Junior hockey: Winterhawks wrap up regular season

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

Portland Winterhawks

This week: Regular season concludes with three games -- Winterhawks host Seattle at 7 p.m. on Friday (Rose Garden); at Seattle at 7:05 p.m. Saturday; host Spokane at 5 p.m. Sunday (Rose Garden).

Last week: Won twice at Victoria, 5-2 and 4-1.

Where they stand: At 54-12-1-2, the Winterhawks have the Western Hockey League's best record with 111 points through 69 games. Portland has clinched the best record in the league, and will have home-ice advantage for any playoff series.

Trophy, awards presented Sunday: Prior to Sunday's game at the Rose Garden, the Winterhawks will be presented with the Scotty Munro Trophy as WHL regular-season champions. Richard Doerksen, league vice president, will be on hand to present the trophy. It will be interesting to see how Doerksen is treated by Portland fans, considering the harsh sanctions the league imposed in November upon the Winterhawks — including the season-long suspension of head coach and GM Mike Johnston.

This is only the third time the Winterhawks have earned the trophy. Portland also had the WHL's best record in the 1979-80 and 1997-98 seasons.

Prior to that trophy presentation, the Winterhawks will present their annual team awards, including MVP.

Winterhawks ranked No. 2: This week, Portland is ranked No. 2 in the Canadian Hockey League top-10. The Halifax Mooseheads (55-6-2-1) 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 (ninth) 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. The first-round opponent is likely to be Everett. Tickets for those two games, and playoff packages and group offers, are now available through the Winterhawks ticket office, 502-236-4295.

Three in triple digits: Winterhawks Brendan Leipsic (115 points) and Nic Petan (112) enter the final weekend in a head-to-head battle to finish atop the WHL in scoring. The winner earns the league's Bob Clarke Trophy, awarded annually to the league's top scorer. The last Winterhawk to win the Bob Clarke Trophy was Todd Robinson in 1996-97. Ty Rattie is third with 104 points, with Colin Smith of Kamloops (103 points) and Justin Feser (102) right behind Rattie entering the final weekend of the regular season.

Rutkowski signs with Ottawa: Winterhawks captain, defenseman Troy Rutkowski, has signed a three-year entry level contract with the Ottawa Senators. Rutkowski will remain with the Winterhawks this season.

Rutkowski, 20, has a career-high 61 points this season, ranking him second among all WHL defensemen. This season he has become the franchise leader in games played (348) and consecutive games (237). He's third all-time among Winterhawks defensemen with 211 career points. With 61 career goals, he is tied for first all-time among Portland defensemen.

Miscellaneous

Trevor Cheek update: Since scoring the tying goal for Edmonton in the Oil Kings' 4-3 win at Portland on Feb. 27, Vancouver native Trevor Cheek has had a pair of two-goal games and one three-assist night for the Oil Kings. Cheek has 31 goals and 28 assists this season, including 13 goals and 13 assists in 29 games with Eastern Conference leading Edmonton.

NORPAC playoffs: West Sound beat Bellingham 2-1 in overtime on Wednesday in Bremerton, tying the Cascade Cup championship series at 1-1. The best-of-5 series concludes with games Friday and Saturday at Bellingham, and if needed on Sunday in Bremerton. The Cascade Cup Champion advances to the USA Hockey Tier III Junior Nationals, April 4-8 at Rochester, Minn.