Monday, December 5, 2016

Winterhawks bounce back with big 5-3 win over visiting Tigers

The Medicine Hat Tigers were a desperate team Sunday evening at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. After vaulting to the top-overall record in the WHL, the Tigers had stumbled to two straight losses to start their U.S. Division road trip. They play a system that relies upon speed, so the 3,112 fans at Veterans Memorial Coliseum were treated to a back-and-forth game. If Las Vegas set an over-under for the game, it probably would've been seven or higher.

The two teams combined for 33 first period shots and found the back of the net five times. Skyler McKenzie opened the scoring off a great feed from Cody Glass. McKenzie smartly parked himself to the right of the net and waited for Glass to dig the puck out of the left, side boards. Glass threw a backhand pass that found it's way through two Tigers' defenders and onto McKenzie's stick. After Kehler made two big saves on Steven Owre breakaways, the Hawks extended their lead to two. Caleb Jones got around the defense and fed Keegan Iverson cutting to the front of the net. The overage forward roofed a shot in tight for his 12th goal of the year. Portland extended their lead off another great set up by Henri Jokiharju on the power play. The Finnish d-man fired a shot wide and used the end-board bounce to get the puck to Evan Weinger on a tight angle. Weinger banked his shot off of Medicine Hat goalie Nick Schneider's back and in. The Tigers finally scored a goal just eight seconds later. A shot from Mason Shaw caromed off of goalie Cole Kehler's pad and right to defenseman David Quenneville in front of the Portland net. The WHL's leading scorer among d-men put home the rebound to cut Portland's lead to two. Before the period was over, that lead would be down to one. Swedish forward John Dahlstrom protected the puck in tight on Kehler, getting him to stretch out on the ice and make a save. He then corralled the rebound and fed Mason Shaw, who shot the puck over the down and out Kehler.

The back-and-forth play continued in the second period with Schneider and Kehler doing their best to keep the goal scoring limited. Portland would strike first in the period on a goal from Ryan Hughes. Joachim Blichfeld, back at center on the Hughes and Weinger line, used a nice cut to get around the Tigers defense in the corner of their zone and found Hughes in the high slot. Hughes waited out Schneider, while protecting the puck and put his shot over the goalie. The Tigers would not go away though and cashed in on a power play with 1:28 left in the frame. Chad Butcher helped create the goal by driving hard into the Portland zone and getting the defense to close on him. He then got the puck to Max Gerlach, who fired a shot on Kehler. The 19-year-old goalie made the save, but John Dahlstrom poked home the third rebound to cut Portland's lead back to one. The two teams exchanged 32 shots in the crazy period.

The Winterhawks tightened up in the third period and only allowed six shots to get in on Kehler. They, themselves threw 16 on Schneider in pursuit of an insurance goal. They appeared to have one when Keegan Iverson lit the goal lamp with a shot from a tight angle. The goal was reviewed and was disallowed after the replay showed that his shot had gone off of the cross bar. Cody Glass then nearly scored, but his shot went through Schneider's legs and sat on the goal line, before being covered. He finally got the insurance marker after a fantastic outlet pass from rookie d-man Matt Quigley. He set up Cody Glass with a two-on-one and Schneider and d-man Clayton Kirichenko expected him to pass. Instead he sniped a shot glove side to give Portland a 5-3 lead. The Tigers went with four forwards with just over three minutes left and also pulled their goalie relatively early. Portland's defense did not allow much towards the net though and the Hawks pulled out a big win.

Kehler responded well after his first loss in awhile, turning away 43 of 46 shots. Schneider, who is signed by the Calgary Flames turned away 36 of 41 shots.

Portland and Medicine Hat each potted one power play goal on three chances. The Tigers are atop th league in this category with a 30.2 percentage, while Portland is fifth with 25.0.

