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Winterhawks happy with trip


COURTESY: DAYNA FJORD/PORTLAND WINTERHAWKS - Forward Rihards Bukarts, happy after scoring in a late-December home victory over Tri-City, salvaged a 4-3 win for the Portland Winterhawks at Kootenay on Saturday with his overtime goal.The Portland Winterhawks look good for making the Western Hockey League playoffs, with nine regular-season games to go.

The Hawks have to finish well, but the biggest question may be where they will finish in the Western Conference: Will they get the third spot in the U.S. Division or fall into one of the two wild-card spots?

• U.S. Division standings

Everett, 36-21-4-2, 78 points

Seattle, 36-23-3-0, 75 points

Portland, 32-27-4-0, 68 points

Spokane, 29-24-5-4, 67 points

Tri-City, 30-29-2-1, 63 points

• The Hawks just went 3-2-1-0 on a Central Division swing. Portland started the trip with impressive victories against first-place Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, then lost at Calgary and Edmonton, then split two overtime games (losing to Red Deer, beating Kootenay).

Jamie Kompon, Portland GM and coach, says the trip was successful, especially because of the win against Lethbridge, 4-2.

“We knew we had to be up for that team, the top team in the Eastern Conference,” Kompon says. “We made sure we were firing on all cylinders. We got contributions from everyone. (Keegan) Iverson got a five-minute major, and it was everyone who dug in and did the right things to kill that penalty and move forward from there. It was a consistent effort from start to finish.”

• After an 8-1 win at Medicine Hat, the Hawks fell behind and couldn’t muster the fight and comebacks at Calgary and Edmonton. That was just about the only disappointing part of the trip.

• At Red Deer, in a 4-3 OT loss to the Memorial Cup tournament host, “I loved the way we competed,” Kompon says. “We showed resilience and character to battle back and fight back and get the tying goal and send it into overtime. That was a critical point (in the standings). Every point is magnified at this time of year.”

• Kootenay, which has by far the WHL’s worst record (10-46-6-0), put up a fight.

“They were playing at home, trying to play their best, and we were playing our fourth game in five nights. They knew they could jump on us,” Kompon says.

The Hawks won 4-3 on Rihards Bukarts’ overtime goal.

• Skyler McKenzie and Evan Weinger missed the past two games with injuries. Kompon says they will be re-evaluated this week.

• Two recent signings:

Defenseman Matthew Quigley, 16, who played for the Midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Alberta Midget Hockey League (three goals and 10 assists in 34 games).

Forward Ilijah Colina, 15, an eighth-round 2015 Western Hockey League bantam draft pick who has 10 goals and 42 assists in 34 games this season with the Valley West Hawks of the British Columbia Major Midget League.

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