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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Portland Winterhawks off to surprisingly slow start

The Portland Winterhawks have dominated the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference of late, winning the last four conference championships.

That’s why it’s a bit unnerving to scan the standings 2 1/2 weeks into the season and see the Winterhawks (1-6-0-1, three points) in last place in the 10-team conference.

Portland, after dropping its first six games, broke through Saturday with a 3-2 overtime win at Everett.

“That builds confidence,” first-year Winterhawks coach Jamie Kompon told Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald. “The attitude has been great. Everyone’s been upbeat. They knew it was just a matter of time before it came. I’m just glad it came sooner, rather than later.”

Portland’s slow start can be partially explained by the absence of star forwards Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nic Petan, who were at National Hockey League training camps, and injuries to key defensemen Blake Heinrich and Josh Hanson.

Those players have started to return, but the Winterhawks followed up their first victory with a 6-2 drubbing at Victoria.

Red Deer or Vancouver?

The WHL board of governors meets today in Calgary, Alberta, to vote between Red Deer and Vancouver on which city will host the 2016 Memorial Cup.

Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum hosted the four-team major junior hockey national championship in 2007 and set a record by averaging 13,496 fans for nine games.

But Red Deer is the sentimental favorite because junior hockey was built on small- to medium-sized cities and the province of Alberta hasn’t hosted the tournament since 1974. The Rebels are also owned by Brent Sutter, a family name linked to Canadian hockey.

Pacific Coliseum can seat 16,281 fans for hockey while the Rebels’ home rink, the Enmax Centrium, lists capacity at 7,000.

Rockets boosted

Twenty-year-old forward Tyrell Goulbourne has returned for another season with the Kelowna Rockets, turning down the chance to play in the American Hockey League.

The Philadelphia Flyers prospect could have signed a pro contract and played with the team’s AHL affiliate in Allentown, Pennsylvania.

“The (Flyers) wanted me to stay in the AHL, but my agent (Shayne Corson) thought it was best for me to come back here and continue to develop my game,” Goulbourne told Warren Henderson of the Kelowna Capital News.

Goulbourne returns to a team that had the league’s best record last season and is off to a 7-0-0-0 start this year.

Around the league

Moose Jaw acquired 6-foot-7 defenseman Taylor Green from the Brandon Wheat Kings on Sunday for a fifth-round pick in the 2015 bantam draft. Green, who began his WHL career in Seattle, will help shore up the defense while 6-6 Austin Adams misses 3-7 weeks with a shoulder injury. … Colton Kroeker, a 17-year-old center with Regina, picked up his first career goal and assist last week while spelling injured veteran Logan McVeigh on a top Pats line with veteran wingers Dryden Hunt and Pavel Padakin. … Kelowna defenseman Madison Bowey was named WHL Player of the Week and Canadian Hockey League Player of the Week after accounting for two goals and six assists in three wins. The Rockets’ captain has 11 points through his first four games. Bowey joins Everett’s Carson Stadnyk and Swift Current’s Jay Merkley as this year’s honorees. Moose Jaw’s Zach Sawchenko earned WHL and CHL honors for goaltender of the week after posting his first two career shutouts.