The Portland Winterhawks went 2-1 this past week, winning two games at home and dropping a road decision to Seattle. They went into the Thanksgiving holiday with a 12-10 record that has them at 24 points and in the first wild card spot in the Western Conference. Unfortunately for Portland, the past week has been extremely costly as two members of their top-six forward group have gone down with injuries and one of their depth forwards decided to leave the team for personal reasons.
Alex Schoenborn injured his shoulder last Friday when he threw a shoulder check on Tri-City Americans’ forward Jordan Topping. He has not played since. Then Austin Gray, who has only gotten into two games this year, decided to leave them team. Gray is a 1997 born player who was getting beaten out for playing time by younger forwards like Ryan Hughes, Brett Clayton and Cody Glass and likely was not a fan of spending most of the first 21 games of the year in the crowd, rather than on the ice. Lastly, Keegan Iverson left Wednesday’s tilt with Moose Jaw early in the first period and did not return.
These injuries and Gray leaving the team resulted in the Winterhawks bringing in signed, 17-year-old forward Tanner Nagel. Oddly enough, he was signed at a time during the preseason when Portland was desperate for bodies at forward as well, due to players being at NHL camps and down with injuries.
Friday: Portland 5 Tri-City 2
-Portland won their fourth of five match ups so far this season with the Americans, behind two points each from Jack Dougherty, Colton Veloso, Alex Overhardt and Dominic Turgeon. Portland scored the first two goals as Dougherty notched yet another power play goal and Veloso solved Tri-City goalie Evan Sarthou from the side boards. The Americans got one back but later in the period had their goalie chased when Overhardt made a nifty play to get an open shot and scored his fourth goal of the year. It was Overhardt’s fourth consecutive game with a goal. Turgeon and Paul Bittner added goals late in the 5-2 win. Maxwell James of Tri-City showed some of the frustration that his entire team must have been feeling with Portland this year when he jumped Keegan Iverson from behind and sucker punched him as well. The incident earned his a one-game suspension from the WHL. Paul Bittner’s goal was his first in six games and hopefully was the start of him busting out of his scoring slump.
Saturday: Seattle 5 Portland 2
-Portland’s four-game winning streak was snapped by their I-5 rivals, who extended their own win streak to six games. The Thunderbirds were led by Scott Eansor, who had three assists, as well as, two points from Jamal Watson. Portland actually controlled a lot of the early play, before an ill-advised drop pass by Rihards Bukarts in Seattle’s zone, led to a two-on-one break the other way. Mathew Barzal finished the play and swung the momentum in Seattle’s favor. Paul Bittner did get a goal in the first period to tie the score back up, but Seattle got two pivotal second period goals from Donavon Neuls and Watson to stake themselves to a 3-1 lead heading into the final period. In the third, Bittner scored his second of the game, when he perfectly read a Jack Dougherty dump-in off the boards and beat everybody else to the puck and beat Seattle goalie Logan Flodell. The game would then turn on a very controversial goal moments later. Seattle had a loose puck around Portland’s net when Jamal Watson took the blade of his stick and hit the front of Hill’s mask while he was laying on the ice chest-first. The jab would end up dis-lodging Hill’s mask and knocking it off his head, but Nick Holowko would put the puck past him, before he helmet completely came off. The referees looked at the replay, but unfortunately for Portland, must not have been able to get a clear enough view to feel confident in over-turning the initial call of goal. Seattle would add a late goal from Matthew Wedman to skate to the 5-2 win. This was Bittner’s first multi-goal game of the year and his first since game five of last year’s first-round playoff series vs. Seattle. Portland had a chance with a win in this game to cut into Seattle’s lead in the U.S. Division and tie up their season series at one win apiece, but did not capitalize on the opportunity.
Wednesday: Portland 6 Moose Jaw 5 (OT)
-Games the night before Thanksgiving have a history of being sloppy affairs and this was definitely no exception. Portland started the scoring when Rodrigo Abols tipped home a Jack Dougherty point shot while on the power play. Portland has continued to find success with funneling the puck to Dougherty on the PP. After Moose Jaw’s Brett Howden tied the score, Paul Bittner had a highlight-reel goal to get the lead back. Dominic Turgeon drove the puck into the slot and made a nifty spin move to backhand pass the puck to a waiting Bittner below the right faceoff circle. Bittner made no mistake in scoring a goal in his third straight game. After Abols scored his second of the game, the Warriors got within one with another goal from Howden. The start of the third was awful for Portland as they gave up two straight goals and fell behind 4-3 before seven minutes had passed on the clock. Portland recovered, though and got a nifty power play goal from Turgeon, followed by a goal from Dougherty to take a 5-4 lead with under three minutes to play. Moose Jaw would not go quietly though as defenseman Marc McNulty scored with 2:34 left to send the game into overtime. This was the very first three-on-three OT that Portland has played since the rules were changed this last off-season. Rather than a series of breakaways, like we’ve seen at the NHL level, the game turned into a more half-court basketball style offensive game. This all changed though when the Warriors were able to poke the puck out of the zone and one of their forwards took that opportunity to change. Keoni Texeira took advantage of the three-on-two break and beat Warriors’ goalie Zach Sawchenko low blocker side for the Winterhawks’ win. The goal was not only Texeira’s first OT-winner of his career; it was his first game-winner of any type.
Video of the Week:
-The date was March 31st, 2010 and Portland was playing in game seven of a first round playoff series with the Spokane Chiefs. The Winterhawks were playing their first full season under new coach Mike Johnston and the new coach decided to send out a 16-year-old forward in the extra session. Defenseman Taylor Aronson drove into the zone and from behind the net found that rookie in the slot. Little did most fans know that he would go on to be one of the best goal scorers in team history.