Portland Winterhawks Split First Tournament, Gear Up For Second

With camp now out of the way, the Portland Winterhawks took 34 players (21 Forwards, 10 defensemen, and 3 goalies) to a pair of games in Everett, where they split the two in losing 3-2 to Spokane and winning a 3-2 score versus Seattle. They will play a game in Spokane, followed by a pair in the Tri-Cities to wrap up the preseason. 

It’s hard to think that the regular season is only a week after that. 

The Hawks will see ten players head to NHL Camps, with Marek Alscher and Chaz Lucus signing entry-level deals. Luscius was sent down by the Winnipeg Jets last season, impressing many in the few games he played before a season-ending injury. Barring an available spot in at least the ECHL or AHL, he is most likely done in Portland. Alscher poses a major question mark. European rules regarding the NHL allow players as young as 19 to be retained by their parent club, in the case of the Florida Panthers, and can be assigned to an AHL club if they so choose; they can also retain him with the parent club. Alscher’s season in Portland was strong enough to get him the entry-level deal, so his availability may be in jeopardy for the Hawks. 

Drafted players Luca Cagnoni (San Jose) and Carter Southern (Philadelphia Flyers) are not yet signed and will return to Portland at some point, but it will depend on how they impress the two clubs. If they sign an entry-level deal during camp, things become more interesting. They can either be returned to Portland or play up to nine games in the NHL before either returning to Portland or burning up a year of their NHL deal. Josh Davies, who was part of the recent trade with Swift Current, is also in Florida’s camp and could be in the same position as Cagnoni and Southern. 

The camp invitees Gabe Klassen (Carolina), Jack O’Brien (Carolina), Jan Spunar (Montreal), James Stefan (Ottawa), and Ryder Thompson (Arizona) have not signed NHL deals yet, which usually means a return to their Junior clubs. However, all were impressed in their roles with the Winterhawks, hence the invites, and could score a deal in camp. Should that happen and the club retain them for any period, it could be rough in the scoring department for the team. 

The Hawks will have a pair of netminders in Justen Maric, who was recently acquired from Moose Jaw and has played four regular season games with Red Deer and Moose Jaw and four preseason games, one with Red Deer, one with Moose Jaw, and one with Portland where he stopped 42 of 44 shots and a .955 save percentage and Luke Brunen who has played a couple of preseason games last year and one this year, a loss to Spokane in Everett stopping 15 of 18 for a .833 save percentage. 

These two will be the tandem over the next few games in preseason and, depending on Spunar, will be the two for the time being. 

Such is life in the preseason, a host of unknowns, and the coach’s poll, which will be out soon to start the season. Many expect the Hawks to place highly in the US Division, and the pressure will be on to see if they can handle the holes in the lineup. 

Mike Johnston stresses that the season doesn’t start until 20 games have passed; a team should know whether players are returning and have the gelling of the lines with practice. 

Portland played Spokane at the Spokane Arena with 19 skaters, including goaltenders, after they reassigned Owen Chapman, 15, and Griffen Darby, 14, to the Saskatoon Male AAA League. In signing these two to WHL contracts, they can play up to 10 games with the Winterhawks this season. Chapman will play for Saskatoon Contacts and Darby with Swift Current Legionnaires.  

Justen Maric for the Hawks went the distance in net versus Cooper Michaluk for the Chiefs in a coach’s nightmare where the Hawks won 7-6 in overtime. The Hawks led 3-1 at the end of the first and 4-3 at the end of the second. The teams were tied at six when Spokane tied it with three and a half minutes left. Diego Buttazzoni, the game’s first star, netted a hat trick by scoring in the overtime period just over a minute. 

The rubber match with these two teams will be Saturday at 2:05pm. The Hawks will face Tri-City at 7:05 on Friday.

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About Stuart Kemp 323 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.