Hawks Among League’s Elite in Second Half
With 11 regular season games remaining, the Winterhawks have clinched a playoff spot for the sixth consecutive season. Despite the tough overtime loss to Calgary Wednesday, the Hawks have been the hottest team in the WHL since the return of the team’s full roster after the World Junior Championship in early January.
After a slow start to the season, the Hawks hit their stride during the Eastern Swing in mid-October and have since exploded in the second half with 16 wins in their last 20 games.
On Wednesday, the team came in sixth in the Buzzing the Net Dynamic Dozen, a weekly Yahoo! Junior Hockey publication that ranks all 60 CHL teams using a Ratings Percentage Index*.
In their last 20 games, the Hawks have the highest winning percentage (.800), and have scored the most goals within the WHL’s Western Conference (4.7 goals per game), while trailing to only Kelowna in goal differential (+1.55).
Top-Three Western Conference Teams Since WJC, through February 26:
Portland, 20 Games Played
.800 winning percentage (first)
4.7 goals per game (first)
+31 goal differential (second)
Kelowna, 20 Games Played
.725 winning percentage (second)
4.7 goals per game (second)
+42 goal differential (first)
Victoria, 19 Games Played
.675 winning percentage (third)
3.45 goals per game (fourth)
+19 goal differential (third)
Oliver Bjorkstrand’s historic tear has been a large part of the team’s success. The forward has a ten-game goal streak (and point streak) after he added another goal on Wednesday night against Calgary, the longest goal streak of any Hawk since Troy Mick’s ten-game streak in 1987-88. He’s just one goal shy of the franchise record of 11 set by Tony Currie in the team’s inaugural season, and is now second overall in league scoring with 87 points in 48 games.
Since returning from the World Junior Championship, Bjorkstrand has been astounding, with 25 goals and 22 assists for 47 points in just 20 games. He’s tied for first in the WHL with 46 goals this season, and second in overall scoring with 87 points, despite having played the fewest games of any of the league’s top-20 scorers.
Nic Petan has been racking up many of the assists on those goals, with 10 helpers in the last three games, and 16 points in eight games in February, with 15 of those being assists. He now has 56 assists on the season, ranking him third overall in the league, and 29 since he returned from winning gold with Team Canada at World Junior in mid-January.
The numbers don’t lie: the Hawks are hitting their stride at just the right time.
*Here is Yahoo!’s explanation of their rating system: “Buzzing The Net uses Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) with a recency factor. RPI combines a team’s record with the strength of its opponents to produce an overall rating. Our method also gives more weight to recently played games. Shootout wins and losses are classified as ties, for philosophical and practical reasons. Simple Ranking System (SRS), a ranking which combines goal differential and strength of schedule, is used as a complement. All three CHL leagues are considered equivalent in quality.”