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WHL US Division - Portland Winterhawks notebook: moving on up

A late season surge is elevating Portland's post-season prospects.

Goal!
Goal!
Jimmy Budinski

The Portland Winterhawk's up and down season has been one that the Portland organization and their fans have not been used to. With the team's success in the last five years, having an up and down season can set up a recipe for success in the post season. Portland, 25-21-2-0, sit third in the US Division and sixth in the Western Conference with 52 points. Although they are two games ahead of Everett and Seattle, it is possible, that with the right help and a strong late season run, the Hawks could host the first round of the playoffs. Portland does have a half and half mix of veterans and young players, but no one questions their heart or desire to win every game. With Captain Dominic Turgeon and veteran Alex Schoenborn leading the team, it is hard to count them out of any game.

Here is recap of the Winterhawk's games.

Photo by Jimmy Budinski

Regina Pats (1) vs Portland Winterhawks (4) 01/13/2016

Portland's one and only meeting against the Regina Pats was a successful one.  After losing their three previous games, a win was just what they team needed to get back on track. Skyler McKenzie was chosen first star of the game getting two empty net goals late after racking up 17 minutes of penalty time. McKenzie was penalized for fighting along with an instigator and a 10 minute misconduct at the 17:06 mark of the second period. The Captain Dominic Turgeon and Assistant Captain Keoni Texeira netted the other two goals for the Hawks with Keegan Iverson tallying for 3 points in the win. Winterhawk's net minder Adin Hill stopped 34 of 35 shots and was stellar in net for the Portland side.

Portland Winterhawks (3) vs Spokane Chiefs (2) 01/15/2016

After the big Portland win on Wednesday versus Regina, the Hawk's squad was looking for a chance to jump ahead of Spokane in the standing with a win.  Portland played strong on route to the win even though just firing 18 shots on goal.  They did, however, manage to squeeze three of those shots by Spokane goaltender Tyson Verheist. Alex Schoenborn would net the game winner (his 1fourth goal of the season) at the 19:43 mark of the second period as the defense shut down the Spokane relentless offense despite giving the Chiefs two power play opportunities in the third period. Adin Hill was again remarkable as he stopped 37 of 39 shots to help get the win for Portland.

Saskatoon Blades (3) vs Portland Winterhawks (1) 01/16/2016

Portland made the long bus trip home from Spokane where the Saskatoon Blades were waiting.  Saskatoon arrived in Portland early and were able to rest while Portland was in a divisional battle in Spokane.  The fatigue definitely showed for the Winterhawks as they were not able to mount any sort of dominance against the rested Blade squad. Saskatoon scored a goal in every period while Portland's only goal was scored by Evan Weinger at the 12:01 mark of the first period, bringing the game level at one at the time. Although Portland showed determination, firing off 39 total shots at the Saskatoon back stopper Brock Hamm, Hamm would stop all but one, frustrating the Hawks throughout the game. Adin hill had a rough night as the defense in front of him were off their game. Hill stopped 22 of 25 shots in the loss.

Vancouver Giants (2) vs Portland Winterhawks (3) 01/18/2016

In one of the greatest games to be a part of throughout the season, the daylight classics are definitely a treat for the fans.  The game is played during the mid-afternoon and the curtains to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum are brought down to allow the outside light to shine into the arena through the enormous windows. This gives it an outdoor game type of feel.  In the game, the Winterhawks came out firing and on point, but could not get any shots past Vancouver's Ryan Kubic in the first period.  That all changed in the second when Dominic Turgeon fired one past the Giant goaltender while on the power play at the 6:13 mark of the second period. Blake Heinrich just 1:21 later scored another goal to push the Winterhawk lead to 2-0. The Hawks would hold the overall lead throughout the game and eventually winning 3-2 with Ryan Hughes scoring the eventual game winner in the third period. Adin hill was great in net once again stopping 27 of 29 shots and getting the win.

Seattle Thunderbirds (3) vs Portland Winterhawks (0) 01/23/2016

Photo by Jimmy Budisnki

In one of the biggest rivalries, dating back into the 1970's the I-5 rivalry is one of the most exciting in the league. Seattle traveled south, down the I-5 freeway, to take on Portland in a home and home battle between these two teams. Seattle came out of the locker room strong and controlled the game from start to finish. Seattle's Keegan Kolesar was unstoppable, scoring two goals and assisting on the third goal for a 3-point night and a first star nod for the game. Adin Hill was met with a barrage of shots as he faced 37 of them from the rivals to the north. This game, like many of their previous matchups, were filled with penalties. Seattle racking up 25 penalty minutes while Portland had 23. Seattle, the only team to capitalize on a power play chance, for the evening, Seattle went 1 for 5 on the man advantage while Portland did not take advantage of 6 power play opportunities that they were given.

