The Portland Winterhawks had just barely finished their game this past Saturday night when the bus pulled into the lot at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and loaded up for a 700 plus mile trip to Prince George, BC. The Hawks were there to play the recently hot Prince George Cougars, who had won six straight going into the two game battle. The Hawks with a 12 game streak weren't about to let that stand in their way.
The first game was played on Monday at two in the afternoon as part of the BC Holiday “Family Day,” but the long drive didn't seem to affect the legs too much. By the end of two periods, the Hawks were comfortably up 5-2 and walked away in the third period with a final score of 8-4. Chase De Leo netted a pair along with 2 assists, but it was all around scoring again as the Hawks shared the scoring around and capitalized with a 50% power play success rate. Though they did surrender 3 goals on the penalty kill, it happened well after they'd built up a nearly insurmountable lead. Adam Beukeboom faced 50 shots while Burke looked at 32.
Just over 48 hours later, the same two teams would meet and the Hawks would be looking for win number 14. It would be a tougher game as the two teams swapped goaltenders, Winterhawks netminder Brendan Burke was out with the flu leaving Corbin Boes as the heir to the throne with a local backup in case things got too out of control.
The Hawks struck first with Oliver Bjorkstrand cashing in on the power play just over 2 minutes in with Nic Petan grabbing an assist. Prince George, sensing some desperation and determination not to be manhandled, picked up 2 goals in 39 seconds to take their only lead of the game and a 2-1 lead after one period. The Winterhawks took a Too Many Men penalty near the end of the first and it carried over into the second period.
Less than a minute into the second, Nic Petan would score shorthanded and two minutes later, add an assist on the Hawks fourth goal. That point for Petan put him two points up in the league scoring race ahead of Spokane Chiefs forward Mitch Holmberg, who had held the lead for most of the season. The feat is even more amazing in that Petan missed nearly nine games while at tournaments in December and early January. Petan had 120 points last season and while now at 95 with 15 games to go, it is conceivable that he could eclipse that total again this year.
Another star for the Hawks in this game was Keegan Iverson. With 2 goals and several great opportunities that were either a bit wide or robbed by Prince George goaltender Ty Edmonds, he showed the prowess he will have for the future, this in his 100th WHL game. The Hawks as a whole were often kept off the score sheet during this game by a post, a quick glove or just sheer bad luck as they outplayed Prince George especially in the third period. The Hawks would win 6-4, giving Corbin Boes his fifth win between the pipes, his only loss with the team being a shootout loss when he first arrived with the team back on January 9. The Hawks shut down the Prince George power play as the Cougars went 0 for 5, while the Hawks went 1 for 3 with the man advantage. The Hawks outshot the Cougars 35-24.
The team now travels six hours to Kamloops for a Friday night match against the worst team in the WHL. The Kamloops Blazers have lost ten straight and with just eleven wins on the season, will try to play the role of spoiler from this point on playoff contending teams. The Hawks will then travel four hours to Vancouver and a Saturday night date with the Giants who they beat in a shootout in their last meeting in Vancouver and the start of Corbin Boes win streak. The Winterhawks will then return home for three games in five nights at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The Kelowna Rockets continue to lead the WHL with a lead of nine points with fifteen games left to play. While it is possible for the Hawks to make up ground on the Rockets, they will have a daunting task to try to capture back to back Scotty Munro trophies for best record in the league. The Rockets have been strong all season and are ranked first in the overall CHL rankings. The Winterhawks, who started off the season high in the rankings but fell during their slump in December, are now in fourth spot and gaining. While the Rockets have clinched a playoff spot, mathematically, the Winterhawks need 5 points to gain them entry into the postseason.
Ice Chips: The Portland Winterhawks Booster Club held a viewing party on Wednesday Night at Kenton Station in North Portland with former Winterhawks center Taylor Peters attending for autographs and photos. Taylor was in town as part of a week-long break with the American Hockey League to visit with his former billet family. He heads back to Austin, Texas for games coming up this weekend. Former goaltender Mac Carruth also made a brief visit during a recent game held at the Moda Center.
Stuart Kemp is the President of the Portland Winterhawks Booster Club, a 501(c)(3) registered charity.