Game Notes:
-This match up featured eight of the top-20 scorers in the WHL. By the end of the night, Shaw had two points and now has 42; Glass had three points and now has 41 and Butcher had two and now has 42. Shaw and Butcher are tied for third in league scoring, while Glass is fifth. Regina teammates Adam Brooks and Sam Steel are numbers one and two overall.
-Shaw, Glass and Butcher are all pass-first guys. What is interesting is that Glass and Shaw had two-on-one looks. Shaw passed, despite Kehler selling out to stop his teammate and Glass took advantage of a similar situation and scored.
-Butcher really stood out to me. He has a ton of speed and can create from anywhere in the opponent's zone. If I were to bet on a Tigers' player to win the scoring title, it would be him.
-Mike Johnston went with a forward unit of Alex Overhardt, Jake Gricius and Colton Veloso, holding onto a lead late in the game. Overhardt and Veloso started out this year as two of Portland's, relied upon defensive forwards, but Gricius has grown into that role. It's been interesting to watch Portland's coaches start to trust him more and more. He even took a face off, despite Overhardt also being on the ice.
-One thing the Hawks have not quite figured out, is who will center the Hughes and Weinger line. They have tried Blichfeld there, despite him not really being a natural centers and have moved Hughes to center at times. Neither seems to be a great fit. With the Hawks having 33 points in 30 games, Johnston is put in a tough spot. Does he stay with the youth and try to sneak in as a wild card, or does he make a deal for an overage center to play with Hughes and Weinger and try to get into the U.S. Division bracket as a two or three seed?
-I get the impression that Johnston will make a move for a center. An overage would make a lot of sense, but I wouldn't be shocked if he finds a younger option (18 or 19). This team looks to only lose Iverson up front and the more continuity that they can keep among this group, the more they will be a real contender next season. I don't think he'd have to move their 2017 first rounder in such a deal.
-Of course Blichfeld has produced as a center as well. He had an assist in this game and has four points in his last three games.
-Sklyer McKenzie had three points and has 14 points in his last 10 games.
-Portland is now 8-1-1 in their last ten games.
-They next take on Victoria at home on Friday. They won the first game of the four-game season series.

Lee leads Ice past Winterhawks 3-2

In order to keep the Portland Winterhawks and Trail Blazers' games apart from one another this year, some Hawks games were moved to 2pm starts. This was the case Saturday afternoon at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Despite Kootenay playing an overtime game in Kent and Portland playing in Kennewick the night before, they were scheduled to play an early afternoon game. Overage goalie Payton Lee was the freshest Ice player and he looked it, turning away 55 of 57 shots helping the Ice steal a game from Portland. After two periods, Portland had fired 42 shots on Lee and had only beaten him once. Lee is one of the goalies in the WHL that Portland has sen a whole lot of. His career record vs. Portland is 3-9-0-1 now, but he has not faced them since he played for Vancouver two years ago.

Th first period was a horror show for the Hawks as they peppered Lee with 2 shots, but somehow came out of the period down 2-0. The Ice started the scoring by taking advantage of a Portland turnover. Conor MacEachern, under pressure by Matt Alfaro, tried a pass across the front of his own net that kicked off Alfaro's skate. The overage Ice center jumped on the loose puck and fed Vince Loschiavo in front. The 18-year-old forward potted the goal for his second in two games. Then, later in the first after Alex Overhardt collided with Lee in the crease, the Ice were awarded a power play. Kootenay took advantage as Alfaro did a good job of getting a shot on net through traffic and defenseman Dallas Hines poked home the rebound. To recap, the Ice were out shot 20-11, but came away with a two-goal lead.

Things would get worse before they would get better for the Winterhawks in the second period. A loose puck came along the side boards in the neutral zone and Skyler McKenzie, who is normally quite adept in this area on the ice, could not corral the puck. Sergey Zbrosoky peeled the puck off the boards and skated in a two-on-one. He picked a spot right above Portland goalie Cole Kehler's blocker and put in his 21st goal on the season. Portland would finally get a shot past Lee with just 3:51 left in the second. After Caleb Jones drew a penalty, the Portland power play cashed in. After Cody Glass won a draw in the Ice zone, Joachim Blichfeld got the puck back to Jones for a point shot. Lee made the right pad save, but Keegan Iverson made a slick move, kicking the puck to his stick in order to backhand his shot past the goalie. The Ice entered the game's final frame up by two goals.

