Portland Winterhawks’ Season Ends Up In Flames, East Still Going Strong

Down 2-0 versus Kamloops, the Portland Winterhawks brought the series to Portland, hoping for a rebound from the tough games up in BC. Game three was an excellent example of effort as the Hawks battled hard. Kamloops scored first midway through the first period with a little flip pass into the open part of the net. Jack O’Brien replied for the Hawks less than two minutes later on the powerplay to knot the score heading to intermission. 

Kamloops scored once in the second frame on a powerplay goal and did the same early in the third period to put them up by 2. Luca Cagnoni tried to rally the troops with his first of the postseason with six minutes left, but they couldn’t get the equalizer falling 3-2, and Kamloops with a 3-0 series lead. Shots favored Kamloops 36-25 and 2 of 3 on powerplays for the Blazers versus 1 for 4 for Portland. 

Game four was a disaster. Just eight seconds into the game, Portland took a bench minor, and Kamloops capitalized shortly after that and never looked back. Within the first ten minutes of the game, they had scored three times, including two powerplay goals, chasing Dante Giannuzzi from the Winterhawks net in his only appearance in the 2023 playoffs. Jan Spunar took over and saw the Hawks on a bit of a comeback with two goals under two minutes apart, first by Ryan McCleary and then Diego Buttazoni, with Kamloops leading 3-2 at the end of one. 

The second period saw Kamloops again score early with two goals in just over the first five minutes, including another powerplay goal before Jack O’Brien scored. Two more goals by Kamloops then happened, including a hat trick for Matthew Seminoff, followed by a late Diego Buttazoni goal. Olen Zellweger for Kamloops scored the second of his night near the end of the period and, within the first two minutes of the third period, had a hat-trick goal himself. Caeden Bankier completed the rout with an exclamation point off Ryder Thompson’s stick, ending the game at 10-4. Kamloops had a wide margin on shots at 48-27, going 4 of 8 on the powerplay to Portland’s 1-3.  

Many questions may be asked of why Dante didn’t play until game four after hammering games in Kamloops and a close margin in Game 3 and Dante giving up three goals in ten minutes versus 7 Jan gave up in 50. With that, the Hawks season is done, and Dante ages out along with Robbie Fromm-Delorme. 

As NHL Camps start along with drafts, the Hawks will also have to look at returning players. Gabe Klassen, James Stefan, Aiden Litke, Jack O’Brien, Ryan McCleary, along with Chaz Lucius would be over-age players. Lucius is currently injured, and McCleary has been drafted already. Marek Alscher is another question mark. Even though he is 19, his showing with being drafted last year by Florida may make him worthy of AHL if they go that route. 

The summer for the Hawks will be busy. 

In the Seattle and Prince George series, the Thunderbirds swept PG in 4 with two blowouts 8-1 and 8-2 to end their series. It was the first time PG was in round two, dating back to 2007. Kamloops and Seattle begin in Seattle next Friday. 

Teams in the East are bound to be tired when the final two are settled in the East. 

Saskatoon looked to be done as Red Deer surprised the Blades with three straight wins, which could have seen them eliminated next game. The Blades, on the other hand, have made it a seven-game series with three solid wins of their own and a game seven in Saskatoon Tuesday night. 

The biggest surprise is how pesky the Moose Jaw Warriors are. Winnipeg ICE was the favorite to win the whole thing in the WHL. Winnipeg started to show their power, opening up a 1-0 series lead., Moose Jaw came back the next game and then in game three, thumping Winnipeg to take their first series lead. Winnipeg won a 3-2 overtime game, followed by a 5-2 win with two empty net goals. Moose Jaw hosts Monday night, and a possible game seven would be Wednesday. If that happens, the two east teams will play Friday with just a couple of days’ rest between the two series. 

The final four haven’t been set yet, and for sure, it’s to be a tight one. 

Thus far, I am 1 for 2 on series winners in the west and out East; I broke the bank as both series have gone further than I expected. Regardless they are fun series to watch and listen to.

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About Stuart Kemp 313 Articles
Stuart Kemp is the Immediate Past President of 15 years of the Booster Club. and has been following hockey from his native Canada since he can remember, though he can't skate, but played road hockey for several years. Loving hockey and professional wrestling, he has traveled to most of the WHL cities and with wrestling, has seen four provinces and five states. It is true that every Canadian city with more than 500 residents has a hockey rink, well at least it looks that way. Stuart has had his hand in every facet of independent Professional wrestling as he debuted as an announcer in 1986 which started his career.