The Portland Winterhawks are trying to find a way to get a large enough cushion in goals, so they don’t continue down the road they are currently traveling on. Now dealing with a losing streak that has hit eight games, the worst of the streak is that all the games were winnable. Every game would end in a one goal deficit that might spike by a goal or two due to an empty net as the Hawks would try to even the scores with a sixth attacker. This past weekend’s games were heartbreakers for the young squad as they found themselves in a hole that seemingly was miles wide at times.
With a few days off this week, the Hawks looked to gain some valuable real estate against divisional opponents, the needed points to keep them in the hunt when playoffs arrive in March. The team would travel to Kennewick to face the Tri-City Americans, followed by a quick trip home to reload and head north to Everett to face the US Division leading Silvertips and then back home for a Sunday afternoon contest against the same Americans. The first game was like so many of the Hawks games in giving up the first goal early. Just a minute into the contest, Michael Rasmussen scored to put the Americans up by one. Ryan Hughes would counter three minutes later to even the score, but it would be three goals at the midway point of the first period, including Rasmussen’s second of the game, that put Tri-City up 4-1 at the end of one. A goaltending change for Portland seemed to spark the Hawks as they would knock out two goals in the second period including one by captain Keegan Iverson, to bring the game close at 4-3. The Hawks would then run into penalty trouble in the third and could not get the equalizer. Tri-City’s Morgan Geekie with his second of the night, would add an empty net goal with eleven seconds left to seal it away for the Americans 5-3. Portland outshot Tri-City 34-32 and kept the Americans to just one goal on six power plays, but it was a goose egg again for Portland on the power play as they couldn’t convert on any of their four attempts.
The Hawks then headed to Everett and a battle with the Silvertips as they looked to gain some ground on the division leaders. After Cole Kehler gave up three goals on five shots on the previous night, the start went to Michael Bullion who had come in relief with shutout hockey the rest of the way and the hope was that this would counter a tough Everett team. The Hawks took the 1-0 lead when Skyler McKenzie scored on the power play, but couldn’t hold the lead for long. Two power play goals for the Tips less than a minute apart and a goal midway through the second, put Everett up by a 3-1 score heading into the third. Keegan Iverson brought the game close with a goal just over six minutes into the frame, but Everett played shutdown hockey the rest of the way and scored two goals with the Hawks with a sixth attacker into the empty net to skate away with a 5-2 win. Portland heavily outshot Everett 43-29 and went 1 for 4 on the power play, but Everett’s 2 goals on 7 chances on their power play was what sunk the Hawks rebound.
With their third game in three nights, Portland needed to get a jump early in the game against the Tri-City Americans and did just that. Goals by the Winterhawks in the first period by Jake Gricius and Ryan Hughes gave the home team a two-goal lead heading to the locker room at the end of the first period of play. Kyle Olsen replied for the Americans just over five minutes into the second period and then the Americans picked up goals in the third period by Michael Rasmussen and Parker Aucoin to take a lead they would not relinquish. Portland peppered Americans Ryan Parenteau with 25 shots in the third period of their 46 in the game, but could not find the equalizer and dropped their eighth straight in a 3-2 loss to the Americans. Cole Kehler picked up the loss for Portland after returning between the pipes from the last Tri-City game.
Portland now has a few days to recover and regain their confidence as they get ready for two tough games this coming weekend. They will face the Everett Silvertips at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum on Friday, before heading across the street for a game at the Moda Center against the Calgary Hitmen on Saturday.