Troy Rutkowski has been with the Portland Winterhawks so long, he was once a Portland Winter Hawk.
On Friday, the Winterhawks captain will establish a franchise record for regular-season games played, having participated in 327, including 216 in a row.
“I feel good about it,” Rutkowski said. “You come into the league hoping to play a few games. I’ve been lucky enough not to get hurt, knock on wood.”
On Wednesday at Spokane he tied Kevin Haupt, who played for Portland 1994-99. Rutkowski scored his 16th goal of the season that night, matching his 45-point total for all of last season.
Rutkowski credits the work of Winterhawks trainer Rich Campbell for keeping the players in shape and making sure they are properly warmed up before games and practices.
The last Winterhawks game Rutkowski did not play in was on Jan. 20, 2010 — to attend the top prospects game.
Rutkowski’s first game in the Western Hockey League was Sept. 20, 2008 against Spokane. He said he doesn’t remember much about it. “I’ve played a lot of games since then,” he pointed out.
His first goal was an overtime winner at Saskatoon that ended a string of nine consecutive losses for a team that won only 11 times all season. The next season Bill Gallacher bought the team and changed the nickname to one word.
Some of the players who came into the WHL alongside Rutkowski have graduated to pro hockey. But he is not bothered that he is still playing junior hockey at age 20.
“You’ve got to focus on where you are,” he said. “I’m happy to be back here and concentrating on the ultimate goal of winning a championship.”
This week: Visit Spokane at 7:05 p.m. Friday; visit Tri-City at 7:05 p.m. Saturday; visit Everett at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday; host Kamloops, 7 p.m. Wednesday (Memorial Coliseum); visit Seattle at 7:35 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1.
Last week: Lost to Lethbridge 5-4 (shootout), lost at Seattle 4-3, lost to Spokane 5-2, lost at Spokane 5-4 (shootout).
Where they stand: At 37-7-1-2, the Winterhawks have the Western Hockey League’s best record and 77 points from 47 games. Kelowna (71 points in 47 games) and Edmonton (71 points in 49 games) have the next-best marks. Portland is 15 points up on second-place Spokane in the U.S. Division. In the Canadian Hockey League top-10, Portland remained second this week behind top-rated Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and ahead of the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League. Kelowna is ranked No. 4.
Strange streak: After winning 14 consecutive games, the Winterhawks have dropped four in a row — though two have come via shootouts.
“Sometimes during a win streak you win games that you shouldn’t,” Winterhawks captain Troy Rutkowski said. “Sometimes on a losing streak you lose games you should’ve won.”
Rutkowski said Portland played well in Wednesday’s shootout loss at Spokane, especially during the third period when the Winterhawks scored three times.
“If we keep playing our game the way we have been, we’ll be fine,” Rutkowski said.
Top line keeps rolling: Nic Petan continues to lead the WHL — and all of Canadian major junior hockey — with 81 points (31 goals, 50 assists). Brendan Leipsic is second in the WHL with 77 points (30 goals, 47 assists). And Ty Rattie, who has at least one point in each of the eight games since returning from the world junior championships, now tied for seventh at 62 points (23 goals, 39 assists). Rattie has played in only 38 games, the fewest among any of the league’s top scorers.
This week: Host Bellingham at 7:35 p.m. both Friday and Saturday at Mountain View Ice Arena; visit West Sound of Bremerton at 7:35 p.m. Sunday; host Eugene at 7:35 p.m. on Feb. 1.
Last week: Lost 7-4 to visiting Eugene.
Where they stand: At 2-26, Vancouver is last in the six-team Northern Pacific Hockey League.Tickets: Vipers tickets cost $5, $3 for students with school IDs.
Trevor Cheek update: Vancouver resident Trevor Cheek had three goals and two assists on Tuesday as the Edmonton Oil Kings beat Moose Jaw 7-0. It was the second WHL hat-trick for Cheek. He now has 23 goals and 18 assists this season, including five goals and three assists for Edmonton since arriving in a trade.