Just a couple weeks ago, the Portland Winterhawks were mired in mediocrity, a couple wins here, a few losses there with 2 of them back-to-back with the Kelowna Rockets, 6-2 and 6-3. Since then, they have been on a tear with 6 straight wins and are just a point from taking top spot not only in the US Division / Western Conference, but in the entire WHL. They have outscored their opponents 32-15 in that streak and have won the first three games of one of their two longest road trips of the year as part of the "Central Swing" which takes them to Southern Alberta and Eastern British Columbia, Canada. The team will hit the Northern Alberta teams in the first week of December.
Healing comes best with time as both Domenic Turgeon and Shane McColgan have made their first games of the year after injuries leading up to training camp for the 20-year-old McColgan and during camp for 17-year-old Turgeon and are expected to play big roles with the team going forward.
Players who missed much of last year's run with the Hawks due to depth in forward Alex Schoenborn and defenseman Layne Viveiros came back to the team and have been on a tear. Schoenborn and Viveiros were sent down to the Alberta Junior League for nearly half a season to strengthen their bodies and to allow them ample ice time to develop. Coming into camp, both excelled and proved their importance on a Portland Winterhawks team that was going to need outside scoring and a stronger defense corps. Without graduated players Troy Rutkowski and Tyler Wotherspoon on the bluelines, and sniper Ty Rattie and the apparent elevation to the NHL of Seth Jones, the Hawks will need all players to participate like never before.
The latest surge by the Hawks has pushed Winnipeg Jets draft pick Nic Petan and Columbus Blue Jackets draft pick Oliver Bjorkstrand to second and third place in the overall WHL scoring race. Nic Petan also picked up the Denny's WHL Player of the Week award with seven points in three games ending October 20.
One final interesting note is the plus minus of the team. Leading the way, like last season, are defensemen. Derrick Pouliot at a +13 and Garrett Haar at +12 lead all Winterhawks with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nic Petan both at +11.
Leading to the latest road trip, the Winterhawks took time following a practice to sit down and show their artistic side. All the players and coaching staff sat down at the Winterhawks Skating Center, dropped their sticks and gloves and … painted Christmas ornaments. The Booster Club has been promoting the Player Christmas Ornament Auction for the past several years and players find ways to make some truly memorable art to benefit the Players Continuing Education Fund. On average, the auction raises close to $2,000 with one of a kind ornaments decorated and signed by Winterhawks players and staff. The silent auction will begin Saturday, November 9 through Saturday, December 14 at all home games. Bids will be accepted in person at all home games and winners will be able to take their ornaments home on the December 14 game. The players also decorated and signed an ornament for their host billet family.
ICE CHIPS: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club recently ran a successful trip to Kennewick as the Hawks got ready for the first part of the "Central Swing" to watch an 8-1 thumping of the Tri City Americans. The Club is gearing up for the next trip, this to Victoria and Vancouver in January. The Booster Club is also preparing for the 2nd annual "Hawkey for Hunger", which happens at home games November 9 and 10. Fans are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items for the Sunshine Division with the chance for one lucky donor to present the 3 stars following those games. Last year nearly a ton of food was collected and barrels will be stationed at the main front entrances of the Moda Center.
The time to donate to the "Shop with a Hawk" program is running short and donations have been a bit thin. Tax deductible donations can be made at any home game or sent via mail to Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, PO Box 6768 Portland, OR 97228-6768.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) registered charity.