The Portland Winterhawks enjoyed early success and were even in the top five in the WHL when it came to points, but then went on a devastating nine-game losing streak that left fans doubting their development. However; some say that losing is where you learn and develop. After a tweet that was posted by Defenseman Caleb Jones stating; "I think Portland is tired of losing. The streak ends tonight." no one knew how true that statement was going to be when the Winterhawks stepped out onto the ice against the Calgary Hitmen in the Moda Center on Sunday, November 12th. Since this team is made up of young players who are trying to develop their game, there will be a lot of 'growing pains' for at least this year and possibly for next year as well.
Here is a recap of the last three games for Portland;
Calgary Hitmen (2) @ Portland Winterhawks (9) 11/12/2016 Moda Center
Portland came into this game looking for a way to end their losing streak, which had reached nine games before this night. A lot of the Portland players tweeted out that the streak would end and that they would get the win against Calgary. Not only did they win against Calgary, but they routed them to a convincing 9-2 result. Cody Class was the star of the game as he scored three goals in the first period getting the first hat trick of the season for the team. Glass ended with five points in the game with a plus-three and one penalty, earning the first star of the game. Skyler McKenzie ended with four points (1 Goal, 3 Assists) and Caleb Jones also ended with four points (1 Goal, 3 Assists). Cole Kehler had another amazing night stopping 34 of 36 shots in the win.
Photo by Jimmy Budinski
Seattle Thunderbirds (4) @ Portland Winterhawks (5) OT 11/19/2016 Memorial Coliseum
After a week had past, the Hawks were ready to take on their I-5 rivals, the Seattle Thunderbirds at home. This game saw a lot of goals, as usual, and many lead changes and ties. But it was Portland who saw the red lamp one more time than the T-Birds. Ryan Hughes for the Winterhawks scored two important goals for the Portland side as he scored the first goal of the game and the game-winning-goal in overtime (he also tallied one assist). Hughes received the first star of the game for his efforts. Colton Veloso also pitched in a goal and an assist as did winger Joachim Blichfeld. Cole Kehler was in net for the Winterhawks and turned aside 42 of the 46 shots that he faced (Kehler did not face any shots in the Overtime period). With the win, Portland received their second win in a row and a valuable two points.
Photo by Jimmy Budinski
Lethbridge Hurricanes (6) @ Portland Winterhawks (5) OT 11/20/2016 Memorial Coliseum
Portland, riding a two-game winning streak, had their sights on the inter-conference foe, the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The Hawks came out strong getting three goals in the first period, but only led 3-2 at the end of the first frame. That didn't deter the team as they tallied two more goals to Lethbridge's one goal, leading 5-3 at the end of the second period. However, the Hurricanes shut out the Hawks for the rest of the game as they scored two more goals in the third period and then the game winner just 18 seconds into overtime, ending the game with a 6-5 win over the Hawks. Evan Weinger and Skyler McKenzie were both excellent in the game scoring four points between them (three goals and one assist). Portland Goaltender Michael Bullion did not have a good night in net. He turned aside 25 shots of the 31 he faced and allowed the game winner, which was the only shot in the overtime period by either team.
Michael Bullion, goaltender for the Portland Winterhawks, was supposed to be the first option for Head Coach Mike Johnston, but has struggled just about every game he has been placed in net. He has played in eight games so far this season allowing 31 goals out of 445 shots that he has faced (4.18 GAA). He currently sits 33rd of the 34 goalies in the league. Fans and coaches would both say that he needs more time between the pipes though. He only has one win in the eight games and has allowed just over four goals a game, which leaves the offense with a lot of work to overcome. The question is, will Bullion get better with more time in net? I believe so. Considering Bullion only played in eight games all season last year, his stats were only slightly better last year compared to this year's (4.08 GAA- 30 goals out of 225 shots). I guess we will have to see if indeed more game time for Bullion is the answer to his struggling ways. So far, he has not been impressive.
'FROM THE FAN SEAT'
This week we asked devoted Winterhawk fan and long time supporter of my "Facebook Live Play By Play" fan page Sara Al-Bassam for her thoughts on the recent three game success of the Portland Winterhawks. "I'm Optimistic that there will be more wins in the future, but with this young team , there will be more losses." She went on in saying; "Hopefully, they will have more wins and stay above .500." I also asked Sara, what she thought of the job that Mike is doing so far this season? "So far, I think he is doing okay. He's working with a young team. You can see how some of the players from last year are really starting to thrive under his coaching style." Sara added; "I think he is trying to get the boys to work together more. When they do, it's brilliant. Right now, I'm waiting to see what he is going to do for that 20 year old spot(s)." Sara brings up a good point as there is still two overage spots available for the Winterhawks. With Keegan Iverson being the only "overage" player on the roster, that leaves room for two more 20-yar-old players. One of the spots was left vacant when Rodrigo Abols was waived, due to the team having too many import players. What will head coach and general manager Mike Johnston do? Will he eventually fill this spot, or leave as it is to help develop the players currently on the team? We will see what happens in the coming weeks of the season.
Portland still has three games remaining of their eight-game home stand before going off to Spokane to face the Chiefs on November 30th. Their next game will be against another inter conference team, the Edmonton Oil Kings in the Moda Center on Wednesday night 11/23. With the Hawks sitting tied with Spokane for last place in the U.S Division, I'm sure that Johnston and the rest of the team would like to continue their success with a win against Edmonton.
Photo by Jimmy Budinski
Here are the rest of the games for the month of November for the Winterhawks:
11/23- Edmonton Oil Kings (10-10-2-0) @ Portland Winterhawks (10-12-1-0) 7:00PM Moda Center
11/25- Victoria Royals (13-9-2-0) @ Portland Winterhawks (10-12-1-0) 3:00PM Memorial Coliseum
11/27- Prince George Cougars (17-4-2-0) @ Portland Winterhawks (10-12-1-0) 2:00PM Memorial Coliseum
11/30- Portland Winterhawks (10-12-1-0) @ Spokane Chiefs (8-8-4-1) 7:05PM Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena
Listen to all Winterhawk games with Todd Vrooman and Andy Kemper with the call on AM 860 KPAM.
Listen to the game online at KPAM.com
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