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Portland Winterhawks struggle to get wins

The Portland Winterhawks are in danger of falling out of playoff contention.

Rodrigo Abols
Rodrigo Abols
Jimmy Budinski

The Portland Winterhawks were on the fast track to a better playoff position, but now are struggling to stay in playoff contention after losing four out of their last 6 games, all against Western Conference teams.  Portland, just a couple of weeks ago, were 6th in the Western Conference and catching their I-5 rivals Seattle Thunderbirds. Now, they are tied for 7th just 3 points ahead of the Tri-City Americans, who is currently on the outside looking in. The Hawks have very important games coming up that need to be wins in order to stay in playoff contention.  The Winterhawks have games against division rivals Everett, Seattle and Western Conference foe Victoria.  Portland will then go on their Eastern Conference swing playing 6 games in 9 days before coming back home to face Tri-City. Portland needs a good showing in the next two weeks with just a little more than a month to go in the regular season.

Here at the game recaps for the past couple of weekends:

Portland Winterhawks (3) vs Kelowna Rockets (5) 01/29/2016

Portland came into the weekend games hoping to get a couple wins considering their consistent play of late.  They head into Kelowna as the Western Conference Leaders were looking to continue their dominance of the Winterhawks this year.  Portland came out strong scoring 2 goals from the sticks of Cody Glass and Rodrigo Abols and lead 2-1 at the end of the 1st period. Unfortunately for the Portland team, it was all Kelowna from there.  The Rockets getting 2 goals in the second from Rourke Chartier (his second of the game) and Justin Kirkland, taking the lead 3-2 at the break. The Rockets would add 2 more to eventually seal the victory for the conference leaders. Portland would get one back by a goal from Dominic Turgeon, but it wasn't nearly enough to get back in the game.  Kelowna would take the win 5-3 firing off 44 shots to Portland's 24.

Rodrigo Abols - Photo by Jimmy Budinski

Portland Winterhawks (2) vs Kamloops Blazers (4) 01/30/2016

After losing a tough one in Kelowna, Portland would travel northwest to Kamloops, B.C. to take on the Kamloops Blazers.  Portland needed a win to stay ahead of Kamloops in the standings, but was unable to find the back of the net enough. Kamloops took a 2-0 lead in the second period before Alex Schoenborn scored the first goal for the Hawks at the 4:06 mark.  It wouldn't be until the 15:13 mark of the 3rd period before another goal was scored and it was by Portland's Defenseman Jack Dougherty (his 9th of the season), to bring the Winterhawks level at 2-2. Just 2:34 ticks off the clock later, Kamloops scored the eventual game winner when Jake Kryski snuck one past Portland net minder Adin Hill. The Blazers would add another goal when Collin Shirley scored an empty netter to seal the win for Kamloops with a 4-2 score. Both teams had an astounding 43 shots on goal, giving both goaltenders plenty of work throughout the game.

Portland Winterhawks (2) vs Everett Silvertips (3) 02/03/2016

Everett was looking for redemption after Portland handed them a crushing defeat in a high scoring affair 7-5 the last time Portland was in Everett.  This time, the score was lower and the game was close throughout.  Portland would take a 1-0 lead into the second period by a goal from Rihards Bukarts just 5:05 into the game.  Everett would change the momentum in the second period as they scored 2 goals on the power play, one by Dawson Leedahl at the 6:05 mark and one by Connor Dewar at the 17:17 mark.  Portland would not go away as they get a puck past Silvertip back stopper Carter Hart with just 1:23 left in the second period by "The Captain" Dominic Turgeon (his 26th of the season). Portland and Everett would battle back and forth with both defenses giving it all they could muster. Everett would get their third and final goal at the 16:08 mark of the third period to take the lead 3-2 by Silvertip Center Brain King (just his 3rd of the year). Portland would get good scoring chances, but could not get one past the #1 goaltender in the WHL to tie the game.  Both teams only were able to get 24 shots on goal as both team's defenses were stingy and not allowing a lot of offensive zone play.

Seattle Thunderbirds (1) vs Portland Winterhawks (2) 02/05/2016

After losing a close one against division rivals the Everett Silvertips, Portland was looking forward to playing their biggest division rivals, the Seattle Thunderbirds. The Winterhawks brought 10,262 with them to watch the two teams duke it out for the right to earn 2 points. Many shots were fired in the first stanza on the both team's goalies, but both Landon Bow (Seattle, faced 12 shots) and Adin Hill (Portland, faced 11 shots) were up to the task. With Bow and Hill standing on their heads in the first and most of the second, the Winterhawk faithful were unsure who was going to score first.  They would have to wait until the 18:56 mark of the second when Portland scored on the power play with a goal by Rihards Bukarts (his 23rd of the season).  Portland would score again early (2:49) in the third to take a 2-0 lead when Rodrigo Abols sent one by Seattle's goaltender (Bow). Seattle would make a game of it when T-Bird's center man Donovan Neuls (his 9th of the season) scored on the power play just a little over four minutes later bringing the score 2-1.  Portland's defense would step up only allowing Seattle to shoot six shots total in the third period and stopping the high scoring offense from tying the game. Adin Hill was stellar in net stopping 28 of 29 shots and helping the Hawks get the much needed win.

