Portland Winterhawks Stay Hot, Rise In Latest Poll

Matthew Wolfe / Portland Winterhawks

Portland continues its winning ways as it ended January on a heavy streak. The latest sees them at 13-0-0-1, putting them just seven points back of the US Division-leading Everett Silvertips. 

Riley Heildt of the Cougars scored first, taking the puck himself to gain a front slot chance on Gauthier, where he buried the puck between the legs. Four minutes later, Adam Litke came around the right post to sneak the puck in for a one-all tie as they headed to intermission. The second period saw Jack O Brien take a shot initially saved by goaltender Tyler Brennan. Still, it put him sprawling way out of position, allowing Clay Hanus to shoot into a virtually empty net. Luke Schelter blasted one from the left side after a crossfeed from Ryder Thompson to add to the lead. A shootaround by several Winterhawks landed a puck on Jack O’Brien’s stick where he one-timed a shot past Brennan while on the powerplay. Hawks went 1-4 on the powerplay and stopped all three of the Cougars’ attempts. Portland outshot Prince George 47-27. 

The next night Portland took to TV and a Battle With Seattle. One of the comeback games as the Hawks found themselves down 3-0 with a Lucas Ciona goal near the sixteen-minute mark of the first and goals 29 seconds apart by Jordan Gustafson and Henrik Rybinski to put the scare into the Hawks. 

Three straight goals by the Hawks put the teams on an even keel. Jack O’Brien started on the powerplay about five minutes after Seattle’s third goal, and then Josh Zakreski scored his first WHL goal. Kyle Chykowski started things off early in the third. It was a trading of goals between the teams that saw four goals in six minutes to keep Seattle on top, including Kyle’s goal. 

With just over two minutes left in the game, the Hawks pulled Dante Giannuzzi and kept the Thunderbirds penned in their end. A minute later, Cross Hanas put the Hawks on even terms with Seattle sending the game into overtime. 

Nothing was settled there, so the match went to a shootout. Seattle’s Henrik Rybinski lost control of the puck, allowing Portland’s Jack O’Brien to put Portland ahead, which he did while making Thomas Milac flop to the ice and an easy roofing of a goal. Gabe Klassen tried to do the same on the opposite side and was unsuccessful. Attempts by Lukas Svejkovsky and Mekai Sanders were turned away by Dante, which gave the Hawks a come from behind 6-5 shootout win. Seattle outshot Portland 44-32, and Portland led with two powerplay goals on five tries, and Seattle scored once on three attempts. 

Back to Portland again, where the Hawks hosted the Tri-City Americans. 

Two goals early in the first period with a Cross Hanas marker and a James Stefan powerplay goal set the tone for the night. Portland added five more goals in the second, an early one by Marcus Nguyen, midway markers by Kyle Chykowski, and a second notcher by Nguyen, putting the Hawks in complete control. The second period was capped off with goals by Lukas Schelter and Adam Litke toward the end of the frame. 

Tri-City changed goaltenders with Nick Avakyan ceding to Tomas Suchanek in the nets. Tomas gave up a goal near the fifteen-minute mark to finish the game 8-0. Shots favored Portland 40-17, and Portland went 1-3 on the powerplay, with Tri-City blanked on their three opportunities. 

Taylor Gauthier looks like he may need a more significant trophy case. Having won the Goaltender of the Week earlier in January and again this past week, the WHL added to his awards with the WHL Goaltender of the month. Having won the two games this weekend and compiling a 0.50 GAA with a .977 save percentage, he was virtually unstoppable in his quest for collecting wins. He has seven straight wins since the trade to Portland from Prince George.  

Upcoming games will take place this weekend with Tri-City and then Spokane. The next home game will be Wednesday, February 9. There are just three home games in February, on the 9th, 19th, and 20th. The Hawks have an odd schedule situation with 5 taking place against Spokane, one at home and four in Spokane. 

The CHL rankings also came out, with Portland again moving up. Their wins this weekend propelled them to fifth in the poll. Three WHL squads congest the top spots, with Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Everett heading the top. The Kamloops Blazers also make the poll in the seventh spot. After a rough beginning, Kelowna Rockets earned an honorable mention in the poll. 

Where Portland can go is the question. With just one ripple a couple of weeks before the trade deadline in the Taylor Gauthier trade, the Hawks have just been rolling on. Only four games are left with teams above them in the standings, that being Everett Silvertips, and many games will be against US Division opponents.

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About Stuart Kemp 361 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.