Sunday, November 30, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Don't Look Now, But...

The Portland Winterhawks are officially on a winning streak.  Coming off of two straight victories the previous weekend against Kelowna, the Winterhawks were looking to achieve their first winning streak of more than two games this season.  By the end of this weekend, the Winterhawks ended up with a five game winning streak and counting.

Tuesday, the Winterhawks overcame a 2-1 deficit after one period to overtake the Victoria Royals at home in a 4-2 win.  Friday, the Daylight Classic happened, and the Kootenay Ice were the opponents in a game where the curtains to the Veterans Memorial Coliseum were pulled back.  The Winterhawks turned a three goal second period into a 5-2 win, with Adin Hill getting his second victory of the week.  Saturday, the Winterhawks traveled to Kennewick, WA to take on the Tri-City Americans for the first time this season, and while the Winterhawks jumped out to a 3-0 lead at one point, they had to hold off an Ams comeback in the end to preserve a 3-2 win for Brendan Burke.

The Winterhawks will be a busy team this week, as they look to extend their winning streak at Victoria on Tuesday and at Vancouver on Friday before coming home to take on Everett Saturday and Medicine Hat Sunday.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Erie Examiner: Where They Belong

Last week, the Erie Otters found themselves in a spot they have been accustomed to for many weeks: perfect.  Wednesday, the Otters were able to hold off Plymouth in an early home game by a 4-3 score.  Friday and Saturday, they dominated Sarnia and Saginaw by identical 7-1 scores.  And earlier this week, the Otters acquired Buffalo Sabres prospect Nicholas Baptiste from Sudbury for draft picks, which means the Otters are all in this season, and it should make the Otters a tougher team to stop.  The only shoe left to drop is Connor McDavid, who is expected back after holiday break.

This week, the Otters have three games in three days, with a home game on Thanksgiving against Mississauga, a road trip to London on Friday, and will wrap up by welcoming Belleville on Saturday.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Owning Kelowna

In their three game road trip through central British Columbia, the Portland Winterhawks saw dominance over one team come to an end while dominance over another team continued.  Wednesday, the Winterhawks were thoroughly outclassed in a 4-1 loss in Kamloops, ending the team's dominance that dates back to the 2012 Conference semifinals.  Meanwhile, their back-to-back in Kelowna over the weekend extended the Winterhawks' (mostly) dominace over the league leading Kelowna Rockets, but it almost didn't happen.  Down 3-0 after one period on Friday, the Winterhawks would force overtime thanks to three unanswered goals before Alex Schoenborn would put in the winner in overtime to make it a 4-3 win for the Winterhawks.  Saturday, the Winterhawks would jump out to the big lead, but needed a Miles Koules goal to hold off a Rockets rally in a 4-3 win.

The Winterhawks welcome the Victoria Royals on Tuesday and will play against Kootenay on Friday before heading out to Kennewick for their first meeting of the season against Tri-City.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Three out of Four (Points) Ain't Bad

In their home and home against the Everett Silvertips last weekend, the Portland Winterhawks managed to come away with three out of four points.  In the Everett portion of the home and home last Friday, the Winterhawks managed to force a shootout, but could not close out the deal, as the Silvertips win 4-3, leaving the Winterhawks with a point.  Sunday was the Winterhawks part of the home and home, and it was much kinder, as the Winterhawks would run over the Silvertips 7-1.

The Winterhawks head to British Columbia this week, as they will travel to Kamloops on Wednesday to take on the Blazers before a back-to-back in Kelowna on Friday and Saturday against the WHL-leading Rockets.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time to Find a New Home

In a somewhat surprising development, the Minnesota Wild have placed Josh Harding on waivers today.  The move comes just after the Wild activated him from Injured Reserve, which in itself was done because he broke his foot in an off-ice incident.  Harding has not played since December of last year, and when he's healthy, he can be a viable option in goal.  However, between the foot injury and his Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, those moments are questionable as to when they will happen.

If Harding does clear waivers, he will be assigned to the Wild's AHL affiliate in Iowa.  However, there are likely to be a few teams inquiring about his availability.  Teams that could use a guy like Harding include Buffalo, Edmonton, New Jersey, and Winnipeg.

Erie Examiner: A Costly Fight

The Erie Otters are facing adversity for the first time this season, and it happened in their first game of the week.  Tuesday, the Otters shut out the Mississauga Steelheads 4-0, but that wasn't the story, as Connor McDavid will miss 5-6 weeks after fracturing his hand in a fight.  Life after McDavid hasn't gone so smoothly, as the Otters were unable to get anything going Friday in a 2-1 loss to Niagara and the floodgates opened in the third period of the Saturday game against Kitchener, as the Rangers scored four times to win 5-2.

