The Portland Winterhawks finally took home something that has been three years in the making, but surprising that this wasn't the year it was expected. Led by the first ever hat trick by Chase DeLeo, four assists by Taylor Leier and solid backstopping by Brendan Burke, the Portland Winterhawks earned the rights to call themselves Scotty Munro champions with a 5-2 victory over the Victoria Royals on Sunday night.
The Scotty Munro trophy, named after one of the league's founders, is earned by the team who garners the most points in the Western Hockey League regular season and guarantees home ice advantage throughout the WHL Playoffs.
Though the next team below the Winterhawks, the Edmonton Oil Kings, could catch up in total points with their three remaining games, the Winterhawks would win any tiebreaker based on the total wins in the season. The Portland Winterhawks already have 53 wins on the season and if they won out, would reach 57 wins which would surpass a record from 1980-81. They have already tied their 1997-98 Memorial Cup year of 53 wins and, obviously, the team this year is compared heavily with that cup championship year.
The Hawks have 3 players over 100 points this season, the first since 1989-90, with Brendan Leipsic (114) Nic Petan (111) and Ty Rattie (102). And they have 4 games left to go in the regular season. In Leipsic, he has almost doubled his point production in one year and Petan, in his draft eligible year, has tripled his. Rattie, who was drafted and signed by the St. Louis Blues last season, is just a few points shy of last season's total where he had the strong assistance of Sven Baertschi, who has since moved up to the professional ranks.
Next up for the Winterhawks is the second half of the doubleheader with the Victoria Royals and then a three game in three night battle with home and home games vs. the Seattle Thunderbirds and a final home game versus the Spokane Chiefs. Playoffs would start in Portland on Friday March 22 and Saturday March 23 versus an as yet unknown opponent. Road games would start either Monday/ Tuesday or Tuesday/ Wednesday once the opponent is known.
Three teams are in the hunt to be in the playoffs in the Western Conference, with Seattle (55points) and Everett (54 points) scrambling to get the 7th spot to avoid a match-up with Portland and the Prince George Cougars (50 points) just hoping to get in. For Portland, a match with Seattle or Everett would be best travel wise with a 3 hour trip as opposed to a nearly 18 hour trek if Prince George gets in. However, in any case, the Hawks stand to put their opponent in the first round on notice early. A goal differential so far this season against any of the bottom teams of over 150, shows that the Winterhawks can play both offense and defense.
Ice Chips – The remaining road games will be shown at local establishments McGillacuddys 11133 NE Halsey in Portland and Sport Page 8590 SW Hall Blvd in Beaverton and all road playoff games will also be shown at Kenton Station 8303 N. Denver Avenue in Portland. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club has also been busy, garnering over 500 members this season, a first in over a decade and has donated $1,000 towards the WAHA Varsity Hockey team playoffs and in conjunction with Winterhawks forward Joe Mahon, $1,500 towards equipment for Junior Hockey programs at Mountain View Ice Arena in Vancouver. Additionally, the Booster Club will also be donating $10,000 towards the WAHA Continuing Education Fund at a game to be announced.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club which works as a liaison between the Portland Winterhawks Hockey Club and its fans with fan trips, player photos and more. Its goal is to assist the WAHA Player's Education Fund and Junior Hockey Programs in the local area. http://www.pwhbc.com