Cole Kehler, who started this season as the team’s overage goaltender, has shown exactly why the Portland Winterhawks have him as their starting netminder. Since dropping three in a row, the Hawks have bounced back with five straight wins and show no signs of slowing down. Kehler started the week as the WHL and CHL Goaltender of the Week, his second recognition of the year as he allowed just three goals in as many games and was awarded the first star of the game on all three starts. The Winterhawks also moved up three spots to sixth place in the CHL poll and one of only three teams to make the poll in all eight weeks since the poll started this season.
With this week, Kehler would start both games as the Hawks faced the Tri-City Americans, who had climbed to the top of the US Division and the once a year visit by the East Division Prince Albert Raiders. Wins by the Hawks would catapult them to the top of the US Division, still with a game in hand on Tri-City.
Against the Tri-City Americans, the Hawks played a playoff type of game, hard checking, strong defense, but a lot of high quality shots. The score would remain scoreless at the end of the first period, despite a combined 31 shots on net. It would be early in the second period when Joachim Blichfeld scored, ending a drought that had gone on far too long in his opinion. Eight minutes later, Cody Glass would assist on a Skyler McKenzie goal to put the Hawks up by two. Tri-City replied just under two minutes later to tighten the score. Just barely after the puck drop to start the third, Blichfeld would restore the two-goal lead. Tri-City would reply to cut the lead to one, but two successive attempts by Tri-City in pulling their goaltender led to empty net goals and a 5-2 win for the Winterhawks. Portland outshot the Americans 49-41 and each team scored once on the powerplay, as Tri-City had five-man advantage opportunities to Portland’s three. Despite his strong play, Cole Kehler did not achieve a star of the game, ending his run at three games.
Prince Albert Raiders arrived next on the first game of their US Division swing and were ready to go right off the bat. With just over three minutes elapsed in the first period and on the powerplay, Jordy Stallard put the visitors on the board. The Hawks and Raiders would end the first period with a combined 11 shots on net and the visitors up by one. The second and third periods were all Hawks as Cole Kehler shut the door on the Raiders and the Hawks would fire off six straight goals, five of them on the powerplay to blast the Raiders 6-1. Cody Glass and Brad Ginnell tallied a pair of goals each with singles by Henri Jokiharju and Skyler McKenzie to put the game on ice. The Raiders, one of the most penalized teams in the league, offered up 12 powerplays to the Hawks, including a ten-minute stretch where it appeared to be a revolving door penalty box for the Raiders during the third period where Portland picked up four of their powerplay goals, all while on 5 on 3 man advantages. Jokiharju and Ginnell each were awarded stars of the game and Cole Kehler picked up second star as he stopped 28 of 29 shots his way. Curtis Meger with 28 saves on 34 shots took the loss. Portland was 5 for 12 on the powerplay with the Raiders just 1 for 6 as the Hawks now look to another week off before their next game.
The Hawks vaulted to top spot in the US Division, two points up on Tri-City, still with a game in hand and two points back of Moose Jaw Warriors for the overall WHL league lead. With the teams ahead of them in the poll all having wins this week, Portland will be hard pressed to move up any spots, but could based on the fact that they have played fewer games. Cole Kehler will once again be in the running for WHL Goaltender of the Week with two wins and posting a 1.50 goals against average.
Next up for the Winterhawks will be the 5th Annual Shop With A Hawk. Funded in its entirety by the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, Winterhawks players will be partnered up with children from the Sunshine Division who are not expected to have Christmas. The event, which the Booster Club has offered up $15,000 over the five years, brought joy to over 125 children in the Portland Metropolitan area since its inception.
Saturday, November 18, the Hawks will return to Veterans Memorial Coliseum for Hawks Fight Cancer with several different cancer organizations featured around the building who will benefit from ticket sales from this link and other memorabilia on the concourse. This will be the Winterhawks last home game in November as they then head out on a ten-day trek to Alberta and southeast British Columbia as the last US Division team to fend out on the Central Swing.