Winterhawks 6 – Rockets 1

Make it six in a row for the Portland Winterhawks as they jumped on the Kelowna Rockets for three first period goals and didn’t look back, knocking off the Rockets 6-1 at the Memorial Coliseum.

The win was the seventh consecutive victory for Portland over Kelowna, which is an all-time high for consecutive wins over the Rocket franchise for Portland.

I talk about Ty Rattie and Sven Bartschi a lot, but how can I not?  They just continue to produce night in and night out and last night was no different as they combined for six more points and Rattie threw in a scrap to finish off the Gordie Howe hat trick.  Each player has a nine game point streak and I’m sure the Kelowna Rockets are happy to not have to face those two any time soon as they have lit up Kelowna for 15 points in three games.

Of the six goals last night, the Hawks had some nice passing plays, but the highlight for me was Bartschi’s off the wrong foot laser of  a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Adam Brown clean over the glove into the top corner.  An absolute thing of beauty.

The power play went 3 for 8 on the night, including Nino Niederreiter getting his first goal of the season in his second game back from Long Island.  The power play has seemed to be a point of frustration for some fans, but in reality, it hasn’t been bad all year.  The Hawks have converted at least one power play goal in 11 of 15 games this season and is at over 21% on the season.

It was also nice to see Portland Coach Mike Johnston play Tayler Jordan, Taylor Peters and Seth Swenson on a late power play with the 6-1 lead.  The trio almost converted too as Swenson made a nice drive to the net and Jordan had a great chance on the rebound but was foiled by Brown.  I’ve seen too many times when the Hawks were in their dark days when the opposing coach would put his top power play unit on the ice with a five goal lead late in a game.

Speaking of Jordan…it was good to see him pick up a goal in the third period on the bad angle shot that went in off the underside of Brown’s blocker.  Jordan has quietly been one of Portland’s top penalty killers and is one of the leaders in the locker room.

Peters had a chance to add his name to the record books when he earned a penalty shot in the second period while the Hawks were down two men.  Only two players in Hawks history have scored when the Hawks were down two men – Scott Nichol on 1/22/94 vs. Kamloops and Steve Konowalchuk on 2/14/92 vs. Spokane.  The penalty shot was the 37th all time in Hawks history, the Hawks have converted on 17 of the 37 (46%).

Mac Carruth had another superior outing and the victory was the 20th of his career in Portland.  He also is a perfect 5-0-0-0 in his career against Kelowna, posting a 1.97 GAA and 94.7% save percentage in the five games against the Rockets.

With the win, the Hawks go to 12-2-0-1 through 15 games, best in the WHL.  Three other times in their history have the Hawks won 12 of their first 15 games – 1982-83, 1993-94 & 1997-98.  In 82-83 and 97-98 the Hawks went on to win the Memorial Cup while in 93-94 they lost in the Western Conference Final to the Kamloops Blazers.

The Hawks are now off until next Friday when the Red Deer Rebels visit the MC…have a safe Halloween everybody!

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Winterhawks 4 – Rockets 2

Photo Credit - Bryan Heim

It wasn’t a gorgeous game by any means, but the Portland Winterhawks continued their early season strong play by winning their fifth game in a row by knocking off the Kelowna Rockets 4-2 at the MC last night.

The story for Portland was the play of their penalty killers, led by Team Captain Brett Ponich, who went nine for nine on the PK in a game with tons of penalties and special teams for both sides.  Ponich and his mates are now ranked #1 in the WHL on the penalty kill as they are sitting at 89.9% killed after last night, moving just ahead of the Red Deer Rebels.

Nino Niederreiter played well in his return to the WHL, picking up  a fighting major after Spencer Main jumped him when Niederreiter put a big, clean hit on MacKenzie Johnston behind the Rockets net.  It was a NHL hit on a WHL player.  After the game, Nino said that he struggled with the adjustment back to the WHL visor, which is larger than the visor he wore in the nine games in the NHL with the New York Islanders.  He should get over that quickly.

(Update:  the assist credited to Niederreiter has been changed to Derrick Pouliot after review of the video.)

In net, Mac Carruth continues to excel as he is now 5-1-0-0 to start the season and you know he is having a good year when his season stats get worse after allowing two goals on 35 shots.  His .950 save percentage still tops the league.

And the dynamic duo of Ty Rattie and Sven Bärtschi both extended their point streaks to eight games as Rattie (6-11-17 in his last 8) picked up two assists and Bärtschi (8-7-15 in his last 8) a goal in the contest.

The power play, which is still hovering close to 20.0% despite not hitting on all cylinders at the moment, went 1 for 8 with Joe Morrow slapping home a point shot for his first of the season.  The PP should improve now that everyone is back and the Hawks have another almost full week of practice time after tonight’s game.

