Big changes unlikely for Winterhawks
Winterhawks: The Western Hockey League trade deadline is Thursday. Coach/GM/VP Mike Johnston said Sunday he would continue talking with teams but did not anticipate any significant changes to the roster.
One trade that could impact Portland was the deal that sent 20-year-old forward Zack Andrusiak from Seattle to Everett. The Silvertips are 11 points ahead of second-place Portland (23-11-3-2) in the U.S. Division. Andrusiak, whose 28 goals through Saturday were fourth in the WHL, scored 11 times for Seattle against Portland this season, including six goals over his final two games for the rebuilding Thunderbirds on Dec. 29 and Dec. 31.
• A 6-0 win at Moose Jaw on Saturday was the fourth in a row for Portland, which is in the middle of its six-game swing through East Division towns. The recent wins have come despite the absence of defenseman Brendan De Jong (concussion) and Cody Glass (World Junior Championships) and suspensions to defenseman Matthew Quigley and John Ludvig.
Johnston notes that first-year players often make a jump in performance after the holiday break and he has seen that from this team. Rookie defensemen Nick Cicek, Nick Perna and Kade Nolan have logged regular minutes for the first time and responded well. Cicek, for example, had only one assist at the holiday break and has eight in the past four games.
"The more experience they get," Johnson said, "the more comfortable they get in different situations," including on the power play and penalty kill, areas that veterans such as De Jong and Quigley usually handle.
De Jong remains out with a concussion with no timetable to return.
• Glass will rejoin the team for today's game (Jan. 8) at Brandon. Glass did not have a holiday break because of the World Juniors and was given several days off after Canada was eliminated last Wednesday with a stunning quarterfinal loss to Finland. Glass had a strong tournament — in Johnston's opinion he was one of Canada's best players — and finished with two goals, four assists and a plus-4 rating in five games.
Soccer: Former Portland coach Caleb Porter is the new coach of the Columbus Crew. Porter replaces Gregg Berhalter, recently named coach of the U.S. men's national team.
Porter was 60-50-52 in five seasons with the Timbers. The highlight was a MLS Cup championship in 2015, a 2-1 win at Columbus over the club he now takes over. Porter, who coached Akron to a college men's soccer title before he was hired to coach the Timbers, unexpectedly resigned following the 2017 season.
Porter's name was mentioned for several MLS coaching openings, and there were reports last month that he was close to becoming coach of the Los Angeles Galaxy.
A group headed by Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam has bought the Crew and will keep the team in Columbus. Previous owner Anthony Precourt last year announced plans to move the club to Austin, Texas.
• Forward Benji Michel has signed a Homegrown Player contract with MLS Orlando City and will forgo his senior year at the University of Portland. Michel played for Orlando City's youth academy and came to Portland when Nick Carlin-Voigt was hired as the Pilots' coach.
Michel, 21, scored 31 career goals and was named a second-team All-American in 2018 by United Soccer Coaches after scoring 11 goals in 18 games. Michel is the first UP player since Nate Jaqua in 2002 to be recognized as an All-American by United Soccer Coaches.
Michel joins defender Kris Reaves (FC Dallas) and goalkeeper Paul Christensen (Atlanta United) as Pilots who moved to MLS over the two years.
• Portland Thorns Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Emily Sonnett and Adriana Franch are among 26 players named to the first U.S. women's national team training camp of 2019. The team is training in Portugal ahead of exhibition games Jan 19 against France and Jan. 22 vs. Spain. The Women's World Cup is June 7 to July 7 in France.