Victoria Royals (3) vs Portland Winterhawks (1) 02/06/2016

The Portland Winterhawks coming off of a big win against their rivals to the north wanted to keep their winning ways alive with a win over the Victoria Royals.  Victoria brought their 7 game win streak into Portland looking to extend their streak to 8.  Portland would strike first in the game at the 8:49 mark of the first period when Cody Glass shot a whistler past Royal net minder Griffen Outhouse to give the Hawks the lead 1-0.  The second period was full of penalties and only 15 total shots on goal, but both goalies stayed true and they stopped all shots to keep the score 1-0 Portland.  An extremely good pep talk was obviously given to the Royal's squad by Head Coach Dave Lowry as Victoria came out onto the ice for the third period with a certain fire. Alex Forsberg got the scoring started at the 5:43 mark finally getting one by Portland's back stopper Adin Hill and bringing the score level 1-1. Just over two minutes later, Victoria would score again taking the lead when Ryan Peckford tallied his 6th goal of the season and giving the Royals a 2-1 lead.  With Adin Hill (Portland), seeing a barrage of shots in the third period (18 total), it was only a matter of time that a third goal would happen for Victoria.  At the 13:16 mark, Vladimir Bobylev did just that for the Royals, giving The Vancouver Island team a 3-1 lead.  The score would stay that way despite 12 shots by the Winterhawks. Griffen Outhouse, Victoria's Goaltender, stopped 27 of 28 shots and getting the win. Outhouse took over the top spot away from Everett Silvertip Goalie Connor Hart as the best goalie in the WHL with his performance.

Portland Winterhawks (3) vs Spokane Chiefs (2) OT 02/10/2016

Portland needed a win to gain some ground on the Spokane Chiefs, who are three points ahead of the Hawks in the standings.  Portland came out with fire and passion, firing shot after shot and giving Spokane Goaltender Lasse Petersen all he could handle. Spokane in the first period looked shaky and undisciplined as they racked up 11 minutes of penalties and putting their team down shorthanded 3 times. Portland would strike first by getting the only goal of the period from the "Captain" Dominic Turgeon on the power play. It was Turgeon's team leading 27th goal of the season. Hawks came out in the second period with more of the same fire as they continued to send the puck at Spokane's goalie (Petersen).  Portland would eventually get their second goal of the game at the 16:16 mark with a great shot taken by Colton Veloso (his 10th). The third period was a much different story and Spokane took all the momentum as soon as the puck dropped. 9:27 into the third period, Spokane would get on the board with a pretty play by Keanu Yamamoto and Jacob Cardiff. Cardiff gets his 6th of the season and getting the Chiefs within one goal, at 2-1.  Both teams would continue to fire shots, but both back stoppers for the teams ‘stood on their heads' and made highlight saves to keep their team in the game.  Unfortunately for Portland and their goalie Adin Hill, Spokane would tie the game with an extra attacker with just 59 seconds remaining in the game. Dominic Zwerger stuffed it home to tie the game up at 2. The game would go into a 3 on 3 overtime session. Back and for they went, getting scoring opportunities, but with just 15 seconds remaining in overtime, Rodrigo Abols, of Portland, sneaked a shot past Spokane Goaltender Lasse Petersen to send the Hawks into jubilation. Portland takes the win and the 2 points. Adin Hill stopped 39 of 41 shots to help aid in the win.

Portland is looking at their Eastern Conference Swing as an opportunity to possibly get back out of the cellar spot of the playoffs. After the eastern swing, Portland will be seeing their fellow division teams a lot to close out the remainder of the 2015-2016 regular season. They will see the Tri-City Americans once, Seattle Thunderbirds four more times, Everett Silvertips twice, and the Spokane Chiefs just once more. So Portland will have 8 games against the US Division teams with only one game being an out of division game, which will be the Vancouver Giants, on the road, on Friday March 11th. If the Winterhawk's team can get a good showing and earn some points by beating their division rivals and getting their rivals to help out by beating the Tri-City Americans, Portland can lock up the 8th and final spot, or even higher.  Only problem with that position is that they would face the ever so tough and league leaders the Kelowna Rockets in the playoffs. Portland can change their positon by getting wins and help from other teams beating The Seattle Thunderbirds and the Spokane Chiefs who are currently ahead of them in the standings.

Upcoming games for the Winterhawks:

02/12/2016- Everett @ Portland

02/13/2016- Portland @ Seattle (On TV-CW)

02/15/2016- Victoria @ Portland (3pm start)

02/19/2016- Portland @ Lethbridge (6pm start)

02/20/2016- Portland @ Medicine Hat (6:30pm start)

If you cannot see, watch, or listen to the game, please catch my play by play coverage on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/946672248691074/