Where were you?


February 22, 1980…I can remember watching this in the living room with my family.  I can vividly remember all of us jumping up when Mike Eruzione gave them the 4-3 lead and the nervousness of the final 10 minutes…simply will not ever be topped in any sport at any level.



Response on Officials…

Andy, speaking of numbers, did our (mostly) five-on-three debacle against Tri Cities set any team records? Being shorthanded is one thing, but the frequency of five-on-three play and four-minute penalties has to be some kind of record! Now, I know you cannot comment regarding officiating, but is it true the WHL is a development league for refs, too? In that context, could you name any refs you consider fair and unbiased? Appreciate you and your expertise.

The above was a comment on my previous post and I thought instead of burying a long response in the comments, I’d throw it out here.

First off, I don’t know or think that any “records” had been set as far as power plays go in the game against Tri-City on Friday night.  And, yes, the WHL is a development league for officials as well as players.  Most officials in the WHL range in age from their early 20’s to mid 30’s and I would think it would be safe to say that a good majority would like to move on to the pro ranks as an official.  (And some already are working both WHL and minor pro games currently.)

But, lets get to the crux of the post…regarding fair and unbiased.  Well…I think it is impossible for any person to be 100% unbiased.  It is human nature to have a bias and there is no way that anyone can be 100% objective.  The officials in the WHL are not unfeeling, uncaring robots.   They can be influenced by any number of factors but I honestly believe that I don’t think any of them enter the ice before a game thinking “boy…can’t wait to screw over the home team tonight”.

As far as the “fair” part of your statement.  That is very subjective and hard to determine.  All I ask for from an official or pair of officials is that they are consistent in their calls.  A penalty on red would be called the same if a player in white made the same infraction or a penalty in the first period is a penalty in the third period or overtime.  I don’t always see that and that is usually the catalyst of my frustration with officials most nights.

I will preface what I’m saying by pointing out that prior to becoming a broadcaster, I was as vocal as anyone criticizing refs during games…just ask my family.   I spent many a game yelling insults as many fans do now.  That is a fans prerogative as they pay hard earned dollars to watch the game and I won’t ever discourage fans from expressing their frustrations as long as it is doesn’t go too far.  It was disappointing to see fans throwing debris on the ice on New Years Eve at the Rose Garden.  It is senseless…

Now that I’m a broadcaster, I still get frustrated and I try not to let that show, although it still does from time-to-time.  I’m human, too.  Fan and sometimes players, coaches and broadcasters focus too much on the guys wearing stripes.   That is human nature as well.  But to expect 100% fair and unbiased officiating is just not a reasonable expectation, IMO.

I welcome any differing thoughts in the comment section…just keep it in within the boundaries of good taste…

Back To The Future…

The Portland Winterhawks have scored 18 goals in their last two road games – a 10-5 win over Spokane and an 8-2 win over Seattle on Saturday.  Those two offensive explosions sandwiched the first shutout of the season on Friday night, losing 5-0 to the Tri-City Americans.

So, being the numbers geek that I am, I wanted to know when the last time the Winterhawks had scored at least 18 goals in two consecutive road games in their 35 year history.  Well, the verdict is in and it has been over 20 years since they had accomplished that feat.

In their history, the Hawks had scored at least 18 goals in two consecutive road games 12 times prior to this latest onslaught.  The last time was back in the 1988-89 season – a 12-3 win in Saskatoon on 11/29/88 and a 13-6 loss at Prince Albert on 11/30/88.

The 18 goals scored matches the third highest two-game road outbursts in team history, a feat done seven times previously.  The Hawks had scored 19 goals in two consecutive road games on three times, 20 goals once and the team record for goals scored in two consecutive road games was set on 12/6 and 12/7/85 when the Hawks hammered Brandon 12-4 and then followed that up the next night by crushing Moose Jaw 12-2 for a two-game total of 24.

The Wheat Kings and Warriors would get their revenge almost exactly five years later when they would beat Portland on consecutive nights by margins of 14-4 and 14-1 respectively on 12/7 and 12/8/90…I bet Scooter had fun with those two road calls…ouch!

