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Mucha braces for some changes

Winter Hawk goalie loves Portland but wants some wins
by: L.E. BASKOW, Three-year Portland goalie Kurtis Mucha has faced the second-most shots in the league this season.

The Portland Winter Hawks have a pretty frustrated goalie.

Developing the reputation as one of the Western Hockey League's best net minders, Kurtis Mucha has grown tired of facing all the shots, allowing goals without much support and seeing no hope on the horizon.

Still, he wants to remain in Portland to win with the Winter Hawks. Mucha approached management, i.e., President Jack Donovan, before the recent WHL trade deadline and asked the club to find better players - soon - or else next year he might want out.

'I didn't ask for a trade,' says Mucha, 18, a three-year starter. 'I told them I hoped they would try to bring some players in and help me.

'I've been here for three years. It's home, I have great memories, I like playing here, I've got an awesome billet, the fans have been good to me,' he says. 'I've got nothing to complain about, other than we're not winning. I don't want to go anywhere.'

Donovan listened to Mucha's appeal, and agreed with him: The Hawks need to be better next season, or find Mucha a better situation and help out the Portland roster by trading him for other players.

Mucha helped the Hawks win a playoff series against Seattle in 2006. His goaltending against powerful Vancouver in the next series drew praise among the discriminating Canadian fans - he received a standing ovation after helping Portland stay close in the Giants' clinching Game 5.

Then the wiry goalie faced the most shots and played the most minutes in the WHL last season as the Winter Hawks started blowing up the roster in a big youth movement.

Mucha and his agent thought the huge workload would help him develop and get noticed by NHL scouts, but he wasn't drafted and continues to backstop for a young team that gets outworked, outshot and outscored.

For the second year in a row, the Winter Hawks could score the fewest goals and give up the most in the WHL. Portland was outshot 90 to 33 in its last two home games, and after a 7-2 loss last Saturday to Seattle, Mucha expressed his frustration.

'You see some players on our team who think they're better than they are. Too cocky,' he says. 'And then there are a couple players who shouldn't even be in this league. It's not their fault. They're being thrown into a situation they're not used to, and almost set up to fail. But we've got nobody else.'

Other players, such as center Jacob Dietrich, have been great.

'He's been unbelievable for us,' Mucha says. 'It's his last year in the league, and it's good to see him still trying. He's a great leader for us - blocking shots in a 7-1 game. He really helps out, and hopefully the young guys pick up on that.'

Mucha has faced the second-most shots in the league, and his .897 save percentage is in the bottom half among WHL goalies. His goals-against average of 4.11 rankes 30th in the league.

He has a 24-66-2-2 record this season and last.

Mucha says he has become almost numb to the losses, the goals and the shots.

'It's not a good thing, really, because I don't want to be accustomed to it,' he says. 'But I don't know what to do.

'Hopefully we're good next year. If not, I think it might be time for a change.'

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