The Portland Winterhawks had a rough go of it in BC a couple of weeks back and certainly didn’t expect a warm welcome in competing against US Division opponents.
Facing off against a Seattle Thunderbirds team that didn’t have a great season last year but has been very tough this year, the Hawks found themselves behind the eight ball again. Three goals from Seattle in just over nine minutes in the first period was their undoing as they fell 4-2 to Seattle. Lochlan Gorden took the loss. James Stefan midway through the second period and Gabe Klassen early in the third tried to make it close, but Seattle’s Tyler Bauer, with his third of the year and early in the third period, snuffed out hopes for a Hawks comeback. Portland outshot Seattle 33-29 and went 1 for 6 on the powerplay, giving Seattle no goals on their three attempts.
The next night it was Kennewick, with the Tri-City Americans who played host to the Winterhawks. Unlike the previous night in giving the hosts the big lead, the Hawks took a commanding 18-8 shots in the first period. Cross Hanas started things off, followed by Tyson Kozak, and then Jack O’Brien tallied as well to put the Hawks up 3-0. Tri-City would respond on the powerplay, putting the Hawks up 3-1 at the end of one.
It was a complete turnaround in the second period with Tri-City outshooting the Hawks 18- 8 and, with it, four straight goals, including a pair by Samuel Huo that gave Tri-City the lead. The Hawks Luca Cagoni scored to snap Tri City’s goal run, to leave the Hawks down 5-4 at the end of two.
Portland swung the shot clock in the third with a 20-4 shot thrashing of Tri-City. Jaydon Dureau would help tie the game early in the third, but Tri-City would restore the lead less than a couple of minutes later, and despite the massive shot attack by Portland, they couldn’t tie the game, falling to Tri-City 6-5. Portland commanded a 46-30 shot total but went 0-1 on the powerplay, with Tri-City knocking 2 of their 6 chances in the net on their powerplays.
Things got testy at the end of the game. One could see the Hawks frustration thing spilled over in the corner of the arena. There were no fighting majors, but Adam Litke from Portland did get a 10-minute misconduct. The road trip was less than successful, with the Hawks managing just one win and that in a shootout versus five losses.
Perhaps home will be more to their liking as the Hawks will get an 11 game homestand starting on Tuesday, going through Saturday, December 11. Though none of the games can be considered easy, the home crowd may help.
This is by far the most challenging season thus far under Mike Johnston’s tutelage. Goaltending has not been as solid as one would like, and the front lines, except the six goals they got in Tri-City, have been weak on production. The team is still a very young squad, and there are bound to be errors.
Portland has called up Josh Zareski from the Saskatoon Blades of the SMAAAHL. After signing with the Hawks in June, he scored 1 goal and 1 assist in 4 preseason games. He was assigned to Saskatoon, where he is second on the scoring for the team with 7 goals, 5 assists in eleven games. He got into the lineup against Seattle and was scratched in the Tri-City Game.
With tournaments coming up, a couple more call-ups will be happening soon as the New Year approaches.
This week, the players took part in the Shop With A Hawk. The event, like many, had been suspended last season due to the pandemic. The Ornament auction helps fund the event, relying on table sales at Entry GG and the excellent support of donations from many people. The event pairs up a Portland Winterhawks player with a child who may not have a Christmas. The clothes and toys that a child gets are in addition to a great mentor from the Winterhawks player. Usually, the pairing lasts up to 45 minutes and many times lasts quite a long time after.