The Hawks are now off until Saturday when the Chilliwack Bruins invade the MC for “Pink the Rink” night.  That game is nearly a sellout already, so get your tickets now if you haven’t done so.

With the break between games, it will allow the Spokane Chiefs and Tri City to make up some games in hand on Portland in the standings.  Both are facing injury questions to goaltenders as James Reid has missed a few weeks of games and is still listed as week-to-week with a hip injury.  Drew Owsley left the Americans game in Spokane on Saturday with an apparent knee injury.  No word on how long he will be out, but Tri-City has recalled Cam Gorchynski to fill in as a back-up to Chris Driedger in the interim.

By Saturday, the Hawks may have clinched a playoff spot as they sit at 79 points, which is the maximum that both the Kamloops Blazers and Seattle Thunderbirds could reach if they went undefeated the rest of the regular season.  Kamloops host Tri-City tomorrow night and then travels to Edmonton on Friday.  Seattle is off until Friday when they travel to Vancouver.  Should both teams lose (either in regulation or in OT or a shootout) any of those games, the Hawks will have clinched the first playoff spot in the Western Conference.

After Further Review

It turns out that Ryan Johansen will have to wait a bit longer for his first career WHL hat trick.

After video review, Johansen’s shot on what would have been his third goal was delected in by Brad Ross.

Still a great night for the Johan!

Magic Number Update

We are reaching the point in the season where teams start to become mathematically eligible for the postseason and the Portland Winterhawks are closing in fast on being the first team in the Western Conference to gain entry into the postseason (Saskatoon has already clinched a spot in the East).   By the end of the weekend, Portland could put the magical ‘x’ next to their name in the standings, representing their spot in the playoffs.

So, just how close are the Hawks?  Well, first, to understand magic numbers you have to put on a wizard hat, spin three times and spit, and then drink two shots of high-grade tequila to understand the formula.  Actually, its not that complicated, but explaining it is.

Magic numbers are based on maximum points potential, instead of actual points earned.  Case in point – the Kamloops Blazers are in the eighth and final playoff spot if the season ended today with 51 points, three points ahead of the Chilliwack Bruins and four points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds.  But, because Kamloops has played five more games than Chilliwack, the Blazers have actually fewer maximum points that they could earn in the regular season (81 for Kamloops, 88 for Chilliwack).  So, to base magic numbers, you have to take the two lowest maximum points potential in the Conference (Seattle and Kamloops) and base the projections off of that.

Entering the weekend, Portland has 77 points after 55 games.  Seattle has earned 47 points after 55 games and Kamloops has earned 51 points after 57 games.  Doing the math, both Seattle and Kamloops could earn a maximum of 81 points if they won every game they have on their schedule in regulation.

Doing simple math, subtracting Portland’s 77 points from the 81 points possible for both Seattle and Kamloops, that gives you a difference of four points.  Meaning the Hawks magic number to at least clinch a one-game playoff for a playoff spot at four points (meaning any combination of Portland wins, OT or SO losses and Seattle/Kamloops regulation, OT or SO losses that results in four points).

Portland hosts Tri City tonight and then plays in Seattle on Saturday.  Winning both games gives the Hawks the four points they would need to get past Seattle.  Neither Seattle nor Kamloops plays on Friday.  Kamloops plays Vancouver in Whitehorse on Saturday, so if Portland wins both and Kamloops loses, the Hawks clinch the playoffs.

Clear as mud?

Entering the weekend, here are the remainder of the seven other Western Conference teams with a higher maximum points potential than Seattle and Kamloops and their respective magic numbers:

Spokane — 70 points — magic number is 11 points

Tri-City — 69 points — magic number is 12 points

Vancouver — 63 points — magic number is 18 points

Kelowna — 60 points — magic number is 21 points

Prince George — 55 points — magic number is 26 points

Everett — 54 points — magic number is 27 points

Chilliwack — 48 points — magic number is 33 points



Fright Equals Might?

One of the perks of winning on the road in the Western Hockey League is movies on the bus on the way to your next destination.  For the Portland Winterhawks it is no different and there seems to be a trend developing on the genre of the movies.

