After running the tables in their first several games, it was time for the Portland Winterhawks to take their show on the road with a pair of games in Kelowna, It seemed that the Hawks had changed a bit from the two drubbings of the Rockets the previous week, or perhaps Kelowna was more suited to do business at home. In either case, the Hawks struggled to put points on the board in the initial game and though they led the way in shots by a wide margin, the 3-1 win over the Rockets was about as tough as a game could be. It appeared the Hawks gave it everything they had in that first game as they succumbed to relentless attacks and turnovers which led to an 8-2 manhandling by the Rockets in the final game of the four they would play against each other this season.
The Hawks would get a couple days rest as they would next play the Moose Jaw Warriors, a team from the East Division that had picked up some serious steam in the standings. The Warriors were competing with the Swift Current Broncos for the East Division lead and would be a strong test for the Hawks who had been ranked the top team in the CHL the past week. The game was as back and forth as one might expect with the two teams trading goals for most of the night. Down 5-4 with just over a minute left, the Hawks pulled their goaltender for the extra attacker and got a couple of chances in close, but the Warriors found a way to get it outside their zone and past the defenders for an empty net goal to take the game 6-4. With that loss and the one from the previous weekend, the Hawks slipped to fifth overall in the CHL poll with still an impressive 9-3 record.
As October gets ready to end, the team would get one more chance to end the month on a winning note with a game against the Everett Silvertips. The Tips who had moderate success on their Central Swing have found themselves with a lot of ground to catch up on if they hope to make the playoffs this season. Adding to their woes, has been the loss of goaltender Carter Hart who has been out with illness for several games and is only now getting ready to return. The Hawks scored first as Layne Gilliss notched his first goal of the season just over two minutes into the game, but saw the lead evaporate as the Tips scored twice in less than four minutes midway through the first period. That lead would hold until the midway point of the third period when Kieffer Bellows scored his tenth of the season. The game appeared headed for overtime when Patrick Bajkov scored an unassisted goal with just thirty seconds left in the game to steal away the full two points and leave the Hawks empty handed.
The Hawks had no success on the four powerplays they had, but were able to prevent Everett from scoring on their three chances. Portland outshot Everett 46-26, continuing their barrage of shots on goal, but coming up short where it counted, that being the scoresheet.
Next up for Portland will be the second of two home game matches against Prince George whom they will next play in Prince George as part of a five-game road trip in March. The Cougars, like the Silvertips, have struggled over the past few games and will be on an oddball schedule with traveling from Prince George to Portland, then to Everett before returning to Prince George. The Hawks will then play two games on the road Friday and Saturday before returning to Portland to play a home game a week later against Tri-City.
With the losses, Portland now sits in second place in the US Division two points behind the surging Tri-City Americans, but hold two games in hand. Portland sits tied with the Spokane Chiefs, who they will face Friday night, but hold three games in hand on the Chiefs. Seattle remains three points back of the Hawks and now tied with Everett who has played three more games than the Thunderbirds.
The Winterhawks made an announcement this week as they filled the play-by-play broadcast booth position. Evan Richardson joins the team as the new Media Relations and Broadcast Manager and with it, play-by-play for the Hawks online. Richardson, who called games in Toronto for the University of Toronto Men’s and Women’s Varsity Blues hockey teams, will now take over the duties from Andy Kemper, who will remain as a color analyst for the team on home games. Richardson, who is a graduate of Toronto’s College of Sports Media, has had stints at The Sports Network (TSN), Canada’s equivalent to ESPN. At TSN, he was a writer on the station’s flagship show, SportCentre, as well as That’s Hockey 2Nite.
Ice Chips: The Winterhawks players finished practice last week and sat down to partake in the yearly Christmas ornament decorating event. The ornaments will be auctioned off through December 16 with proceeds benefiting many local area charities.
The always popular Try Hockey for Free events will take place on Saturday, November 4. Mountain View Ice Arena in Vancouver will begin theirs at 9am, while the Winterhawks Skating Center in Beaverton will run their event starting at 1:35pm. The event is for those ages 4-9 who would like to see what hockey is all about. Local coaches and volunteers will attend to ensure the fun and learning is at its peak. Registration must be done in advance at these rinks as equipment is limited. Another event is planned for Saturday March 3, 2018 with times to be announced.
A familiar Winterhawks face will be in attendance at an upcoming viewing party. Former Winterhawks play-by-play man Dean “Scooter” Vrooman will be on hand to take in the viewing party at Kelly Creek Sports Grill on NE Division in Gresham for Friday’s game with fun, prizes and to answer Hawks questions. Game time is 7pm.