Portland continued the pressure in the third period, getting a lot of good looks. However, they would only get one more shot past Lee, which was not quite enough. With Kehler pulled for an extra attacker and the Hawks on the power play, Henri Jokiharju skated one-on-four into the Ice zone and sniped a shot past Lee from just inside the blue line. More chances would follow, but this afternoon was all about the 20-year-old, Cranbrook, B.C. native in net for the Ice.

Kehler was handed his first loss in seven starts as he stopped only 21 of 24 shots. The Hawks' power play was 2/8, while the Ice PP went 1/3.

Game Notes:
-Cody Glass came oh so close to extending his point streak to eight games on the Iverson goal. Unfortunately, Blichfeld played the puck back to Jones, giving him the secondary assist.
-After Iverson's seven game point streak was snapped last week, he has another streak going. A goal gives him points in three straight.
-Another goal for Jokiahrju. Over his first 25 WHL game,s he had just one goal. In his next four games, he has three.
-The penalty that was called on Overhardt and led to the Ice's game-winning-goal, was a controversial one. Overhardt appeared to be checked into the Ice goalie after the whistle was blown. However, Overhardt was the second man to skate right up in Lee's face and it was well after the play was dead. Despite these factors though, this call does not get made very often.
-After centering Ryan Hughes and Evan Weinger for the last couple of games Joachim Blichfeld over to the wing with Overhardt and Colton Veloso.
-Brad Ginnell was scratched and his absence was somewhat noticeable. Despite only having three points this year, Ginnell seems to be growing in confidence offensively. He has several quality scoring chances each game and is becoming a better puck-possession player in the opponent's zone. I think Portland's best lineup has him in the top-nine, which is high praise for a 16-year-old.
-Next up for Portland is Sunday evening, at home vs. Medicine Hat.

Winterhawks take latest in season series over Americans 5-2

In the first of three-game-in-three nights, the Portland Winterhawks rebounded from an early deficit and took down the Tri-City Americans 5-2. Despite Rylan Parenteau winning the last four Tri-City-Portland match ups, Evan Sarthou got the start and the streak was ended. Sarthou was not the only rare starter in net as Portland's Michael Bullion got the nod in net and was a key reason for three of Portland''s goals. The WHL schedule can be odd at times and Portland has taken on Tri-City seven out of their first 28 games, or 1/4 of their total games. The Americans lead the season series 4-3 now.

The Ams scored just 11 seconds into the game on a goal from Vladislav Lukin. Parker Wotherspoon drove into the Portland zone right off the face off and dropped a pass to Lukin. The Russian forward drove a shot that Portland goalie Cole Kehler could not quite stop. Before the period was over, the Hawks would not only get that goal back, but take a lead. Michael Bullion, who was getting his first start in nearly two weeks, was the unlikely igniter of the Hawks' first goal. He made a big pad save on a chance from Tyler Sandhu, starting a Portland rush the other way. Ryan Hughes fired an outlet pass to Evan Weinger, who got in alone on a breakaway. Weinger buried the opportunity to tie the game. Just over a minute later the Hawks took a lead on a goal from Colton Veloso. Caleb Jones drew the attention of the Tri-City defense and backhanded a pass to the front of the net where Veloso buried the puck past Sarthou.

Portland extended their lead to two just over four minutes into the second period from a recent source for goals either scored or assisted: Henri Jokiharju. Ryan Hughes and Joachim Blichfeld set up Jokiharju with a shot form the point that appeared to deflect off an American defender and in. Then, just over a minute later another Bullion save sparked an odd-man Portland rush the other way. Cody Glass found Keegan Iverson for a shot and Skyler McKenzie poked home the rebound to give Portland a 4-1 lead. 

