announced that John Ludvig had been given the Captain “C” on his jersey, following a strong Draft this year. Sideline experts had thought Jake Gricius, but Ludvig being drafted gave him the nod.
The Hawks started with a pair of wins this weekend and with them leading the pack in the US Division. Portland exploded for six goals—one in the first, two in the second and three in the third—in the convincing 6-1 win over Tri-City Americans. The Americans were the last to score as they waited until midway through the third period to knock the goose egg from the scoreboard. Cross Hanas picked up a pair in the game, but it was the second goal that made ESPN top 10. Fishing the puck behind the net like a lacrosse stick, Hanas flung the puck behind Beck Warm before the goaltender had a chance to even see the play. Simon Knak scored on his first shot in the WHL; Clay Hanus and John Ludvig added goals in the romp. Hofer faced only 18 shots in the game compared to the 42 put on Tri-City on a combined Beck Warm and Talyn Boyko. Penalties slowed down the game with 11 called, Tri-City scored its only goal on the powerplay on six tries, Portland went scoreless on five attempts.
Less than 24 hours later and with a tough Kamloops team that had struggled the first two games. Just over a minute in, Portland took the lead with Jaydon Dureau leading the way. Jake Gricius increased the lead close to the 15-minute mark but saw Logan Sarkoven notch one late in the first period and Montana Onyebuchi on the powerplay early in the second to tie the game. John Ludvig restored Portland’s lead also on the powerplay, scoring late in the second. The game was tied again less than a minute later when Kobe Mohr replied for Kamloops. An early goal by Robbie Fromm-Delorme for Portland sealed the win for the home squad. With the 4-3 win, Portland is in sole possession of first place, though a ton of hockey must be played. Portland went 1 of 2 on the powerplay. Kamloops scored once on seven tries. Shots were fairly even with Kamloops holding a 33-32 advantage.
Portland now hits the road for the first time this year with one game against Vancouver this weekend. The Central Swing will start the following weekend and for the first time, the Hawks will hit Swift Current as a member of the Central Division. The move was made to allow Winnipeg moving from Cranbrook. That Winterhawks will return with a home game on Saturday, October 19 and one home game on Wednesday, October 23 with two Eastern Division matches. They will face Brandon, then Prince Albert, both to take place at the Moda Center.