The Portland Winterhawks are on a tear right now, having won their last five straight games. But it wasn't as rosy a couple weeks ago with the World Juniors going on. Having a shortened bench due to injuries, the World Junior tournament and players only available for select games, the Hawks took a drubbing leading into the New Year with two games against the Kelowna Rockets who are the top WHL team.
Having the players back and a couple injuries healed, the New Year has been the rebound that the team hoped would happen. The team started with a road trip to Everett where they won 4-1 in 17-year-old goaltender Adin Hill's debut. Hill was brought in as an extra goaltender leading up to trade deadline, but returned back to his home team in Alberta toward the end of the road trip.
During this time, the trade deadline passed and the Hawks, who made a few small splashes in the trade pool earlier in the year, dealt goaltender Jarrod Schammerhorn to Lethbridge for a 7th round draft pick after acquiring Corbin Boes from Lethbridge the day prior for Steven Alldridge, the rights to Shane McColgan and a Bantam Draft pick and then shipped the rights of protected list player Adam Tambellini to the Calgary Hitmen for a first round bantam pick in this upcoming year's draft. McColgan opted not to report to the Lethbridge squad, opting to sign with the BCHL Penticton Vees which are closer to his home.
From there, the Hawks split a 2-game series with Victoria Royals, dropping a 3-2 shootout using new netminder, twenty year-old Corbin Boes, and scoring a 2-1 thriller the next night using their number one goaltender Brendan Burke. Boes would come back the next day and hold court in a 5-4 shootout win against the Vancouver Giants. With that, the players who were a part of the World Juniors, Taylor Leier, Derrick Puliot and Nic Petan, stayed back to head home to family they hadn't seen in months.
That rest was but a few days and then it was back to business with another tough 3 games in four nights. The bruising Moose Jaw Warriors found that the Hawks firepower was much more than their physical dominance as the Hawks skated to an 8-2 win. Two nights later, it was the Spokane Chiefs who came to town. With the curtains in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum opened up, the sun shone brightly on the Hawks who blanked the Chiefs 5-0. Just over 24 hours later, the Hawks were back on the ice across the way at the Moda Center as they faced off against the Vancouver Giants. The Hawks used everything in the tank to skate away with a 5-2 win over a very tough Giants club.
With a 6-point lead over their closest US Division rivals, the next hill to climb is keeping pace with the Kelowna Rockets who have played three fewer games than the Hawks and have a nine point lead in the standings. The next two months ahead will have some great battles as the run to the playoffs is officially on.
Ice Chips: The Winterhawks are keeping the pressure to be at the top into next season by signing eighteen-year-old, Washington Capitals draft pick Blake Heinrich and sixteen-year-old Nick Heid to WHL contracts. Heinrich will appear at the tail end of the season this year, while Heid, who made impressive showings at training camp and the Neely Cup, will be looking to crack the lineup in 2014. The Winterhawks welcomed their eight millionth fan in their history at the January 19th game. The fan received season tickets for next year, playoff tickets for this year, a specially designed jersey plus a spot in this year's Dash for Cash event on January 24. The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is offering a deal to the Saturday February 1st game versus Seattle Thunderbirds at the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. Simply head to http://www.pwhbc.com, click on the "Discount Ticket" button and order 200 level tickets for just $15, normally $24.75 with $5 from every ticket going to the Booster Club. Remember to enter the word "Booster" in the promo code section to get this deal.
The Booster Club will begin its annual membership renewal drive starting Saturday February 8. The Booster Club had over 550 members this season and looks to top that again next season. The Booster Club will offer members who sign up prior to the end of the playoff run, the opportunity to win a game used stick signed by the Winterhawks players.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) registered charity.