Tri-City cut into the Portland lead 2:24 into the third period with a goal from top 2017 NHL draft prospect Michael Rasmussen. Parker Wotherspoon got his second assist of the game by firing a shot towards the net, that was deflected on net by Morgan Geekie. Bullion, stopped the Geekie chance but Rasmussen was there for the rebound. The Americans almost got within one but a shot that squeaked through Bullion but was pulled off the goal line by defenseman Caleb Jones. Joachim Blichfeld put the game away after Bullion kicked out another save that freed up Colton Veloso to get Blichfeld into space with a smart board pass. 

Michael Bullion earned his first win in nearly two months by making 26 saves on 28 shots. Sarthou has struggled in his three most recent outings including this one. He let in four goals on 25 shots.

Portland only earned one power play and was not able to convert on it. Tri-City meanwhile went 1/4. 

Game Notes:
-Alex Overhardt and Parker Wotherspoon had a couple tense exchanges, but the first one was a rather odd one. Wotherspoon dropped his glove,s but Overhardt did not on their initial dust up. As soon as they were out of their penalty boxes, the two, both dropped gloves and exchanged blows.
-Keoni Texeira quietly has blossomed into a shot down defenseman. He made an excellent play in breaking up a one-on-two sequence. Not only did he take away the pass, he kept the shot from the puck-carrier to one side of the net.
-Brett Clayton kept up his strong play since coming back to the Hawks. His defensive play has been superb and it was on display Friday night in Kennewick. He came back for the back-check and lifted the stick in a net fornt battle. This took away a prime scoring chance.
-Blichfeld could break 30 goals this year. While he is at 10, through 28 games, his quick release and growing comfort in Portland's system should increase his scoring opportunities.
-Next up for Portland is an early game Saturday vs. Kootenay. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Portland holds off Spokane 2-1

It's been a season of streaks for the Portland Winterhawks so far in 2016. After dropping nine straight close games, they won their fourth straight and six of their last seven, Wednesday night in Spokane. Portland jumped on the Chiefs early, scoring twice on the power play before the game was seven minutes old. They then exchanged chances and shots off posts the rest of the way, before holding on for yet another tight contest with Spokane.

Portland got the first goal of the game off some great PP puck movement. Cody Glass got to a rebound to the right of Spokane goalie Jayden Sittler's net. He cycled it around the net to the other side to Skyler McKenzie. Portland's left wing then moved it back to Caleb Jones who fired a quick shot towards the net. Glass, who had moved to the high slot, got a stick on the shot, deflecting the puck past Sittler for his 14th goal of the year. Then after Brett Clayton drew a penalty by driving the net, Portland found twine on the man advantage again. Alex Overhardt, in his first game back from injury, after receiving the puck along the right boards at the blue line, used his body to shield the puck away. This allowed him to send Evan Weinger in with speed. Weinger then fed Ryan Hughes in front of the net. Hughes had out-muscled Spokane defenseman Evan Fiala to get positioning in front of the net. Hughes roofed his shot, without much room to maneuver.

In the second period neither team could find the net, but both came very close. Both teams struck multiple posts in the period on some high quality chances.

In the third, Spokane began to put more pressure on the Hawks, but Cole Kehler was stalwart between the pipes, making many saves in tight on loose pucks right in front of him. Spokane could not beat Portland's 19-year-old goalie until they pulled Sittler for an extra attacker with just over two minutes left in the game. They scored after Kehler made several saves over to his right on one of those loose pucks. The puck was worked around to Keanu Yamamoto in the high slot over to Kehler's left. Yamamoto's slap shot got through a heavily screened Kehler. Spokane was unable to get anymore quality chances in their quest to tie the game, as Portland clamped down defensively.

Cole Kehler turned away 36 34 of 35 shots in getting the win. Spokane's overage goalie Jayden Sittler stopped 38 of the 40 Portland shots he saw.

Portland's power play was 2/3, while Spokane's was 0/2. After having a lot of games with 5-7 penalties, Portland cleaned things up and kept the game at five players aside for a majority of the game.

