Game Day Hub: September 22 at Wenatchee
Portland Winterhawks at Wenatchee Wild
Welcome back, hockey! The Winterhawks are in Wenatchee to welcome the Wild to the Western Hockey League in the season-opening tilt.
Puck Drop: 7:00 p.m. PT
Venue: Town Toyota Center – Wenatchee, Wash.
Upcoming Promotional Games:
Friday, October 6 – Home Opener – BUY TICKETS
Saturday, October 7 – Hawkey For All Night – BUY TICKETS
Friday, October 13 – Keep Portland Fear’d Night – BUY TICKETS
Sunday, October 15 – Hawktoberfest – BUY TICKETS
FOLLOW ALONG: Box Score
Finally, after five long months, WHL hockey is back in action as 18 of the league’s 22 clubs hit the ice for the first time in 2023-24. The Winterhawks are poised for a strong campaign, with a healthy mix of NHL-caliber talent, veteran savvy and youthful vigor throughout the lineup. Some of that NHL talent will be missing tonight as Marek Alscher, Luca Cagnoni, Josh Davies, Carter Sotheran and Ryder Thompson remain away due to pro camp invitations, but after steady preseason performances from Diego Buttazzoni (11 points), Josh Zakreski (6 points), Marcus Nguyen (5 points) and more, the Hawks are in good hands for game one.
Three Winterhawks could be in line to skate in their first regular-season WHL games tonight as defensemen Cohen Massey and Kayd Ruedig join goaltender Luke Brunen on Portland’s regular-season roster for the first time. Other newcomers like forward Tyson Yaremko and goaltender Justen Maric could also hit the ice for their first games as Winterhawks after coming to Portland via trade.
Lighting the Lamp
One early indicator of Portland’s strength? How about being one of just five WHL teams to score 20+ goals during preseason?
With the obvious caveat that it was preseason and many teams were without their most productive pieces, the Hawks cruised to a 4-1-0 record – good for a Western Conference-leading eight points – on the strength of their offense during their five warmup games. Regardless of competition or circumstance, nothing replicates the feeling of putting the puck in the net, and having 10 different players find twine – including three rookies – gives Portland a strong chance to hit th ground running offensively.
Tonight’s contest in Wenatchee marks the first WHL game to be played at Town Toyota Center, though many of the skaters on the other side of the rink are no strangers to the league. Over the summer, the Eastern Conference Champion Winnipeg Ice were sold to the ownership group in Wenatchee, effectively promoting the previous Wild brand from the BCHL to the WHL with a stacked Ice roster.
Of course, like the Winterhawks, the Wild are missing a few key pieces who remain at NHL training camps, but remain dangerous and will certainly hit the ice with some extra juice to win over the Wenatchee faithful in their first outing. Newcomer Kenta Isogai (2023 CHL Import Draft, #60) hit the ground running during preseason after three strong years with Youngstown of the USHL, while goaltender Daniel Hauser continues to hold down the fort in net after picking up back-to-back East Division First All-Star Team nods from 2021-2023.