The hits just kept on coming for the Portland Winterhawks. First they suffered a humiliating 2-0 loss to a goalie, who had not won a WHL game in his career yet. Then they went 1-3 on their B.C. Division road trip, losing star forward Paul Bittner to injury in the process.
The only bright spot of their recent run, has been goalie Adin Hill re-discovering his game after a horrendous (for him) month of November. Hill was 4-5 in the month with a 3.91 (Goals Against Average (GAA) and 0.882 save percentage. This was his worst month (in which he played more than one game), statistically, in his WHL career. He has already shown signs that he has put the month behind him though as he has a 3.47 GAA and 0.916 save percentage so far in December.
With the team at one point missing three of their top-six forwards, Rihards Bukarts has been the one to step up and drive the team offensively. Since coming to Portland he has 12 points through 13 games. He at one point in the game vs. Kamloops had fired 11 shots on net. More will be asked of Bukarts as various forwards are gone playing internationally and he seems to be up to the task.
Saturday 11/28: Vancouver 2 @ Portland 0
-Not a lot of positives from the daylight classic game for Portland. The giants came into the game with only two wins in their last 20 games, but looked like a defensive stalwart in Portland. Vancouver goalie Ryan Kubic made the saves hew as asked to and had his first career win and first career shutout all in the same game. The best Portland skater was Portland defenseman Jack Dougherty as he was all over the ice, blocking shots, picking off passes and firing his cannon of a shot on net from the point. Dougherty has worked his way into being the power play quarterback for the Winterhawks and he currently has three of his six goals this year on the man advantage.
Tuesday 12/1: Prince George 3 vs. Portland 2
-Adin HIll had to get the last vestiges of November out of his system as he gave up two quick goals before a lot of the P.G. fans had settled into their seats. The Winterhawks responded well with late goals from Paul Bittner and Keoni Texeira, but a stellar outing from WHL goalie of the week Ty Edmonds did them in. 16-year-old forward Cody Glass was given a big opportunity as he started the game next to Rodrigo Abols and Rihards Buakrts, among Portland's top-six forwards. Glass has impressed this season for Portland with eight points in his first 20 games.
Wednesday 12/2: Prince George 5 Portland 3
-Portland had a much better start to the second game in Prince George, with Paul Bittner driving play and scoring an early goal and Jack Dougherty adding another before the games 11 minutes old. In the process though, Portland lost Bittner to an unknown injury. Matters would get worse for Portland as Colton Veloso suffered an injury as well, leaving the Hawks without four of the 13 forward on their roster. Veloso would make a spirited return to the ice, but was clearly suffering. The loss of one of their leaders, appeared to be too much for the Hawks, who were dominated possession-wise the rest of the way, seceding five of the game's final six goals. Dominic Turgeon had the lone marker for Portland, as they came back form blowing a 2-0 lead, only to lose 5-3.
Friday, 12/4: Portland 3 Kamloops 2
-Rihards Bukarts decided that as one of the few healthy top-six forwards for Portland, he would do everything in his power to lead them to a much-needed victory in wake of their three-game losing streak. He achieved his task, just barely. Kamloops started the scoring with a controversial goal from Matt Revel, before Cody Glass made a nifty play, tipping a Jackson Caller shot past Blazers' goalie Conor Ingram to tie the score. Caller has been called up for the game, as he is from Kamloops and was playing for his team in the area. Caller recorded an assist in his very first game in the WHL. Also playing for Portland, was Alex Schoenborn, who gave an inspiring effort, considering it was fairly obvious his shoulder was still ailing him.
Kamloops got another goal from Revel and appeared to be taking the two points, when the Blazers' Garrett Pilon was called for tripping with only 1:12 remaining in the game. Bukarts, on his 11th shot of the night, snuck one through Ingram and sent the game into overtime. After the five minutes decided nothing, Portland showcased their skills in the shoot out. Jack Dougherty and Rihards Bukarts both found the twine behind ridiculous moves, before Rodrigo Abols put the game way in the fifth round off a fairly simple looking shot.
Saturday, 12/5: Kelowna 4 Portland 2
-The Rockets won their third game over Porland of the four-game season series, in another entertaining game. The Rockets were powered by two goals from Dillon Dube, who was wearing a full cage, due to suffering an eye injury after teammate Joe Gatenby's stick struck him the last time the teams played. Colton Veloso returned to the lineup for Portland scored a goal on a rolling shot, giving him six on the seaosn. Portland got another goal from Jack Dougherty and came close to tying the score several times, before the Rockets put the clamps down and escaped with the win.
Video of the Week(s):
-John Badduke was a bad man. He was one of my favorite Winter Hawks(respect the space) growing up, for his sheer toughness and desire to inspire his team, no matter how many opponents he had to take on. In this video, Badduke is playing in the AHL and throws not one, but two different sucker punches on opponents. Of note is the fact that for the second one, he actually left the penalty box. Needless to say, the game is a very different one today then it was 20 years ago.
News and Notes:
-Paul Bittner was named to teams USA's World Juniors' preliminary camp roster and if he is healthy should have a good chance of making the final roster.
-Caleb Jones, Jack Dougherty and Dominic Turgeon were all invited to Team USA's camp in Lake Placid during th summer but apparently did not impress enough to warrant a spot.
-Portland made a deal last week when they traded forwards Austin Gray and Reed Morison to the Kootenay Ice for a seventh round bantam pick. Gray had left the team a week prior, after only getting into two of the team's first 21 games. Morison had played himself out of favor and had been pushed down the depth chart by younger forwards like Cody Glass and Ryan Hughes.