Game Notes:
-Keegan Iverson had his career-high six-game point streak snapped.
-Cody Glass extended his point streak to seven games with his goal. During that span he has 13 points. He is now fourth in WHL scoring with 38 points.
-Skyler McKenzie, with an assist in the game, is just outside the top-10 scorers in the league. He is tied for 11th with 32 points.
-Alex Overhardt had an assist in his return to the lineup from injury. He hadn't seen any game action for 11 days.
-There aren't many goalies in the WHL playing better than Cole Kehler right now. Over his last six games, he has a save percentage of 0.913 or higher in each game. He likely will start two of the three games this weekend, with Michael Bullion getting the other. Kehler has crawled all the way up to sixth in the league in save percentage (among goalies who've played seven games or more).
-Joachim Blichfeld played his first game at center in the WHL and did a solid job, while learning the role on the fly. He centered a line with Ryan Hughes and Evan Weinger on his wings.
-Brett Clayton had one of his better games this year as showed good speed in bursting by a Spokane defender and drawing the penalty that set up the eventual game-winning-goal.
-Brad Ginnell put home his own rebound for what would've been his third WHL goal. However, Colton Veloso and a Chiefs' d-man collided into the post, knocking the net off before he scored.
-Portland's defensemen did a great job of driving into the Spokane zone and at least getting puck deep. They did not allow a lot of odd-man chances the other way by doing this.
-17-year-old d-man Matthew Quigley looked way more comfortable. Up until this game, he often exhibited signs of being nervous and always making the absolute safest play possible. He made several solid defensive plays in the game, by keeping Spokane forwards from getting good looks in prime scoring chances.
-Caleb Jones has definitely turned his season around and was Portland's best skater in this game. It seemed like every single time Spokane tried to get a pass to a player camped in front, he had their body or stick (or both) tied up.
-Next up for the Hawks is Friday night in Tri-City.
-Ty Kolle was reportedly reassigned, but there has yet to any announcement on where he was sent to.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Afternoon delight for the Winterhawks as they take down Prince George 6-3

A petition to move every Portland Winterhawks' home game to the afternoon might've gotten some signatures if it had been passed around the 3,164 fans at the Veteran Memorial Coliseum Sunday afternoon. Two days after they saw their Winterhawks take down the second place team in the B.C. Division 4-2, they watched them oust the first place Prince George Cougars 6-3. The win gives Portland their fifth in their last six games, with a record of 5-0-1 in those contests. These two recent wins make it hard for Mike Johnston and co. to decide what to do this year. After winning eight of their first 11, they dropped nine straight, before now getting points in six straight. Despite this being a match up of the oldest team (Prince George) and the youngest team in the WHL(Portland), the Hawks looked like the veteran team. They overcame a fluky goal in the third that tied the game; scoring twice in the span of 46 seconds to earn the big win. 10 Winterhawks found the score sheet in the win with Henri Jokiharju and Jake Gricus each earning two points.

Jake Gricius helped the Winterhawks open the scoring off a great play on an odd-man break. He drove the right wing of the zone and smartly used his big frame to protect the puck before dropping a pass to Joachim Blichfeld. The Danish forward then fired a shot in the top corner for his ninth goal of the year. While on one of three-straight power plays, the Cougars tied the game on a goal from their newest player. Colton Veloso was able to get his stick in the shooting lane of P.G. defenseman Brendan Guhle, after he received a feed from Jansen Harkins. Instead of deflecting it wide though, the shot rode Veloso's stick, beating Portland goalie Cole Kehler. This was Guhle's second goal in just his third game with his new team, after being acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders.

