After last week when the Portland Winterhawks played just one game, it was enough, based on the strength of the game, to vault them from the Honorable Mention category to the fourth spot overall.
Once again, the Ottawa 67’s lead the pack. There is still a great deal up in the air as Ottawa actually sits behind Oshawa, which remains a perfect 4-0, where Ottawa is 3-1. Soo Greyhounds is also 4-0 with the London Knights at 2-2. Chicoutimi sits at 3-1, where Cape Breton sits at 4-1. London Knights at 2-2 rank 8th. Rimouski is 4-0-0-1 but ranked as an honorable mention. Vancouver with the loss to Portland and then another loss to Kamloops followed by a shutout of Kelowna—that leaves them in the last spot in the rankings. Edmonton ranks ninth, but have a 2-1-2-0 record which leaves them in third place in the Central Division.
It shows the ranks are really kind of a crapshoot this early in the year. Calgary rates an honorable mention, though they hold top spot in the Central. The Prince Albert Raiders at 3-0-1-0 are also in the honorable mention category.
Here are the latest rankings of the coach’s poll this week 1) Ottawa 67’s, (2) Chicoutimi Sagueneens, (3) Sherbrooke Phoenix, (4) Portland Winterhawks, (5) Cape Breton Eagles, (6) Soo Greyhounds, (7) Oshawa Generals, (8) London Knights, (9) Edmonton Oil Kings, and (10) Vancouver Giants, with honourable mention to the Calgary Hitmen, Rimouski Oceanic, and Prince Albert Raiders.
Former Winterhawk Cody Glass showed why Las Vegas Golden Knights picked him 6th overall. His shift in the second period was a good one. On his first shot, he scored the 3-1 goal against the San Jose Sharks after a great faceoff dot to faceoff dot pass by Max Pacioretty.
The Hawks embarked on their Central Swing with a stop in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes. The Hawks scored twice including a first by Nick Ciecek. It was Lethbridge who then scored three times and added an empty net goal as time expired to surprise the Hawks 4-2. Portland was outshot 26-20 by the Hurricanes and found themselves blanked on the powerplay on five chances. Portland gave up one power-play goal on seven tries to Lethbridge. Penalties were racked up in the second period with a total of 72 minutes on the night. Many pundits looked at youth as the reason for the loss.
In a rare Sunday contest, Portland headed to Calgary to play the Hitmen. Egor Zamula made Portland pay on the penalty kill with just eight seconds in finding the twine to give the Hitmen an early lead just four minutes into the contest. The Hawks would reply in quick fashion as Jack O’Brien picked up the rebound after a Seth Jarvis attempt just 31 seconds later. It was a replay goal by the Hitmen by Jett Woo that increased the lead. It was thought that Hofer stopped it before the puck crossed the goal line, however, Hofer’s leg was behind the line as he slid out. Orca Wiesblatt added another after stretching out the defense and goaltender Joel Hofer to put the Hitmen up by two. Calgary almost had a third goal when the puck passed by captain John Ludvig and it was a long distance run by captain Mark Kastelic. But Hofer matched him well amd stonewalled the puck. A little shoving with sticks ended the period.
Nine minutes into the second period, a pass from the slot to the left side of the net hit John Pokop’s stick, and he made no mistake as he got it past Joel Hofer for a 4-1 lead. The period ended with silence, very few penalties and only one goal.
The third saw a two-man advantage for nearly a minute, which the Hawks were unable to capitalize on. Seth Jarvis scored on a corner pass from Reece Newkirk in a mean nothing type of play with just over eight minutes to play. Ty Carriere got out of the box stripped John Ludvig of the puck and put the Hitmen up by three. Portland now has dropped the first two on the Central Swing. Portland does outshoot Calgary 33-29 but goes scoreless on their five chances including a near-minute on the two-man advantage, Calgary scores once on two chances. With four games over the next six days, Portland needs to get back on track, as they weren’t able to control the puck in the offensive zone enough to avoid the odd man rushes.
The Hawks have four more games, which will go over to Sunday, which will end in Edmonton. They would then have a week between games, with them then facing two Eastern Division teams. Every game on the rest of the swing appears to be a test, and it will be interesting to see if they can find the resolve to at least salvage half of the games remaining.