Portland opened their 2015 preseason action at the annual Everett Silvertip's Labor Day weekend preseason tournament. This was likely the only preseason action that NHL drafted players: Caleb Jones (Edmonton Oilers), Jack Dougherty (Nashville Predators), Paul Bittner (Columbus Blue Jackets), Dominic Turgeon (Detroit Redwings), Alex Schoenborn (San Jose Sharks), Adin Hill (Arizona Coyotes) and Keegan Iverson (New York Rangers) will see as they head to their various team's rookie tournaments later this week. Also headed to NHL tournaments on tryout basis are Keoni Texeira (Washington Capitals) and Rodrigo Abols (Vancouver Canucks).
The Winterhawks opened the tournament on Friday with a resounding 7-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs. They jumped out to a 4-0 second period lead and never looked back as they ended up scoring seven goals on only 25 shots at 17 year old rookie Chief's Goalie Matt Berlin. Nineteen year old Latvian rookie Rodrigo Abols built upon a strong Neely Cup with three assists and over-age forward Alex Schoenborn had a goal and an assist, while Adin Hill was strong; stopping 30 of 32 shots. Caleb Jones, Nick Heid, Brendan De Jong and Nick Heid all had two points as well for the Hawks.
Portland then won in entertaining fashion on Saturday afternoon, with Paul Bittner scoring an over-time winner in his first preseason action, beating the Tri City Americans 3-2. Bittner's goal came on the rush with 1:48 left in the OT session. Alex Overhardt and Brett Clayton notched the other goals for Portland, while Goalie Michael Bullion made 44 saves on 46 shots, including all 18 shots he faced in the 2nd period. Bullion, an 18 year old from Alaska, is hoping solid play in the preseason will help him put a stranglehold on the backup Goalie spot behind returning, n19 year old Adin Hill.
The Hawks closed out the Everett preseason tourney with a back and forth, penalty filled 4-3 loss to the host Tips Sunday night. Portland fell behind 2-0 from goals by returning forwards Remi Laurencelle and Carson Stadnyk, before the line of Overhardt, 16 year old rookie: Cody Glass and 19 year old Swedish import, rookie Carl Ericson took over. First Ericson, while controlling the puck in the Tip's zone late in the 1st period, made a heads up play finding the driving Overhardt, who went bar down, filing it past Everett Goalie: Carter Hart's glove hand. Then, Keoni Texeira made a slick pass, splitting the Everett defense and sending in Ericson all alone early in the 2nd period. Ericson made no mistake, beating Hart and tying the score. Ericson's line wasn't done yet on the night as during a nice cycle in the opponent's zone and with an Everett defenseman (Alexander Scherbakov) down in a heap in the corner, Overhardt grabbed the puck near the left face-off circle and with his back to the net. He then spun around and lifted a nifty shot over Hart's shoulder to give Portland their first lead. This goal gave Overhardt three in two preseason games and the team lead. Portland was then victimized by two different "too many men on the ice" penalties, both of which Everett took advantage of on the power play.
This type of penalty is rather rare in the WHL nowadays, with an Assistant Coach, specifically in charge of managing the line changes. Portland is currently missing the coach in charge of this though, as Assistant Coach Keith McKittrick is on administrative leave, due to being arrested on August 16 and charged with assault and strangulation.
Everett got power play goals from Stadnyk and Russian, import rookie Yan Khamenko and then held off a fierce Portland rally to win 4-3. 16 year old rookie Ethan Middendorf saw his first preseason action for the Hawks and gave up four goals on 35 shots. The 6'6" Arizona native, struggled with shots coming off of cross ice passes as Everett scored all 4 goals of this variety. Middendorf seems likely to be Portland's third string goalie and spend most of his season playing at a lower level.
-During the first game of the tournament, Portland announced that they had signed 16 year old forwards Ryan Hughes and Bronson Sharp to WHL Education Contracts. Hughes, who is from Edmonton, Alberta scored 65 points in 35 games last season for the Edmonton CAC in Minor Midget AAA. Sharp hails from Mission, B.C. and is a late birthday (12/29/1999) and so is not eligible for the NHL draft until 2018. Sharp notched 51 points in 30 games for the Yale Hockey Academy Elite 15's.
-Returning forwards: Skyler McKenzie and Evan Weinger were the only Winterhawks not to suit up for any of the three preseason games. No word, as of yet, for why they were held out of action.