Portland took their second lead of the game on  bad turnover by the Cougars. After a shot on the rush, by Evan Weinger was stopped by goalie Nick McBride, 17-year-old rookie d-man Ryan Schoettler threw a pass right to Henri Jokiharju at the point. Portland's Finnish defenseman drove a shot over McBride's shoulder for the 2-1 lead. The Hawks then added to their lead on a goal that probably should not have counted. Skyler McKenzie sent a long outlet pass to Keegan Iverson, while on the power play, but the Hawks' captain appeared to be well offsides when he tipped it into the corner. He even peeled off from fore-checking, believing that he needed to clear the zone. No whistle was blown though and Portland took advantage. Iverson gathered the puck at the top of the zone and with every player looking for him to shoot, he flipped a pass to Cody Glass at the left face off dot. Glass fired a one-timer past McBride for the 3-1 Portland lead. Before the second period was over though, the Cougars crawled back within one. After an Iverson shot was blocked, Aaron Boyd smartly threw a uick outlet pass to a streaking Colby McAuley, sending him in alone. McAuley deked out Kehler and tucked the puck in past his pad.

Portland and Prince George traded chances in the third period, before the Cougars scored on an incredibly strange goal. Colton Veloso had the puck poked off of his stick, while trying to exit the zone and Kody McDonald drove the net, trying to sneak the puck in past Kehler. The rebound came out to Conor MacEachern, who tried to backhand the puck out of the zone. Colby McAuley then had MacEachern's clearing attempt ricochet off of his body and into the net. Instead of getting down after the goal, Portland took control of the play. While trying to exit his zone, P.G. d-man Joel Lakusta had the puck roll away from him. Jake Gricius, who had been fore-checking on the play snagged the puck and took advantage of the mini to-on-one, feeding a pass to 16-year-old rookie Brad Ginnell. The rookie then beat McBride, before he could slide over in time. 46 seconds later, the Ryan Hughes, Evan Weinger and Bronson Sharp controlled possession deep in the P.G. zone. This led to Weinger finding Brendan De Jong at the point. The defenseman settled the puck and then blasted a slap shot past McBride for the 5-3 lead. Keoni Texeira then added an empty netter from deep in his own zone to ice the game for the home squad.

Kehler stopped 39 of 42 and was his most impressive in the first, stopping 17 of 18. Nick McBride turned away 27 of the 32 shots he saw.

Portland was 1/3 on the power play, while Prince George was 1/5. The Hawks PP is now seventh in the WHL at 23.9 percent.

-Portland takes advantage of another turnover s Joel Lacusta loses the puck to Jake Gricius, setting up a two-on-one. Gricius slid the puck over to Brad Ginnell, who buried it (4-3)
-Evan Weinger great pass right onto the stick of Brendan De Jong. The big d-man settled it down and then powered a shot past McBride's blocker. (5-3)
-Keoni Texeira corralled a bouncing puck in his own zone, airmailing a shot all the way down into the empty net (6-3)EN

Game Notes:
-This was Jake Gricius' first WHL game with an assist and he ended up with two. He saw a whole lot of ice time as Lane Gilliss appeared to be absent for most of the third period. He was tasked with centering both his line and Gilliss'. I did not see how or even if Gilliss got injured.
-Gricius had his best game of his WHL career so far, showing great vision on both of his assists.
-Prince George had a whole lot of power play time in the mid-part of the first period as Keegan Iverson took a double-minor for high sticking 16 seconds after Lane Gilliss was whistled for tripping. They did end up scoring once, but nearly had another as a Jesse Gabrielle goal from the slot was disallowed after his linemate, Aaron Boyd made contact with Cole Kehler.
-Keegan Iverson also had a power play goal disallowed in the third period, after it was decided that he had directed the puck in with a high stick.
-Sam Ruopp was out of the lineup for Prince George, as he served the last game of his eight-game suspension for a "one-man fight," back on November second, vs. Medicine Hat.
-Keegan Iverson extended his point streak to six games, which is a new career high. He had a five-game streak back in the 2014-14 season.
-Brad Ginnell was in prime position to score countless times. He struck the post on one of these chances before eventually scoring the game-winner. His recent play should help him continue to see the ice ahead of Ty Kolle and (the injured?) Ilijah Colina.
-Portland has a busy week coming with a road trip for games in Spokane and Kennewick, followed by home games vs. Kootenay and Medicine Hat.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Winterhawks edge Royals 4-2 in Daylight Classic

