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Winterhawks First-Half Review: First-Place Standing Buoyed by Strong Start, Balanced Scoring

December 20, 2022 – Western Hockey League (WHL) – Portland Winterhawks News Release

Portland, Ore. – The Portland Winterhawks head into the Western Hockey League’s holiday break atop the Western Conference standings with a 23-4-2-1 record through 30 games. Before the Winterhawks return to play at home on Wednesday, December 28th against Tri-City, let’s highlight a few of the notable storylines from the first half of the season.

Historic Start

This year’s team won its first seven games to begin the season and enjoyed its best 20-game start in franchise history with points in 19 of 20 games (17-1-1-1). That historic start speaks volumes knowing the team they surpassed in the record books was the one that won the 1983 Memorial Cup.

“I think what clicked for us was the element of working together,” Winterhawks alternate captain Robbie Fromm-Delorme said. “We know we’re not a team that relies on one guy to get things done for us and I think that’s what we all realized really early and that’s what has led us to our early success.”

After the early success, the Winterhawks weathered (and are still currently weathering) an injury-riddled patch of the season. They haven’t had a fully healthy line-up since mid-November, yet they continue to find ways to win.

“We’re rock solid this year,” first-year defenseman Carter Sotheran said. “We’ve faced a lot of adversity with a lot of guys being injured and stuff like that, but I’d say we surpassed our goals for the first half (of the season).”

Not much has stopped the Hawks and they enter the winter break on a seven-game point streak.

Offensive Powerhouse

This year’s Winterhawks may lack the highly drafted star forward(s) of years past, but this team’s strength lies in its depth. Top-six talent scattered throughout the lineup is a luxury most teams strive for and Portland enjoys each night. Young players, veterans, goalscorers, playmakers – no matter who it is, everyone is contributing however they can.

Simply put, “Guys are leaders in their own way,” said Fromm-Delorme.

Nineteen different Winterhawks have scored this season and 13 of them have at least five goals entering the break. That sort of production doesn’t come along in the WHL often.

“I think it’s more of us being a high-shot team and that’s why we score a lot of goals. We really put an emphasis on getting a lot of shots in games. That’s the most important thing for us,” added Fromm-Delorme.

Portland was the first Western Conference club to reach 100 goals scored this season and it has seemingly been a different Hawk stepping up each game – 14 different Winterhawks have been credited for scoring a game-winning goal.

Sotheran has emerged as a leader amongst the rookies and he enters the break as Portland’s top-producing rookie with 16 points in 30 games while garnering a ‘C’ rating from NHL Central Scouting ahead of the summer’s NHL Draft.

“I feel like I’ve been playing strong, but I gotta give a lot of credit to my teammates for welcoming me and putting a smile on my face every day and making it easier out there to play my game,” Sotheran said.

New Faces Emerging

Sotheran isn’t the only newcomer making an impact.

Teams often have to navigate through roster adjustments to start a new campaign. With Jaydon Dureau, Taylor Gauthier, Cross Hanas, and Tyson Kozak graduating to the professional ranks this summer, the Winterhawks welcomed eight new players to the 23-man roster, including three rookie defensemen, four forwards and a freshman import goaltender in Jan Špunar.

But despite the youth on the blue line and no 20-year-old amongst them, there’s no slowing Portland’s youngsters down.

“Everyone gets along on the backend, everyone talks to each other about our games, and we’re all really close,” Sotheran shared. “We compete with one another in practice to get stronger.”

Playing key minutes in the first half of the season could very well be the recipe for success in the second half.

“When I was young, I know it can be hard because you’re nervous, but it’s really good to see that our younger guys are getting a lot more games in and more ice time, and that allows them to be more comfortable out there,” Fromm-Delorme said. “It helps us as a whole and they’re going to be important in leading us to more wins.”

More wins and, from Sotheran’s point of view, another banner in the VMC rafters.

“We all want to win a championship here so we’re going to do everything we can to make that happen.”

Join us for Portland’s biggest New Year’s Eve celebration!

The Winterhawks host the Silvertips on New Year’s Eve at the VMC. It’s going to be a party all night long with fan giveaways, a postgame skate with the team, and more! Be sure to stick around for the cash balloon drop when the clock strikes Midnight EST (9pm PT) and the early puck drop of 5pm gives you and your family flexibility to ring in the New Year.

Single-game tickets are now on sale for the 2022-23 season.

• Discuss this story on the Western Hockey League message board…

The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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