The Portland Winterhawks just keep quietly winning games, ascending the ladder of points and there seems to be no way to stop them. Following a look back into November which is the last time Portland lost a regulation game, they have lost one game in overtime and one in a shootout.
This week in two four-point matches with US Division opponents, they scored 14 goals, they gave up 7. It’s that kind of lopsidedness that allows Portland a lead of 2 points with 3 games in hand over the second place Edmonton Oil Kings as they round the 2/3 mark of the season. Their streak of being unbeaten in regulation now hits 21 games.This has gone on since late November of 2019.
Portland has just five games left against opponents outside of their Division, two with Victoria, one with Moose Jaw and two with the Memorial Cup hosts Kelowna Rockets. The Rockets are just six points up on Vancouver Giants for the last Wildcard spot and watching them breathe up their necks.
Most of the games will be against Seattle, with Everett a close second. Tied for games left are Spokane and Tri Cities with three more matches each. As Portland continues to steamroll opponents, the possibility of them opening a further gap against Edmonton for the overall WHL Title is growing.
The CHL has noticed too. Portland was slotted into second spot after displacing Sherbrooke Phoenix and only have Ottawa 67’s as the top team to beat. Ottawa at 35-7-0-0 with 70 points is proving a very tough team, Sherebrooke at 35-7-3-1 is in a tough fight with Portland at 35-6-2-3 Here are the current rankings of the CHL:
(1) Ottawa 67’s, (2) Portland Winterhawks, (3) Sherbrooke Phoenix, (4) Chicoutimi Sagueneens, (5) Edmonton Oil Kings, (6) Moncton Wildcats, (7) Kamloops Blazers, (8) Everett Silvertips, (9) Windsor Spitfires, and (10) Kitchener Rangers, with honourable mention to the Peterborough Petes, London Knights, and Medicine Hat Tigers.
Portland manhandled the Tri City Americans 8-2 at the Moda Center. They screamed out to a 6-1 lead barely into the second period where they changed goaltenders from Mason Dunsford who was just sixteen to a fifteen year old in Ronin Geraghty, who sent the rest of the way giving up a pair of goals. Joel Hofel started the contest, but was replaced by Dante Giannuzzi at the start of the third period. Dante stopped all six shots his way with Portland shooting 64 -19 in the contest. To date. that is the largest shot count in the WHL this season. Portland also was 2 of 6 on the powerplay and held Tri City off the sheet on two tries.
Portland headed up the IS to Kent to face the Seattle Thunderbirds at accesso ShoWare Center. Seattle scored twice in the first seven minutes as they seemed to have the ice tilted in the favor. Don’t count out Portland though as they scored four goals in six minutes, one of them short-handed and one on the powerplay to take the lead over a shocked Thunderbirds group. Portland added one in the second on the powerplay which went two for four on the night. Seattle scored twice in the second, one of them on the powerplay and then added a late goal to tie things up. Neither team scored in the third period and the game headed to overtime. Portland took a penalty in that frame and despite the logged lopsided shot total in that frame of 6-0 Seattle, no goals were scored.
The game then went to the shootout where Cross Hanas scored the only goal of the shootout and Seattle was blanked on all three attempts as Portland gets the 6-5 shootout win.
That win gives them some off time until Friday when they play two games and then have a heavy February after that.
The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club begins the annual renewal for Membership this Saturday and throughout the playoffs. Early renewals and signups will have the chance to be entered into a draw for a team signed stick.
Membership gives a discount on certain items at the team store, a membership lapel pin and the chance to attend meetings throughout the season which several current and ex-Hawks will speak at. There are other goodies for members as well. This week, Dean “Scooter” Vrooman will address the group on Nominations night for the 2020-21 board.