The second period was again the strength for the Portland Winterhawks. Two nights after pumping 17 shots in the middle frame on Edmonton, they fired 19 on the the visiting Victoria Royals. Just like the game before, Portland scored the eventual game-winning-goal in the second. This gives Portland four wins in their last five games with points in each of them. Portland has been using the game's middle session to give themselves multi-goal leads and this is a major difference for them from their recent nine-game losing streak. During that streak, the Hawks could not seem to get more than a one-goal lead, which allowed their opponents the opportunity to come back and win. The Hawks were led by two goals from Skyler McKenzie and two assists from Keegan Iverson in the win.

Portland opened the scoring just 2:18 in the game with a goal from a depth forward. After defenseman Jake Hobson's shot was turned away by Victoria goalie Griffen Oouthouse, Lane Gilliss got two cracks at the rebound on Outhouse's left post, finally poking it through. The goal was his first since October 12th. Victoria got that goal back on a slick passing play. Spencer Gerth corralled the puck in the corner, quickly passing the puck near goalie Cole Kehler's right post, where Dante Hannoun one-touched a pass to Matthew Phillips in front. Phillips quickly put it away before Kehler could set himself. With just over a minute left in the period, the Hawks retook their one-goal lead after Cody Glass flipped a backhand pass from right at the side of the net to Skyler McKenzie. The winger slammed his shot past Outhouse to give Portland a 2-1 lead after one.

Portland again took the play to their opponent in the second, earning two power plays and using one to give themselves an insurance goal they would need. Just under a minute into the period, Colton Veloso tipped a point shot from Henri Jokiharju past Outhouse. This was the second straight game that Portland scored on a tipped shot from Jokiharju.

With Portland having the better of play, Victoria was given new life after Keoni Texeira delivered a high hit. Texeira was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. On the ensuing, long man-advantage, the Royals had several quality chances, but Kehler was in position to turn away all of them. The Royals finally cut the Portland lead to one on a later power play. Reagan Nagy cut to the middle, losing the puck and regaining it, before firing a shot over Kehler's blocker. Quality shot blocks kept the Royals from getting anymore great chances the rest of the way. The Hawks got a very late empty-net-goal on some extra effort from Skyler McKenzie. Keegan Iverson's shot went just wide of the net form his own zone, but McKenzie raced down to beat out the hybrid icing call and potted the empty-netter.

Kehler put together his second straight quality start, stopping 33 of the 35 shots he faced. The best of these was on a breakaway for Royals' sniper Jack Walker, that he flashed his glove on. Victoria's Griffen Outhouse stopped 39 of 42 shots at the other end.

The Wnterhawks had one goal on seven power play chances, while the Royals had one on six chances.

Game Notes:
-McKenzie has 10 points in his last five games and five in his last three. This recent run has launched him all the way up to ninth in the WHL scoring race with 31 points.
-Keegan Iverson has found his home as a set up guy on the top line. He has a recent run of three games with at least two assists. He also has a six-game point streak, during which he has 13 points.
-Brett Clayton got his first point of the season, in his second game back with the team. He assisted on Gilliss' first period goal.
-With Ilijah Colina and Alex Overhardt out, the Hawks have called up 15-year-old rookie Connor Bowie. He did not dress in the game, but is sure to use some of the five-games he can play in this year, during this call up.
-Cody Glass had one assist in the game but perhaps his biggest impact for me was with how much he frustrated Matthew Phillips. The Calgary Flames' prospect took two penalties in the neutral zone on Glass, trying to slow down the Hawks' center. Not only does this speak to how well Glass' line did at controlling play in the neutral zone, it kept the Royals' most dangerous player off of the ice four four minutes.
-Evan Weinger has become a great 200-foot player. When he first came to Portland, he was more of one-dimensional player. This has definitely changed as Weinger flies back on defense, using his speed to take away scoring looks at his own net. This was the case when he tied up the stick of Dante Hannoun, taking away a sure goal. His two-way play has earned him more time on the penalty kill.
-Victoria was missing their top center as Tyler Soy was out with a shoulder injury he suffered last weekend.
-Portland plays another day game on Sunday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum vs. the Prince George Cougars. Not only do they face the tough task of taking on the top team in the B.C. Division, they face the very real threat of being without one of their top d-men  due to suspension.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Winterhawks double up Oil Kings 4-2