First off, it should be noted that the coaching staff (mainly Assistant Coach Travis Green) controls the remote for the movies and has first and last right of refusal for any movie that is shown on the iron lung.  Greener likes the suspense/horror movies…and we’ve seen a number of them on the bus the last two plus years.

We’ve seen pretty much the whole Saw franchise, Paranormal Activity (I’m sure the second one will be on the trip to Prince George in a couple weeks, and it started after the first road win for Mike Johnston and Green with a showing of The Strangers after a 4-1 in Kennewick on Halloween night of 2008.

For this trip to Spokane, after a homework session right after leaving the MC on Tuesday afternoon, the movie selection was Case 39 starring Renee Zellweger as a Child Services Agent that is handed a case that involves a young girl that has some issues…a decent flick with a bit of shock value, but movies are never as scary when it is still light outside.

After arriving in Spokane and the evening meal, the team made it’s way to the local theater.  After some debate on what would be seen it was chose that The Rite fit the bill.  This is the Anthony Hopkins movie about Exorcism and demonic possession.

Some players (who will not be named) expressed concerns about seeing two movies in the same day that dealt with demons and possession and just how well they would sleep and rest on the night before the big game with Spokane the next evening.  But, there are strengths in numbers, and all 27 of us (21 players, three coaches, the athletic trainer, equipment manager and radio guy…Kevin, the bus driver had seen it, so he passed) made our way into the theater to watch the flick.

All in all, not great reviews for this one…fairly predictable with just a bit of shock value, but I like Anthony Hopkins and he had a decent performance in a character that closely resembled Hannibal Lecter in speech mannerisms.

Game day is all about preparation with team meetings, video sessions, pre-game meals and resting and the Hawks have the road routine down pretty good.  Some trips there are pre-game skates but with with three games in four nights this week, the skate was bypassed in Spokane and the players mentally readied themselves for a tough divisional game.

We saw the results…five goals in 1:59 and a 10-5 win over the Chiefs.  Mission accomplished…

It wasn’t long after we left the arena with the traditional two-horn blast from the bus’ air horn and with the post-game meal consumed that the traditional call from the back of the bus…”put in a mooooovieeee”.  Greener perused the choices and went with another horror flick, The Crazies.

This is evidently a remake of a 1973 film of the same name that deals with a chemical weapons leak after a plane crash in a remote Iowa town.  The chemicals make the locals go crazy and a killing spree ensues with the government getting involved to cover up for their mistake.

This was the most suspenseful of the three movies with the traditional horror shock scenes and enough blood and gore to make some of the boys behind me either gasp or cheer, hard to tell which was louder on occasion.  It helps that it was a dark bus as well…

The whole point of this is to point out that in the past two seasons, the Hawks are 38-22-0-1 on the road in 61 road games, a .631 win percentage away from home.

If the Hawks continue at this pace on the road…bring on the horror flicks.  We can still watch the odd Anchorman or Step Brothers to lighten the load, but why mess with success.  Let’s have blood, gore and shocks…and more road wins before the end of the year.

On a different note, congrats to Craig Cunningham who picked up his 150th career WHL assist last night.  He needs three goals to reach 100 in his career and three points to reach 250.



Third Quarter Comparison

With the 8-2 win over the Tri-City Americans on Saturday night, the Portland Winterhawks have reached the 54 games played mark, hitting the third quarter mark in the season and as they say…they are making the final turn and racing down the homestretch in what should be an interesting race.

The Hawks find themselves still atop the U.S. Division and Western Conference – five points ahead of Spokane (having played two more games) and six points ahead of Tri-City (having played four more games) and winning nine of their last ten games has helped put a little bit more distance between their two closest challengers.

The playoffs are pretty much a given at this point with the Hawks magic number to clinch a playoff spot down to 8 points or 4 regulation games.  This means that any combination of eight points gained by Portland or lost by Seattle will clinch a playoff spot for Portland.  That could happen by the end of this weekend if everything works out right for Portland.

