The Portland Winterhawks are on a tear within the Western Hockey League with their twelfth straight victory as the season winds down to its last 15 games. Since the trade deadline back on January 10, the Hawks haven't lost a game. Much of this can be attributed to having all the players back from tournaments and injury, but some will point to the addition to the defensive core of the team in Matt Dumba. Dumba, who played with the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL before being drafted and signed by the Minnesota Wild, found himself easily expendable to the World Juniors and at the tail end, found his rights traded to Portland in Junior Hockey. Minnesota Wild General Manager Cliff Fletcher made the decision for Dumba to return to Junior Hockey instead of the Wild. The major reason was Portland's success on the ice and the chance to get Dumba a ton of minutes of ice time. It meant the Hawks would send Shaun MacPherson, one of their defensemen, out to a Junior team close to his home in order to slot Dumba in.
Dumba and other veteran Winterhawks defenseman Derrick Pouliot have logged nearly half a game worth of minutes night in and night out and show no signs of being worn out. It's that strength that has given the Hawks the breakout up front. The other defensemen, Washington Capitals draft pick Garrett Haar, Josh Hanson, Vancouver Canucks draft pick Anton Cederholm, Layne Viveiros and rookie Keoni Texeira have all pushed the bar not only in helping at the back end of the ice, but also figuring in the scoring.
This weekend, the Hawks took on the Tri City Americans in Kennewick and for the Americans it was a game they'd rather forget the first forty minutes of. Starting just over four minutes into the game, Oliver gave the Hawks an early lead on the power play. The Hawks kept up the pressure and in the last two and a half minutes of the period, popped in three goals including the first of two each by Nic Petan and Alex Schoenborn. That chased starting Tri City netminder Eric Comrie from the net. When the second period started, Evan Sarthou took over in net and felt the barrage of the Hawks attack with Petan and Schoenborn pocketing their second goals of the game. Meanwhile, Brendan Burke in the Portland goal was reaching nearly 3 games worth of shutout hockey. At the close of the second period leading 7-0, the Winterhawks were running away with the show. In fact, all but one of the Winterhawks skaters figured into the scoring.
Perhaps the Hawks got a bit soft in the third and it allowed Tri City to break Burke's shutout. Two goals, 37 seconds apart, seemed to give Tri City a bit of life and they would add another, while shorthanded, with just under two minutes in the game to make the contest a bit interesting. The Hawks decided to pull a page out of the first period book and banged home three goals in a span of just over thirty seconds to end the game, mercifully, at 10-3 for the Hawks. No time to celebrate as the boys headed back down the Gorge to face the Everett Silvertips less than 24 hours later.
While the storm was brewing outside, the Tips were doing their thing inside and gave the Winterhawks a great deal of trouble in the first period. While the game was tied at one after the first period, the Winterhawks looked as though they had used all their energy in Kennewick the night before.
The second period was a seesaw affair with no clear winner as the teams traded goals to tie it at two. The third period started like the first with the Tips grabbing an early lead on a shorthanded goal by Kohl Bauml. However, perhaps the Tips needed to look at the previous night's film for the Hawks attack, because it was that effort that sealed the Hawks twelfth victory in this current streak. Goals by Taylor Leier, Alex Schoenborn and Nic Petan in a span of just 90 seconds sealed the win for the Winterhawks.
Again, the boys would have no time to celebrate. Instead, they would have to board the bus for a trip to Everett to overnight and follow it up with the completion of a near 700 mile trek to Prince George, BC for two games, one which would start at two in the afternoon on Monday as part of the Family Day Holiday in British Columbia. The Hawks will play Wednesday versus Prince George before heading six hours to Kamloops for a matchup with the Blazers, then to Vancouver for their last battle with the Giants before they return back home next Tuesday February 18 and a return date with the Prince George Cougars. The Winterhawks streak of twelve games is just three away from their all-time record of fifteen which they set on two occasions and two games from their second longest streak of fourteen which they set last season.
For those who missed Saturday's game with Everett due to the inclement weather, tickets can be exchanged for either Friday February 21 or Saturday February 22 games by contacting the Winterhawks office (503) 236-4295 (HAWK).
Ice Chips - The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club has started membership renewals for next season and will continue to do so throughout the playoff run. Members who sign up during this time will be entered to win for a Winterhawks team signed stick. More information is available at http://www.pwhbc.com/membership.html