As sugarplum fairies dance in their heads, the Portland Winterhawks, at the holiday break, sit on top of the US Division standings.
With Marek Alscher at World Juniors and Luca Cagnoni named to the Canadian squad, the Hawks had to deal with a couple of injuries which hopefully will be in good standing come the three games at the end of December and the monstrous Eastern Swing in January.
The opponent for the two games was the Vancouver Giants. The Giants went with Jesper Vkkman between the pipes for the two games, and the Hawks went with Jan Spunar on the road and Dante Giannuzzi at home.
On the road, a pair of BC boys scored for the Hawks and then saw Vancouver notch one to give a bit of a scare against Spunar. After a scoreless first period, Kyle Chyzowski scored just past the fifteen-minute mark to put the Hawks up 1-0 heading to the third period. Robbie Fromm-Delorme added an insurance goal on the powerplay and the Hawks were leading 2-0 when Vancouver struck just over 12 minutes into the third, but despite this, they were able to add an equalizer. Portland won 2-1 in regulation. Vancouver outshot Portland 41-31, but it was Portland going 1-3 on the powerplay vs. 0-4 for Vancouver that made the difference.
To Portland for the Holiday Sweater night and the Sugarplum game and the same two team meeting.
Portland scored first on the powerplay, with James Stefan scoring to lead the boys out of the first period 1-0. Two goals a minute and a half apart by James Stefan with his second of the night and Carter Southern to put the Hawks up by three and chased Jesper Vikman from the net in place of Brett Mirwarld, who would go the rest of the way.
Vancouver came roaring back with 1 goal in the second period and three more in the third to take the lead. It may have been overconfidence on the Giants’ part, as Aiden Litke would score less than a minute later to send the game to overtime.
Portland’s Ryan McCleary scored at 3:13 of overtime to complete the comeback at a 5-4 win. The Hawks are now 23-4-2-1 and one point up on Seattle, with the Thunderbirds having a game in hand. Portland is second in the overall WHL standings as they head to the holiday break. Portland outshot Vancouver 46-39 and was 1-5 on the powerplay; Vancouver was 2-5 on theirs.
The Hawks will have three games to close out 2022. Tri-City will visit Wednesday the 28th, and then the Hawks will play a home-and-home set with Everett before heading east and the Eastern Swing starting January 6 in Brandon, Manitoba.
It will be interesting to see if Portland moves up the poll this week as it comes out later and what will happen with the three games after Christmas.
The trade deadline is January 10, 2023, and it has been quiet the past week. During the Christmas break, it will be very quiet during the moratorium as no trades are allowed until post-Christmas. That doesn’t mean there will be no trades, just that such will not be announced until the league resumes Tuesday, December 27. The Hawks will practice on December 27 and continue games on the 28th.
New Year’s Eve is seeing a 5 pm start with the “ball drop” on the screen at 9 pm (midnight Eastern time). There will be a skate at the VMC following the game, where people can rent skates or bring their own. The cost for rentals is $20
It will be a fun week for sure for all. Have a great holiday season and however you do so, make sure it’s safe! See you all next year!