Arrived in PG…

After a very long night and day of travel, the Portland Winterhawks rolled into Prince George a little before 7:00 PM this evening in preparation of the double-header on Friday and Saturday against the Cougars.

The team traveled from Portland to Everett last night, and then rolled out a little before 8:oo AM this morning for what turned out to be the 11 hour trek to PG.  There were worries about long border crossings due to the Olympics starting tomorrow, but at the Sumas crossing, we were through in about ten minutes.  A stop in Hope for a walk and then lunch at Cache Creek (including seeing a couple Hawks fans making the trip north at the same restaurant) and then five hours non-stop.

I find it interesting that we go through towns like 70 Mile House, 100 Mile House and so on when they measure distance in Kilometres in Canada…but I digress.

Last night’s win over Tri City seems like it was weeks ago after the trip, but it was nice to get off the schneid against the Americans in the season series.  The Hawks were out-shot 41-26, but I thought the team did a nice job of limiting the high quality scoring chances that Tri City had many of in the first six match-ups.

The Hawks also did a better job of limiting turnovers at their blue line and in the neutral zone which limited a bit of Tri’s speed, transition game.

Special teams did their job as well, with the Hawks only getting two power-plays (overlapping in the first period) and they scored once, on a five-on-three, and then killed six of seven chances against (although one of those lasted one second at the end of the game).

Mac Carruth played well, and is 5-1-1-0 in the last seven.  I haven’t heard who will start on Friday, but I’m sure that Mac wants to continue to play as he is on a roll and that Ian Curtis would love to get back into things against his former team.  I wouldn’t be surprised if each got a start this weekend.

The Cougars proved last night that they aren’t a pushover (with a home ice win over Kamloops) despite their record.  But, having said that, I’m sure the Hawks are thinking that anything less than four points would be considered a disappointment.

As mentioned last night, Head Coach/GM Mike Johnston didn’t make the trip as we is on a scouting/recruiting trip.   Travis Green and Kyle Gustafson will run the bench the next two nights and then Johnston will be back for Monday afternoon.

The pre-game show for tomorrow starts at 6:40 PM on Freedom 970 AM.

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Balancing Act…

“We shall call you Cygnus, the God of Balance you shall be…”

– Rush, Hemispheres (1978 – Lyrics by Neil Peart)

The topic of “balanced scoring” has been brought up more than a few times when Todd Vrooman and I are doing our pre-game and post-game shows and the balanced scoring was never more evident than in the Portland Winterhawks 6-3 win over the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday night.

The Hawks got six goals, from six different players, and nine assists, from nine different players in the win.  Add it up and you get points from 15 different players with no one garnering more than a single point.

Despite falling behind (again) after one period, the Hawks blew it open in the second period, with the back-breaker goal being scored by Stefan Schneider (pictured above, courtesy of Mick White at www.waprepsports.net) on a wrist shot that bounced in off of Calvin Pickard’s blocker to give the Hawks a 3-2 lead.  They’d add two more and not look back for their 10th victory in a row over Seattle.

Mac Carruth made his sixth straight start and continues to perform well, now going 4-1-1-0 during that span.  In addition, the power play that has been streaky all season, is streaking in the right direction, going seven for the last 27 in the past five, a 25.9% rate.

Nino Niederreiter now has goals in his last four games and his deft little move in front of the net to score on Saturday was a thing of beauty.

Now…the Hawks face their nemesis this season, the Tri City Americans, on Wednesday night at the Memorial Coliseum.  The Hawks are 0-6 against the Ams in 2009-10 and they will look to break that skid.  Tri City became the first team to clinch a playoff spot when the Hawks knocked off Seattle on Friday night.

Portland was able to successfully exorcise the demons by beating the Vancouver Giants twice in the past month (after dropping 13 straight to them), can they do the same against Tri City on Wednesday?  We’ll see…hopefully you’ll be there to watch as the Hawks look to clinch their first playoff spot in four years…game time is 7:00.

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One Down…One To Go…

Tyler Wotherspoon

The Portland Winterhawks continued their dominance over the Seattle Thunderbirds last night at the Rose Garden, winning 6-3 in front of another large crowd (9,018) on a night when the Hawks celebrated the past by honoring the Portland Buckaroos.

Tyler Wotherspoon picked up an assist in his second straight game after stepping in for Brett Ponich who has missed the last two games and quietly, Wotherspoon is having a very nice rookie season.  His offensive numbers won’t blow you away, but you should focus on his +10 (including a +3 last night) ranking in 29 games.

