The Hawks’ Nest


Top wins of 2009-10: #5 and #4
April 23, 2010, 10:01 am
Filed under: Winterhawks | Tags: , ,

We’re taking one last look at the 2009-10 season before next week’s bantam draft serves as the unofficial start to the 2010-11 season (at least for most of the WHL, as the playoffs are ongoing). To put a bow on the season I’m looking back at the team’s top-five wins of the season, starting today with #5 and #4. Check back next week for the top three.

Drumroll please…

#5: April 7: 3-2 win @ Vancouver in Game 3. After knocking off Spokane in the first round, the Winterhawks held home ice advantage against the Vancouver Giants in the Western Conference semifinals. However, it’s fair to say things didn’t go quite as planned in the opening two games of the series, as the Giants combined for 16 goals and 99 shots in Games 1 and 2 to grab a 2-0 lead heading back to the Pacific Coliseum.

The Giants’ top line had been particularly dominant in those matchups, as Craig Cunningham, Brendan Gallagher and Lance Bouma combined for an amazing 17 points in the two games. But any ideas the Giants or their fans might have had about an easy series went out the window in Game 3.

The Winterhawks turned in an incredible defensive performance in that Game 3, beginning in the first period by doing something they hadn’t done in the first two games: keep Vancouver off the scoresheet. After the Giants had scored goals in all six periods of Games 1 and 2, the Winterhawks kept the Giants scoreless after one, and held the lead after an early power play goal by Spencer Bennett.

It was a sign of things to come in the game, as after their repeated strikes earlier in the series, the Cunningham-Gallagher-Bouma line was held without a single point in the game. Just as important, the Winterhawks limited Vancouver’s shots, as the Giants had just 31 for the game.

Portland finished with a 3-2 win to get on the board, and would take two of three games at the Pacific Coliseum to get back into the series.

#4: September 19: 5-0 win @ Seattle. It’s hard to believe that after three straight losing seasons, the Winterhawks actually came into the season with high expectations. They boasted a cast of highly-touted new faces, young players with a year of experience under their belts, and were coming off a dominating 5-1 preseason.

It could have led to an early letdown, but instead the Winterhawks opened the 2009-10 season with a statement game in Seattle, earning a 5-0 win. While the Winterhawks earned a convincing victory, no one could have predicted it would set the tone for a season series in which Portland would go an astonishing 12-0 against their I-5 rivals, as the Hawks ascended to the upper echelon of the conference while the young Thunderbirds would struggle throughout the season.

There was any number of storylines at play in this game, beginning with newly-minted starter Ian Curtis getting his first career WHL shutout. The Hawks also showed their newfound defensive prowess, holding the T-Birds to just three first period shots and 24 for the game.

The season-opener also served as a coming-out party for Nino Niederreiter. In his first career game the Swiss star announced his arrival by tallying three points with a goal and two assists. Defenseman Troy Rutkowski also had three points, and the Chris Francis-Luke Walker duo kept last year’s chemistry rolling with a goal as well.

The 2009-10 season was a storybook one, and it all got started on this night.

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