Junior hockey report: Pouliott back in action for Winterhawks

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter



Portland Winterhawks

This week: At Victoria, 5:05 p.m. Sunday and 7:05 p.m. Tuesday; host Seattle at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 15 (Rose Garden).

Last week: Lost 4-2 at Everett; beat Everett 6-3.

Where they stand: At 52-12-1-2, the Winterhawks have the Western Hockey League’s best record with 107 points through 67 games. Edmonton (99 points in 67 games) and Kelowna (98 points in 67 games) have the next-best marks. With five games remaining, Portland is two points from clinching the best record in the Western Conference and three points from locking up the best record in the entire WHL.

Winterhawks ranked No. 2: This week, Portland is ranked No. 2 in the Canadian Hockey League top-10. The Halifax Mooseheads (52-6-2-1) of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are ranked first. Announced each Wednesday, the top-10 is selected by a panel of National Hockey League scouts. Edmonton (fourth), Kelowna (fifth) and Kamloops (eighth) are WHL clubs also in the top 10.

Playoffs start March 22: The Winterhawks, who have reached the WHL finals two years in a row, start the 2013 playoffs with home games on March 22 and March 23 at the Rose Garden. Tickets for those two games, and playoff packages and group offers, are now available through the Winterhawks ticket office, 502-236-4295.

Pouliott returns: Defenseman Derrick Pouliott returned to action in Portland’s 6-3 win Tuesday over Everett. The first-round pick of Pittsburgh in the 2012 NHL Draft, Pouliott was injured in the Hawks’ final game before the Christmas break. He played in a few January games before sitting out six weeks to recover from the “lower body injury.” The return of Pouliott, 18, adds another smooth skater to Portland’s talented defense, with the playoffs starting in two weeks.

Three in triple digits: With two goals on Tuesday, Ty Rattie passed the 100-point mark for the second year in a row. Rattie has 101 points (44 goals, 57 assists) in 58 games this season, fourth in the WHL. Portland’s Brendan Leipsic (113 points) and Nic Petan (111) rank 1-2 in the league, and Rattie is only two points behind Kamloops’ Collin Smith for third in scoring. This is first time since the 1988-89 season the Winterhawks have three players more than 100 points. Dennis Holland (167 points), Troy Mick (136) and Terry Black (104) did it in 1988-89.

60-point defenseman: For the second year in a row, the Winterhawks have a 60-point defenseman. Team captain Troy Rutkowski (20 goals, 40 assists) follows Joe Morrow, who had 64 points in the regular season last year.

Peters signs: The Dallas Stars signed Winterhawks center Taylor Peters to a three-year entry level contract that begins next season. Peters, who will remain with the Winterhawks this season, has played 314 games with the club, fourth most in franchise history. The 20-year-old has a career-high 13 goals this season.

“Taylor is one of the hardest-working players we’ve seen here with the Winterhawks, and he’s incredibly deserving of this contract,” Winterhawks coach Travis Green said. “Taylor is a versatile player who can play in all situations. He’s one of our most valuable players on the ice and an important voice among our leadership group off the ice.”

Assistant coach hired: With the playoffs coming up, the Winterhawks have hired Steve Kariya as an assistant coach for the remainder of the season. Kariya will handle in-game video scouting, helping the coaching staff make adjustments between periods. He also will assist with players’ skill development at practices. The in-game video work had been done by assistant coach Kyle Gustafson, a Vancouver resident who moved to the bench for games in November when Green took over as acting head coach for suspended Mike Johnston. Kariya, the younger brother of former NHL star Paul Kariya, played 65 games in the NHL and six pro seasons in Europe.

Contract extensions: The Winterhawks recently extended through the 2014-15 season the contracts for assistant coach Kyle Gustafson, director of hockey operations Matt Bardsley, and trainer Rich Campbell. The contracts now match the length of those for head coach and general manager Mike Johnston and assistant coach (and acting head coach) Travis Green.

Vancouver Vipers

This week: The Vipers’ season has ended. They won only two of their 48 games in the Northern Pacific Hockey League.

Last week: Lost 9-0 and 10-2 at Bellingham to finish the season.

Season leaders: Cody Dettman led the Vipers with 37 points in 36 games (16 goals, 21 assists). Cody Larkin (8 goals, 15 assists) and Evan Carter (7 goals, 10 assists) were the next-highest scorers.

NORPAC playoffs: Bellingham holds a 2-0 lead over Eugene, and West Sound holds a 2-0 lead over Glacier in best-of-5 first-round series.