So far, the Hawks have withstood the injury losses of Brett Ponich and Oliver Gabriel with other players stepping up to fill their absences.   That will have to continue for the Hawks to win the Division/Conference and to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Here are the statistical comparisons after 54 games between the 2009-10 and the 2010-11 seasons:


2009-10 — 33-20-1-1, 68 points

2010-11 — 36-15-0-3, 75 points

Goals For:

2009-10 — 204/3.77 per game

2010-11 — 216/4.00 per game

Goals Against:

2009-10 — 185/3.43 per game

2010-11 — 167/3.09 per game

Shots For:

2009-10 — 1892/35.04 per game

2010-11 — 2017/37.35 per game

Shots Against:

2009-10 — 1827/33.83 per game

2010-11 — 1927/35.69 per game

Shot Percentage:

2009-10 — 204 goals on 1892 shots = 10.78%

2010-11 — 216 goals on 2017 shots = 10.71%

Shot Percentage Against:

2009-10 — 185 goals on 1827 shots = 10.13%

2010-11 — 167 goals on 1927 shots = 8.67%

Power Play:

2009-10 — 49 for 254 – 19.3%

2010-11 — 52 for 248 – 21.0%

Penalty Kill:

2009-10 — 213 of 273 – 78.0%

2010-11 — 257 of 308 – 83.4%

Short Handed Goals:

2009-10 — 8 goals for/5 goals against

2010-11 — 9 goals for/7 goals against

Player Statistics:

2 – Troy Rutkowski

2009-10 — 53 GP, 8-23-31, +9, 62 PIM

2010-11 — 54 GP, 7-25-32, +15, 48 PIM

6 – Brett Ponich

2009-10 — 52 GP, 1-11-12, -2, 71 PIM

2010-11 — 45 GP, 0-12-12, +23, 60 PIM

7 – Joe Morrow

2009-10 — 49 GP, 4-19-23, +15, 35 PIM

2010-11 — 42 GP, 5-26-31, +7, 43 PIM

8 – Ty Rattie

2009-10 — 43 GP, 13-18-31, +10, 16 PIM

2010-11 — 53 GP, 24-43-67, +20, 41 PIM

11 – Oliver Gabriel

2009-10 — 23 GP, 6-8-14, +9, 12 PIM

2010-11 — 41 GP, 11-21-32, +6, 36 PIM

14 – Craig Cunningham

2009-10 — 54 GP, 31-48-79, +6, 40 PIM (w/VAN)

2010-11 — 53 GP, 19-48-67, +10, 44 PIM

17 – Riley Boychuk

2009-10 — 48 GP, 12-12-24, +7, 116 PIM

2010-11 — 48 GP, 13-13-26, +1, 112 PIM

18 – Brad Ross

2009-10 — 53 GP, 23-30-53, +17, 144 PIM

2010-11 — 49 GP, 17-26-43, +14, 124 PIM

19 – Ryan Johansen

2009-10 — 53 GP, 19-35-54, +12, 31 PIM

2010-11 — 45 GP, 26-30-56, +28, 48 PIM

22 – Nino Niederreiter

2009-10 — 47 GP, 27-20-47, +6, 62 PIM

2010-11 — 37 GP, 24-17-41, +15, 51 PIM

23 – Seth Swenson

2009-10 — 31 GP, 1-2-3, -8, 4 PIM

2010-11 — 41 GP, 1-5-6, -1, 32 PIM

25 – Taylor Peters

2009-10 — 15 GP, 1-3-4, +1, 6 PIM

2010-11 — 54 GP, 6-7-13, +9, 47 PIM

26 – Tyler Wotherspoon

2009-10 — 27 GP, 1-1-2, +5, 8 PIM

2010-11 — 46 GP, 2-8-10, -4, 49 PIM

31 – Mac Carruth

2009-10 — 13 GP, 5-7-0-0, 3.83 GAA, .880 save %

2010-11 — 42 GP, 26-12-0-1, 2.97 GAA, .916 save %

37 – Taylor Aronson

2009-10 — 53 GP, 3-18-21, +7, 41 PIM

2010-11 — 53 GP, 4-24-28, +29, 54 PIM

55 – Tayler Jordan

2009-10 — 47 GP, 2-3-5, +1, 125 PIM

2010-11 — 43 GP, 3-4-7, +4, 98 PIM





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