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Goalies like view from WHL 'penthouse'

Trade gives veteran Boes a turn with a winning franchise


by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Corbin Boes, from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is 12-1-0-1 in 14 games with the Portland Winterhawks since the club acquired him on Jan. 9 to back up regular starter Brendan Burke.Goaltender Corbin Boes received the news after a game, and it became official on Jan. 9.

And it wasn’t like he then back-flipped and smiled and shouted joyfully on his way away from the Lethbridge Hurricanes, one of the Western Hockey League’s worst teams, to the Portland Winterhawks, one of the best.

“I didn’t ask to be traded. I’m not that kind of guy,” Boes says. “It was a tough situation there in Lethbridge, and they wanted to give me a chance to win. I’m more than grateful for that.”

Still, the trade gave him new junior hockey life.

“When you get traded, there are emotions all around,” he says. “You’ve leaving guys you played with and billets who took you in and cared for you. It’s sad in that respect. But, once I got on the plane heading to Victoria (to meet the Winterhawks), I started to get pretty pumped up.”

The 20-year-old Boes joined the Hawks to implicitly serve as veteran backup — insurance — for starting goaltender Brendan Burke.

A few weeks ago, the season took a turn that placed Boes smack in the middle of Portland’s record winning streak and push for another WHL championship — Burke came down with mononucleosis.

Burke was out of action and returned home recently to Phoenix, Ariz., to rest. He rejoined the team last week, and skated in practice, but his timeline to return to the net wasn’t immediately determined.

The 18-year-old Burke, a Phoenix Coyotes NHL draft pick, had posted back-to-back shutouts before his sickness. He helped the Winterhawks obliterate the previous franchise record of consecutive wins (15), as the club won 21 in a row before losing 4-1 Saturday at Seattle.

Mike Johnston, Portland general manager and coach, said that Burke would be his starting goalie again, when healthy.

Burke, who wouldn’t talk about his sickness last week, says he feels he earned the right to be the No. 1 goalie, when ready.

“You always have to play well to play,” Burke says. “I’ve played a lot of games for this team. They’re going to give me a shot. It’s an unfortunate

situation to get sick, but I’m trying to get back healthy for the playoffs.”

Burke had really good numbers — a 31-10-2-2 record, .908 save percentage, 2.85 goals-against average — and he feels he needs some game action in the final seven tilts before the WHL playoffs.

“It’ll take a game or two to get back,” he says.

Boes, 6-3, 225 pounds and from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, likes the feeling now of going from the WHL basement to the penthouse.

He had a 5-24-2-2 record in 35 games with Lethbridge. The year before, he was 13-23-2-3 with Brandon. He went to the playoffs in 2011 and 2012.

Boes joined Portland just as the Hawks were putting their full lineup of stars on the ice, including defenseman Mathew Dumba, another midseason acquisition.

So, Boes has enjoyed a string of wins and being thrust into the thick of WHL title contention.

“I knew the Memorial Cup wasn’t going to happen in Lethbridge,” he says. “I had to achieve personal goals and make the best of the situation. It’s a different story, different tales of the tape — in Lethbridge, I’d get 40 shots a night and as long as I kept the game close I felt pretty good. Here, you’re expected to win every game.

“It’s fun coming to the rink when you’re winning lots. It’s such a great staff here that helps you get better every day. It’s a really good situation for my last year in junior hockey.”

Technically, this is Boes’ second stint with the Winterhawks. He was drafted and listed with Portland and even met in 2010 with current Hawks stars Brendan Leipsic and Derrick Pouliot. But he never saw the ice with Portland before joining Brandon. So, being traded back to the Winterhawks was comforting, in a way.

Boes also knows Hawks forward and captain Taylor Leier from their Saskatoon days.

Backstopping the talented Winterhawks has been enjoyable, so far, and he has settled down his game with the winning team.

“The defense does a great job; the forwards are very skilled and put the puck in the net,” Boes says. “It takes pressure off you. If you’re in a close game, you’re confident they’re going to get (a winning goal).”

Boes hopes to earn a pro contract. If he doesn’t, he intends to pursue law school at a university in Canada. But, clearly, he and/or Burke have some work to do before either of those things happen.

Boes likes Burke’s game.

“He’s a big guy, and he’s pretty positional,” Boes says. “He knows how to take away space and stuff for shooters. He seems really calm in the net.”

The 6-4, 185-pound Burke says Boes has been a welcome addition to the Hawks, and that Boes has helped elevate his game.

“Obviously, it was a tough situation for him in Lethbridge. That team was having a tough year,” Burke says. “He’s had good years in this league. It’s no surprise that he’s contributed. Nobody’s surprised.

“He’s a nice, friendly guy. When somebody new arrives, we go out of our way to make somebody feel welcome. We were lucky with Corbin coming in.”

by: COURTESY OF PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS - Brendan Burke, who waited in the wings behind Mac Carruth for two years, took over this season as the Portland Winterhawks No. 1 goaltender. He posted a 31-10-2-2 record until a recent illness, but the Hawks expect him to return soon as they wrap up the Western Hockey League regular season and head to the playoffs.Burke, a two-year backup to Mac Carruth before this season, expects to return to his pre-sickness form. He has said that being the potential No. 1 guy in the playoffs doesn’t faze him. He watched as Carruth let his emotional volatility get in the way of his performance, albeit among some stellar wins and championships.

Burke looks forward to the postseason.

“I’m not too concerned about (playoff pressure),” he says. “People kind of hype that up. As long as you don’t let yourself get overrun by the moment, the moment doesn’t really change that much. We’re still playing the same teams in the same league — obviously the intensity level goes up. But I’ve always felt like I could handle it.

“I’ve played in big games. With how the team plays in front of me, I’m very confident we’ll have success.”

Boes clearly has helped the Winterhawks, and he’ll continue to help, whether it be as Burke’s backup or starting for whatever reason.

Adin Hill, a 17-year-old prospect, has been serving as goaltender backup with Burke on the sidelines.

Boes says he doesn’t want to think about the competition with Burke at goaltender.

“I guess I’ll play it by ear,” he says. “I’ve got to come to the rink ready, and put in my work.”