The Otters will try to find their way on Wednesday, as they host Plymouth before hitting the road for a game Friday at Sarnia and Saturday at Saginaw.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Still Trying to Find Their Way

Last week, the Portland Winterhawks won one game and dropped the other, with their 5-4 loss at home to Red Deer and a 4-3 overtime win against Kamloops.  That means the Winterhawks are still looking for their first three game winning streak, and while the Winterhawks have done fairly well lately, the inability to put together a winning streak of more than two games has them last (although a point is all that separates last from third place).

The task does not get any easier, as they will have a home and home with Everett, with Friday's game in Everett and Sunday's game will be at home.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Erie Examiner: A Bump in the Road

The Erie Otters remain at the top of the OHL, but it wasn't without a shocking loss.  Three games in three days meant that the Otters would be hard pressed to keep their amazing start going.  It just so happened that Niagara was the team to do it on Thursday.  In the Otters' 5-2 loss, the point streak of Connor McDavid came to an end, and the Otters were unable to answer the IceDogs' second period barrage.  Friday was a new day, and the Otters made the most of it, as they were able to turn back Sarnia 5-2 on the strength of an Alex DeBrincat hat trick.  Saturday was the team's statement win of the weekend, as they handled Saginaw easily 8-1.  McDavid and Dylan Strome had four points apiece.

The Otters are at home tomorrow against Mississauga in a Veterans' Day game that will have a start time of 5:30 PM.  They will also hit the road on Friday against Niagara before coming home for a Saturday game against Kitchener.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Winterhawks Weekly: Now, That's More Like It

The Portland Winterhawks are finding themselves a little more with each passing game, and it helped that they managed to get four out of six points this past week. Thursday didn't start out so well, as they were blanked 5-0 to the visiting Kelowna Rockets. However, the Winterhawks didn't have to wait long for retribution, as the Rockets would be back for a Saturday game. Paul Bittner would score the game winner in overtime to avenge their earlier loss by a 3-2 score. Sunday, the Edmonton Oil Kings came calling, and despite some of the name changing, the Winterhawks were up to the task for this game, as they would give goaltender Michael Bullion enough support in a 3-1 win.

The Winterhawks finish their home stand this week, as they welcome Red Deer on Friday and Kamloops on Saturday.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Erie Examiner: Still Winning

If you're keeping score, the Erie Otters have still only lost once this season (in a shootout at London).  That is fourteen games played so far and thirteen of them have been wins, including this past week.  Thursday, the Otters had a fairly easy time with the Plymouth Whalers in a 5-2 win that saw Dylan Strome's point streak end and Connor McDavid notching his 200th point in the OHL (and counting).  The Otters continued to score in bunches on Saturday, as they would defeat Ottawa 7-4 in a game where Travis Wood and TJ Fergus scored their first OHL goals.  To date, Alex DeBrincat leads the league in goals (15) while McDavid leads the league in points (42) and +/- (+30).  Amazingly, He also leads his team in PIM with 19 minutes.  That is a tie for 60th in the league.

The Otters look to continue their winning ways, as they travel to St. Catharines, ON for a match against Niagara before coming home to take on Sarnia on Friday and Saginaw on Saturday.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Hitting the Reset Button in Prince Albert

This week, the Cory Clouston Experiment ended, as the Prince Albert Raiders fired Clouston after the team's slow start.  The search for a new head coach did not last long, as they tabbed Marc Habscheid to be the new bench boss.  Before getting into what Habscheid brings, let's look at the Clouston era.

Clouston was brought in prior to last season amid high expectations, as they were pre-season favorites to win the East Division.  Those expectations should have been met, as they were returning Leon Draisaitl from his solid rookie campaign in the the WHL, as well as Josh Morrisey and even brought in Cole Cheveldae to be the starting goalie after a solid tenure in Kamloops.  Once the season started, things didn't go as planned.  While Draisaitl did his part, everything else did not go as planned, as Cheveldae was splitting time with Nick McBride as the season wound down and the Raiders needed a tie-breaker game against Red Deer to make the playoffs, where they were promptly disposed of by eventual league and Memorial Cup champion Edmonton.  A 6-9-0-0 record to start the season combined with some locker room disharmony (e.g. Dakota Conroy being sent home) contributed to Clouston's dismissal.

As for the new guy in Habscheid, he knows a thing or two about winning teams, as he has coached in Kamloops, Kelowna, and Chilliwack/Victoria, winning a league title in 2003 and the Memorial Cup in 2004.  He was last seen in an executive position with the parent company that owns the Victoria Royals.  Time away shouldn't be too much of a concern, as he had a five year hiatus between his last year in Kelowna (the Memorial Cup year) and his first year in Chilliwack.