With rosters now firmly set as the teams get ready for the stretch run toward the playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks have less than thirty games to make up ground against higher divisional opponents and to keep those teams beneath them from nipping at their heels.
With the weather issues in Portland over the past two weeks, the team’s rescheduled games come at a time when they have had to hit one of the bigger and longer road trips of the season. Coming along for the ride has been the flu, which has hit several teams at once including the Hawks and its grip occurred with the team on the road.
Right at the tail end of trade deadline, the Hawks picked up two twenty-year-old players in Shaun Dosanjh from Lethbridge and, on the waiver wire, Matt Revel from Kamloops, who is currently on the injured list and not expected to be able to play before late February. The Hawks also brought in Ty Westgard who had played with Victoria just two games due to injury after making a deal with the Royals two months back for his playing rights. With recently signed Shane Farkas out ill, Ethan Middendorf was brought in as an emergency backup for the road trip, but did not play in the four-game set.
Following in the footsteps of the team were 41 faithful of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club on their annual Canadian excursion with the hopes of helping to give the boys a little taste of home and support.
Portland first traveled far north to Prince George, where despite leading 3-1 going into the third period, three unanswered goals gave the Cougars a 4-3 win in game one. The next night it was goals being traded back and forth until the end of the third period and subsequent overtime that solved nothing. A shootout finally broke the tie and the WHL leading Prince George ended with a 6-5 win over the Hawks.
Two night later, the Hawks skated into the Sandamn Centre in Kamloops, BC on Literacy Night, a night where the Booster Club helped “Heap the Honda” to fill it with books for the literacy project. Over 100 books were turned into the campaign by the Booster Club, which earned a mention in the WHL roundup with Greg Drinnan in Kamloops. The Hawks were as strong to the task as they could be despite a depleted lineup giving up the first two goals of the game. They were not going down without a fight, however, as they battled back to tie the game twice and send the game into extra time. Once again, it was a shootout that would be the Achilles heel for the Hawks as they would drop their third straight game by a 4-3 decision.
With the last game of the trip in front of them, the tired and road weary team limped into Kelowna, only to put up their biggest battle of the four games. The Hawks gave up an early goal, but battled hard against the Rockets time and time again, giving Rockets goaltender Michael Herringer some of the toughest saves of the game. Finally tying the game late into the second period, the Hawks looked to capitalize multiple times in the third period, However, it was the Rockets who got the puck luck with three goals including an empty net goal that would send the Hawks home winless in the four-game set with a 4-1 win.
The Hawks would have no time to dwell on the losses as the they loaded the bus and traveled overnight back to Portland with a much-needed day off to recover as they looked to regain some measure of revenge against the Kamloops Blazers in a makeup game before looking to a weekend pair with Everett and Kelowna on the road. Portland will end the month with the home game versus Everett as the second of two rescheduled games.
Due to the rescheduled games and weather issues, the Burgerville meet and greet scheduled for this week in Gresham and Lloyd Center was postponed with a date to be determined in the next two months.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club ended its membership campaign with nearly 500 members on board for this season and announced its membership drive will begin in early February. Details on the membership drive and the Booster Club can be found here.