The Portland Winterhawks ran their win streak to a season long five games last week, before falling to Everett 2-1 on Sunday. The Winterhawks and Silvertips will be glad to face some other teams as the two squads have played five physical affairs already this year. Over Portland and Everett's first five I-5 battles, a total of only 18 goals have been scored. Teams have only exceeded two goals in a game twice with Everett scoring three in Portland's home opener and Portland scoring five on October 16.
Reasons for why these affairs have been so low scoring revolve around Carter Hart and Adin Hill, the goalies. Hill and Hart currently sit only behind Victoria's Coleman Vollrath in goals against average, and are numbers one and two in save percentage in the entire WHL. Hill has a 2.03 GAA and a 0.943 save percentage so far, while Hart comes in right behind him with 2.08 and 0.930. Both goalies have sparkled in the five games against each other season and likely have a bit of a rivalry dating back to the playoff series last year, when Hill and Portland beat Everett in five games.
Hill's numbers are even more impressive when you consider the fact that he suffered an injury during warmups before the season opener in Victoria, requiring him to miss two games. He really did not start looking 100 percent until a couple of weeks ago. These numbers could look even better in a couple of weeks.
The main concern for Portland, in terms of Hill, is whether or not head coach Jamie Kompon will wear him down. Since Hill returned from injury, he has started every single game for Portland and looks to continue doing so. Factor in the WHL Russia series that he will play at least one game of this coming week and you have a recipe for an over-worked goaltender.
Let's taker a look at the two games last weekend
Friday, October 30th: Portland 2 @Everett 1
The Hawks were woefully outshot 38-13 and entered the third period down a goal, but they got key goals from Paul Bittner and Rodrigo Abols to escape with a 2-1 U.S. Division win. Bittner scored his goal after defenseman Caleb Jones jumped into the zone, secured a bouncing puck, and expertly dropped the puck off in a shooting lane for Bittner. Jones then fired a point shot with less than two minutes left on the power play and Abols neatly tipped it past a screened Carter Hart for the eventual game winner. Portland was outshot, out-possessed and out-chanced, but their defense did a great job of clearing out, rebounding, and not hanging their goalie out to dry. Portland defenseman Jack Dougherty was injured in the first period and did not return.
Sunday, November 1st: Everett 2 @Portland 1
Everett returned the favor in Portland two nights later in the rose city. Everett jumped out to a 1-0 lead behind the first career WHL goal from Brian King, but Portland was able to tie the score in the third period behind a nice goal from Keegan Iverson. Caleb Jones assisted on the goal and had three points in two games over the weekend. He has a three game point streak going. The 19-year-old, Edmonton Oiler drafted defenseman seems to be getting comfortable with the offensive side of his game and it's shown on the stat sheet recently. Everett got the game deciding goal from defensive defenseman Cole MacDonald with under a minute to play. After Everett controlled the puck for over a minute in the Hawks' zone, MacDonald slipped a heavily screen wrist shot from the point through Hill's pads. The loss was Portland's first to Everett since the home opener back on October third. In the meantime, Portland had won three straight over the Tips.
- Portland should be getting recently acquired forward Rihards Bukarts in the lineup for Friday's game vs. Kelowna. He had been held out due to issues with his visa.
- 16-year-old rookie forward Cody Glass has yet to record a point at the U-17 Challenge Cup, but his team is still undefeated and plays in one semi-final Friday vs. Russia. Glass has been centering what is essentially the team's third line and has set up countless chances over the four games so far.
- Winterhawks' prospect Scott Reedy is competing for the U.S. team at the same tournament and up until yesterday's game he was second in tourney scoring with seven points. The U.S. lost in a quarter-final yesterday, ending their hopes of winning the tourney. Reedy has committed to playing for the University of Minnesota, but Portland fans are hoping he decides to take his talents to the WHL instead.
- Portland Assistant Coach Keith McKittrick is still on administrative leave and at this point it does not look like he will be returning to the team this season. He has agreed to take part in a domestic violence program.
Video of the Week
With the Kelowna Rockets heading into town for two games this weekend, my thoughts drift back to the epic rivalry that the Tacoma Rockets and Portland used to have. Tacoma and Portland had a great home and home series back in 1993 that ended up deciding who would win the Western Conference regular season title. This video is from a line brawl the season before. Probably one of my favorite things about attending a game during that series at the Tacoma Dome was the fans yelling "Rockets!" during the ...rockets red glare... part of the Star Spangled Banner.
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