Since the trade deadline, the Portland Winterhawks have gotten good...real good. It's almost scary to think what their record would have been had they not lost players to the World Juniors and if they had the team they do now at the start of the season.
With their seventh straight win, the Hawks continue to make it clear they want to be US Division Champions again. While it might considered a tough stretch to think of repeating as the Scotty Munro trophy winners, don't tell the players that.
The Winterhawks have given up only 12 goals in that seven game stretch or a measly 0.58 Goals Against Average, while they have scored 36 (or over five goals) per game. It's that kind of average that coaches salivate over.
The recent two game drubbing of the shorthanded Everett Silvertips by scores of 5-1 Friday and 6-2 Sunday against arguably one of the leagues better goaltenders shows the Hawks firepower. Oliver Bjorkstrand, who had been silent through much of this streak, pocketed a hat trick in the Sunday game and Nic Petan, who had been streaky as well, picked up two goals and an assist at Friday's game.
Even the physical part of the Hawks arsenal couldn't be called into question as Brendan Leipsic and sixteen year-old Ethan Price (in his first ever WHL fight), dropped the mitts versus a couple of larger foes and easily won both battles. In Price's case the difference was two years and eight inches in height. The same ruggedness could be said for Nic Petan, who in Friday's game, pulled in the "Gordie Howe Hat trick" of a goal, and assist and a fight as he held court against a larger foe.
The Hawks will once again face off versus Everett back in Portland at the Veteran's Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday before they get two other divisional rivals in the Spokane Chiefs Friday at the Moda Center and Saturday versus the resurging Seattle Thunderbirds, who helped the Winterhawks out by beating WHL leader Kelowna Rockets 4-1 on Sunday.
The Kelowna Rockets have played one fewer game than Portland and the Rockets won the season series earlier in the year in case of a tiebreaker, but Portland never looks to do the easy thing; they just battle.
The season is down to its final 20 or so games and the battles for playoff positions have started getting into full swing. Five teams are considered long shots to even make the playoffs, while ten others are close enough to each other that the leader in that group could as easily make the playoffs as be out of them.
The Winterhawks welcomed their eight millionth fan this past week with the winner receiving a team signed "8 Million" jersey, tickets for the playoffs and season tickets for next year.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club is offering 200 level tickets (Upper Bowl) at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum game Saturday, February 1st versus the Seattle Thunderbirds. Got to http://www.pwhbc.com, click on the discount ticket link and buy your tickets through that link. At checkout, enter the word BOOSTER in the promo code section to save nearly 10 dollars per ticket. Five dollars from each ticket sold through the link will go to the Booster Club and its local charities.
The Booster Club is also running its last scheduled fan trip of the season on Saturday, March 1st to Kent, WA, where the Winterhawks face off against the Seattle Thunderbirds. More information is available at www.pwhbc.com/fantrips.html.