Portland Winterhawks (5) vs Seattle Thunderbirds (2) 01/24/2016

Both teams traveled up the I-5 Freeway to do battle once again, but this time at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Washington. This night was the annual Teddy Bear toss for the T-Birds organization.  The fans did have to wait a little to throw their fluffy stuffed toys on the ice, but they were delighted when Scott Eansor shot a rocket past Portland's back stopper Adin Hill on the Power play with just 47 seconds remaining the first period. The fans and the Seattle players took a moment to bask in the moment as the raining of the teddy bears came from the seating areas.

Seattle poured it on in the second as they were able to get another power play goal, this time from Keegan Kolesar (his third goal in two games and 2third of the season) at the 7:45 mark of the second period.  Unfortunately for Seattle and the 6,190 faithful that attended the game, the game would take an extreme turn.  Alex Schoenborn for Portland started out his memorable night with a goal at the 11:34 mark with a pretty deflection goal that snuck by Seattle's net minder Landon Bow. Portland would continue to score and bring the game back to even with a Rodrigo Abols goal off of a rebound that saw him with the puck and an empty net. Alex Schoenborn's night would get better as he scored one of the prettier goals you will see all season.

Scoring off of his own rebound, while sliding on his belly, Schoenborn slapped the puck home to the back of the net for his second of the game and the Portland lead. Portland would not look back from there as Schoenborn netted another goal to complete his hat trick with the Captain Dominic Turgeon getting an Empty netter to seal the victory 5-2. Adin Hill stood on his head to ensure the Hawk's won the game.  Making extremely tough saves and stopping 39 of 41 shots from the Thunderbirds.

Tri City Americans (3) vs Portland Winterhawks (4) 01/25/2016

Portland traveled home after getting an extremely must needed win against their US Division rivals Seattle Thunderbirds. Portland needed to keep the winning coming as they took on the Tri City Americans at home in the Moda Center. Portland had a tough night, but stayed focus in getting the win.  Two goals were taken off the board for the Portland side, one because of a "Hole in the net", which was the unofficial reason for the goal reversal and the other was due to goaltender interference. However; the Winterhawks stayed poised and continued to fight on. Four different players tallied goals for the Hawks, Caleb Jones, Blake Heinrich, Dominic Turgeon, and Alex Schoenborn. The scoring was back and forth until Alex Schoenborn scored the fourth and final goal of the game for the Hawks at the 10:53 mark of the final frame. Adin Hill struggled, but continued to keep his team in the game stopping 27 of 30 shots.

Alex Schoenborn has been incredible in the last couple of weeks. Scoring 5 goals and 1 assist with three of those goals coming in a 5-2 victory over Seattle in Kent. Schoenborn's play has continued to get more inspiring as his presence around the net has been rewarding.  One of Alex's weaker parts of his game is continuing to take penalties.  He has mainly stayed out of the penalty box with only 21 penalty minutes in the last seven games (19 minutes during the 4-1 win against Regina). The Portland Winterhawk Captain Dominic Turgeon cannot be forgotten. Turgeon has netted 5 goals and helped on two others in the last seven games as well.

Portland has some key games coming up as their strength will be tested on the road.  They will take on the Western Conference leaders the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and then the team directly below them in the standings Kamloops Blazers on Saturday.  Following those games are must win matchups against Everett and Seattle. Portland would like to get a good showing during the next week to continue to move up the rankings. Seattle has four games before they meet with Portland with games versus Everett and Kelowna.  Everett has three games, all divisional games, before facing off against Portland.

Photo by Jimmy Budinski

Here are the current US Division Standings

Everett Silvertips:             46 Games,   28-14-2-2     60

Seattle Thunderbirds       46 Games,   26-17-3-0     55

Portland Winterhawks     48 Games, 25-21-2-0       52

Spokane Chiefs                  46 Games, 22-19-3-2       49

Tri City Americans            47 Games, 20-25-2-0        42

Catch my live play by play on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/groups/946672248691074/ (selected regular season games and all playoff games)