The Edmonton Oil Kings came into Portland for their third game in five nights, while on their U.S. Division road trip. They were done in by Portland's potent combo of 17-year-old centers. Cody Glass scored twice and Ryan Hughes added another as Portland took down the visiting Oil Kings. Keegan Iverson added three assists in the win.

The Winterhawks opened the scoring in the first period on a lucky bounce. Skyler McKenzie made a nice drop pass in traffic, to free up Cody Glass on the left wing. The Winnipeg native swung a backhand shot that deflected off of the skate of Oil Kings' d-man Wyat McLeod and past goalie Patrick Dea. The Oil Kings showed a lot of jump in response to the goal, taking the play right at Portland and drawing five power plays in the first period. They converted on one of those when Lane Bauer pounced on the rebound of a Tyler Robertson shot, putting the puck past Portland goalie Cole Kehler. Despite being short handed so much, the Hawks got there chances in the opening session. The best one was converted as Glass put an impressive deflection on the point shot from Henri Jokiharju, beating Dea. Glass smartly used his body to shield Dea from the puck, before getting a backhand deflection on the shot and moving out of the way, all in one motion. This is probably one of the nice deflection goals you'll see in the WHL this year.

The second period was mostly owned by Portland as they were given three power plays of their own, including a five-on-three advantage. Although they didn't convert on those opportunities, they controlled play for much of the period, out shooting Edmonton 17-3. They finally were able to beat Dea and give themselves a two-goal lead late in the second. The goal was a little non-traditional as Ryan Hughes guided the rebound of a Bronson Sharp shot with his skate, past Dea and in. This play is legal this year, as long as it does not take place in the crease. 

Portland looked to put the game away early in the third period, as Keegan Iverson fired a perfect cross-ice pass to Keoni Texeira and the 19-year-old d-man punched it home. Instead of folding up and giving up, down 4-1, the Oil Kings played their best hockey of the night through the rest of the third period challenging Kehler often. They finally broke through when rookie Trey Fix-Wolansky sniped a shot upstairs with Portland's defense scrambling to cover. Kehler stood tall the rest of the way, giving the Hawks points in four straight games, with three of those games being wins.

Kehler turned aside 22 of 24 shots, earning his ninth win of the year. Patrick Dea was a lot busier, stopping 36 of 40 Portland shots. 

Portland went 0/5 on the power play, while Edmonton was 1/6. Portland's power play drops to sixth in the WHL at 24.3 percent.

Game Notes:
-Cody Glass nearly had the hat trick as he struck iron on a full-ice shot with Dea pulled and the net vacant.  With his two goals though he now has 35 points on the year. This is still good enough for third in the WHL and six points behind Regina's Sam Steel.
-Keegan Iverson quietly has 28 points this year. This has him tied for 16th in league scoring and just one behind Skyler McKenzie for second on the team.
-Caleb Jones had an assist and now has eight points in his last four games. This has him finally up in the top-ten in scoring among d-men.
-The lone remaining members of the teams that played in the 2014 WHL final are Portland's Keegan Iverson and Keoni Texeira and Edmonton's Tyler Robertson, Aaron Irving and Lane Bauer. 
-With Colton Veloso and Alex Overhardt and Colina all out (likely to injury), the Hawks brought Brett Clayton back up. He skated a regular shift and played pretty well.
-The player with the most notable increase in playing time was Bronson Sharp. He netted his first career WHL point on the Hughes goal and got to see some time on the penalty kill.
-Jake Gricius was in the lineup and so only ended up missing most of one game, due to the hit he received from Lethbridge's Tyler Wong. 
-The next game for Portland is the Daylight Classic, Friday vs. Victoria.