Ironically, the Hawks generated their most dangerous scoring chances in the opening period last night, only to trail 1-0 off a very nice individual effort by Prab Rai short-handed in the final minute of the period.

The Hawks out-shot Seattle 16-5 in the opening frame and probably had close to 10 scoring chances denied by Calvin Pickard.  Once Taylor Aronson made a tremendous play to set up Nino Niederreiter on the power play eight minutes into the second, I could sense the Hawks would find a way to win that game.

Ryan Johansen got the game winner and I thought that Todd Vrooman’s comparison with Ottawa Senator forward Jason Spezza was bang-on in describing Johansen.  The Johan has great vision, and uses his tall and lanky frame to ward off opponents to create scoring chances.  His game winner last night was just determination to get the puck and then picking his spot to bury it, a veteran play by the 17 year old rookie.

Also nice to see Nino pot a couple goals as he now has goals in three straight and 30 on the season.

The Hawks have now beat Seattle by scores of 6-0, 6-1 (twice), 6-2, 6-3 and 6-4 as well as 4-3, 5-0, and 2-0.  With a win tonight, the Hawks will match the 10-0 record that the 1980-81 team put up against Seattle in the season series.

Game time is 7:00, pre-game show on Freedom 970 is at 6:40…talk to you then.

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Moving Forward…

Well, the finish last night wasn’t what the Portland Winterhawks wanted, but looking back at the game, the Hawks did a lot right and to come from behind twice to earn at least one point is a positive.

The Hawks certainly generated enough chances and despite being held off the scoresheet, I was impressed (again) by the line of Ty Rattie/Chris Francis/Luke Walker.  They continue to be a dominant line for the Hawks and they set the tone a lot of nights for the Hawks.

Also, the Oliver Gabriel/Stefan Schneider/Riley Boychuk were very good last night as well, scoring twice.  Gabriel has been steady, if not spectacular, since returning from his spleen injury, posting 16 points in 24 games, which, if averaged over a 72 game season would be 48 points.  Fairly impressive from a so-called third line guy.

Looking at the season series record, I guess both teams can say that they “won” the series as both teams went 2-1-1-0 with each team winning in overtime once.  In essence, both teams pick up five points in the four games for an unconventional “split” of the series.  Portland did outshoot Kamloops 181-111 in the four games.

Speaking of shots, the Hawks have now generated over 40 shots for three straight games.

Now it is time to move forward and get ready for Seattle for the home-and-home this weekend…the Hawks magic number to at least tie for a playoff spot is 5 wins or Seattle losses…two wins this weekend and the number drops to 1.

See you at the Garden tomorrow night…

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What Part of Deadline Did They Not Understand?

A little less than a month after the supposed WHL Trade Deadline, the Seattle Thunderbirds put out a press release today announcing that they had acquired the rights to defenseman Austin Baecker from the Lethbridge Hurricanes for a conditional 6th round bantam pick in the 2011 draft…hmmm…inquiring minds want to know how that is possible after the deadline and before the trade moratorium is lifted around the WHL Bantam Draft?

The WHL is holding a meeting in Las Vegas this week and evidently this came out of that meeting…and, if so…how or why does it happen now???

I know that Major League Baseball has a trade deadline at the end of July, but can make trades after that if the players being traded pass through waivers prior to be being dealt…does the WHL have something similar that no one has ever heard about it?

Maybe the league will make an announcement of some sort about it…so far…nothing on their site, just the press release on the Seattle site.

From what I’ve heard, Baecker will not be eligible to join the Thunderbirds this season, so, why announce it now and not when the moratorium (or supposed moratorium) is lifted?

Will this be a case of what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas or will we get an actual explanation of how this deal happens in February?

Stay tuned…

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A Few More From Last Night…

Thanks to the unofficial photographer of After The Whistle, Randall Johansen…

His name is Luca...he lives on...oh never mind...

Mac the Knife

Benny ties it up...

No one celebrates a goal better than Rosser...

The four letter word line and the new horse on the back end...

Thanks again to Randall…good stuff…

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Celebration…

As promised…here is the Hawks celebration after their 4-3 win over the Vancouver Giants last night at the Langley Events Centre…

It was especially satisfying with tons of family members and friends in the audience for many of the Hawks…next up, Kamloops on Wednesday night…

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