Tonight’s game will not be on the radio due to scheduling conflicts, but those who want to listen to Todd and I call the game can do so by bringing a radio to the arena and tuning to 96.5 FM as we will be broadcasting in-house as well as providing audio for the WHL Livestream (which can be purchased from www.whl.ca).  We won’t be doing a full pre-game show or intermission features, but we will be providing game action and keep you up to date on the out of town scores.

Nino Returned!

It’s official…from the Islanders site.

NIEDERREITER RETURNED TO WINTERHAWKS

Fifth overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft to play 2010-11 season in WHL

Thursday, 10.28.2010 / 11:38 AM / News
New York Islanders

The New York Islanders announced today that Nino Niederreiter has return to the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.

The Islanders selected Niederreiter with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in June. The Chur, Switzerland, native scored one goal and one assist in his first nine career NHL games. Last year Niederreiter played his rookie season in the Western Hockey League, leading the Portland Winterhawks in goals with 36 and registering 24 assists for 60 points in 65 games. The 18-year-old center also appeared in 13 playoff games with the Winterhawks, notching eight goals and eight assists for 16 points.

On the international stage, Niederreiter represented Switzerland at the 2010 World Junior Championships, where he lead the team with 10 points in seven games (6 goals, 4 assists) and was named to the tournament all-star team. He also played in four games with Team Switzerland at the World Championships.

Decision Looming…

Will he or won’t he?

That is a question many fans of both the Portland Winterhawks and New York Islanders are asking themselves as we approach the ninth game of the NHL career of Swiss sensation Nino Niederreiter on Wednesday night in Montreal.

Will he stick with the big club for the 2010-11 NHL season or will he be sent back to Portland to finish out his 18 year old season in the WHL?

It is hard to get a feel from reading the articles out of Long Island as to which way General Manager Garth Snow and Head Coach Scott Gordon are leaning in this decision and it may not be made until Thursday or later as they really don’t have to make a decision until they decide to dress Nino for his 10th game.

Even if Nino plays in more than nine games, the Islanders could send him back to Portland at any time (see James Wright, Luca Sbisa and Gilbert Brule of years past) prior to the January roster deadline in the WHL.  But, by playing him in more than nine games, they start the clock on Niederreiter’s entry level contract and also make him a year closer to becoming a free agent at the age of 25.

I’m not going to lobby either way for the decision…it would be great to see Red #22 burst out of the tunnel at the Memorial Coliseum this weekend against the Kelowna Rockets but it would be equally tremendous to see Nino achieve his dream of playing in the NHL on a full-time basis.

The Islanders have had injury issues to start the year with Kyle Okposo, Rob Schremp and others missing time that has opened up some playing time for Nino and he has performed well for a kid who just turned 18 on September 8th.  He has the size and desire to play in the NHL and we all know about his infectious personality and team first attitude.

I’ve read some thoughts on an Islanders message board where there is worry amongst some fans that Nino could possibly acquire bad habits by coming back to the Winterhawks.  One thing I can say for certain is that Mike Johnston, Travis Green and Kyle Gustafson as a coaching staff work very hard to make sure that bad habits do not become commonplace amongst the players in the Hawks roster.  I’ve seen some NHL practices, and what the Hawks staff does is as close to the NHL practice as junior hockey can get.

Getting Niederreiter back in Portland would make a very good Winterhawks team just that much better.  He would be a key cog on a deep team and would get a chance to grow and also have a better chance to represent Switzerland at the World Junior Championships in Buffalo in early January.  Nino almost earned that spot in Buffalo by himself in Saskatoon last year and he deserves another crack at the best in the world at his age group.  The Islanders could still let him have that opportunity by releasing him to play, but the possibility lessens if he sticks in the NHL.

Either way…if he stays in Long Island or returns to Portland…the Winterhawks organization is incredibly blessed for what Nino has brought with him and we can all say that we are proud of what he has done in such a short time in North America.  He will always be a Hawk and while we sit on pins and needles waiting for the official word, we can do nothing more than wish the best for Nino, both now and in the future.

Carruth Goaltender of the Week…Support Your Local Swimmer…

The Western Hockey League announced today that Portland Winterhawks goaltender Mac Carruth was selected as the WHL’s entry as Goaltender of the Week for the week ending October 24th.

Carruth posted a 2-0 record with a 0.48 goals against average and a .970 save percentage with one shutout to earn the honor.

Mac now has a league best 1.58 GAA and .952 save percentage heading into the two games this weekend against the Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Saturday at the MC.

Jon Keen (click the link on the left) was pumping up Jeff Bosch for the honor on his blog, but I guess he’s just happy the Kamloops Blazers didn’t give up eight goals again!   In all seriousness, Bosch had a great week as well, picking up three wins on the road in Alberta.

The Hawks are 1-0 against the Kelowna Rockets this year, picking up a 5-1 win over Kelowna in BC on October 16th with the Addition Line of Ty Rattie-Ryan Johansen-Sven Bartschi dominating with nine points combined and Carruth stopping 32 of 33 shots on the night.

Game time is at 7:00 both nights with pre-game on Friday night at 6:40 PM on Freedom 970.  There is no radio broadcast on Saturday due to other commitments on the Alpha Broadcasting Network.

On a personal note now…it is getting to be that time for my daughter Aiden’s annual swim-a-thon fundraiser for her swim team the Hillsboro Heat.  The event is scheduled for November 6th.

This is the teams biggest fundraiser and it is a fun event for the swimmers as they get to swim as many lengths as they can in a two-hour time slot or to a maximum of 200 lengths, whichever comes first.

You can take part by sponsoring Aiden with a tax-deductible pledge of either a set amount or so much per length swam.  (I would recommend the set amount as Aiden plans on hitting 200 lengths, she swam 187 last year!)

If you would like to sponsor Aiden, drop me an email at hawksblog@comcast.net.  While the event is November 6th, you would have until mid November to get me the funds.

Thanks in advance…

Can you say no to this face???

 

Hawks 2 – Thunderbirds 1 (SO)

A very entertaining game last night at the Rose Garden as the Portland Winterhawks got their first victory of the season over the Seattle Thunderbirds.  It wasn’t easy as both teams played hard and battled for every puck.

The goaltending at both ends was superb as Mac Carruth and Calvin Pickard combined to stopped 67 of 69 shots in regulation time before Portland found a way to solve Pickard twice in the shootout to get the victory.

The two shootout goals were dandy’s as Ty Rattie went backhand to the blocker side top shelf in the opening round and then 16 year old Brendan Leipsic sealed the victory with a roofed backhand to the glove side.  Mike Johnston showed some confidence by choosing Leipsic to shoot the third chance for Portland and the kid didn’t looked nervous at all as he drove wide in on Pickard.  It was a similar move that Leipsic used against Brandon Anderson and Lethbridge on a penalty shot earlier in the season.

Carruth continues to play incredibly well early in the season, giving up just two goals in the last three games.  The two have been the result of a flukey bounce off of Geordie Wudrick’s skate in Kelowna and a shot by Colin Jacobs last night that deflected in off of Taylor Peters on an attempted blocked shot while shorthanded.

On the offensive side of things, Rattie and Sven Bärtschi both extended their point streaks to seven games.  Rattie’s power play goal in the second period was set up by a tremendous cross-ice pass from Joe Morrow who now has five assists in his five games played for Portland.

Some statistical notes about the win:

– the win was # 1200 all time for Portland in team history.

– of the 1200 wins, 228 (19%) have come against Seattle.

– with the win, the Hawks are now 7-0-0-0 all-time in home games played on October 22nd.

The Hawks now have a full week to practice and get ready for the back-to-back home games against the Kelowna Rockets next weekend…

Hawks 2 – Silvertips 0

In what was perhaps their most complete effort of the season, the Portland Winterhawks shutout the Everett Silvertips 2-0 last night at the Memorial Coliseum.  The win improves the Hawks record to a Conference best 9-2-0-1 and 19 points, their best start after 12 games since 1988/89 when the team went 10-2-0.

Some randoms —

– Mac Carruth made 22 saves for his second career shutout, both have come against Everett.  Carruth wasn’t called on to make many difficult saves, but he made the ones he needed to and was solid.  He is now second in the league in GAA at 1.76 and first in save percentage at .950.

– In fact, this was the second consecutive shutout by Portland at home against Everett as Carruth stopped 26 shots the last time these two met in the Rose City on March 9th of last season.  And, three of the last four shutouts for Portland have come against Everett as Ian Curtis also blanked the ‘Tips in December of last season.

– Teal Burns tallied his first career WHL goal on the power play in the second period and it would hold up as the game-winner.  Burns has had a lot of chances early in the season and you could sense the relief when the puck hit the twine.  I have a feeling the second goal won’t be far down the road for Burns.

– Sven Bärtschi scored the insurance marker, set up by Ty Rattie and Ryan Johansen on the power play to extend the point streaks to six games for Rattie (5-9-14 in six games) and Bärtschi (7-6-13 in six games).  Johansen has 2-2-4 in his last two games.

– I’ll stand by my call that Landon Ferraro’s low hit on Joe Morrow as a cheap shot as on the video (see Dylan’s blog…link to the left) you can see that Ferraro was frustrated with Morrow after the Hawks defenesman broke up his rush.  Ferraro took a swipe at Morrow with his stick moments before going after Morrow’s leg.   Brad Ross came to Morrow’s defense and got the instigator and the automatic 10 minute misconduct added to his fighting major.  Ferraro may have been trying to throw the hip, but the leg and knee is what made contact with Morrow.

– FYI…the Hawks magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 55.5 games (too soon?).

– Next up, the Hawks will look to get their first victory of the season against the Seattle Thunderbirds at the Rose Garden on Friday night in the annual “Dash for Cash” game.  Game time is 7:00 with the pre-game at 6:40 on Freedom 970.

 

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