Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Winterhawks fall to Americans 4-3 yet again

Portland valiantly came back from a 3-1 deficit to Tri-City, only to give up a late third period goal in falling to the Americans by a 4-3 score. This only a week after falling to them by the same exact score. Portland took the opening game in the series, so T.C. has a 2-1 series lead. Vladislav Lukin led the way with two goals for T.C., while Parker AuCoin and Juuso Valimaki each had two points. Cody Glass had two more points in the loss.

Tri-City opened the scoring Tuesday off one of the stranger gaffes you will see in hockey. Portland forced play deep into the Americans' zone and started to change lines. However, only one member of Portland's fourth line made their way onto the ice, leaving them two men down. Off the rush the other way AuCoin's shot was partially saved by Portland goalie Cole Kehler and landed on top of the net. AuCoin deftly grabbed the puck off the top of the net and got it back into play. An ensuing shot from Juuso Valimaki was flubbed and went off to the right off Kehler. Defenseman turned forward Kurtis Rutledge won a battle with Caleb Jones to the loose puck and bounced a shot off of Kehler and in. Portland tied the game less than two minutes later on the power play. They scored their goal when Cody Glass' shot bounced off of Keegan Iverson once and twice more off Dylan Coghlan before it went past Tri-City goalie Rylan Parenteau and in.

Portland carried the momentum of their first goal of the game into the second and had several good looks that Parenteau turned away. Their momentum was halted when a rush up the ice forced Caleb Jones to take a hooking penalty, putting Portland short handed. While on the penalty kill, Keoni Texeira jumped up into the neutral zone and was caught, freeing the Americans to create a tic-tac-toe passing play that ended with Lukin burying a pass from Michael Rasmussen. They added to their lead when both of Portland's d-men were caught inside the Americans' zone, giving Tri-City a two-on-zero rush. Parker AuCoin easily buried a pass from Nolan Yaremeko, swiftly putting the Hawks down two in the span of 37 seconds. Slowly but surely Portland started gaining control late in the second and they took advantage off a fantastic deflection of a Ryan Hughes shot and past Parenteau. The goalie almost had the puck in his glove before Weinger got his stick on it.

Portland finished what they started early in the third period, as whole playing four-on-four, Henri Jokiharju made a heads-up pass across the T.C. blue line to Brendan De Jong. The lanky d-man looked to shoot, drawing Parenteau out, before feeding an onrushing Cody Glass for the one-timer. This knotted the game at three with 17:23 left in regulation. From this point the U.S. Division rivals traded chances before the Americans scored on another broken play. Juuso Valimaki's shot from just outside the left face off dot was blocked by Caleb Jones but Portland's d-man could not corral the puck and Valimaki won the battle to the biscuit, quickly feeding Vladislav Lukin alone in front for the eventual game-winning-goal. Portland pulled Kehler for an extra-attacker late and had some looks, but could not solve the Americans' overage goalie.

Parenteau stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced in his second straight win over Portland. Kehler and Portland dropped their third straight game. He stopped 27 of 31 in the loss.

Portland found the net on the power play yet again, going 1/3 overall. T.C. went 1/5. Portland's PP is now 19/56 for 33.9 percent and first in the WHL. Portland's penalty kill is now 54/65 for
83.1 percent. This is sixth place in the league.

Game Notes:
-With two points, Glass retook second place in the WHL in points with 21. This is two behind Medicine Hat's Mason Shaw.
-De Jong's assist gives him six points on the young season. This is just two short of his entire total for last year.
-Portland appeared to be targeting top draft prospect Michael Rasmussen early and often. He took a hard check on the side from Keegan Iverson that sent him awkwardly into the boards head-first. The physical play did seem to have the desired effect as his body language gave away that he was frustrated. He ended up with one point, which is an off night for him.
-The defensive side of Henri Jokihrju's play continues to develop. He made two stunning plays in his own zone in the first period. First he expertly tied up the stick of Nolan Yaremko just as a pass came screaming by. Then he laid down to block Tyler Sandhu's shot as Kehler was still on the other side of the net and the net was vacant.
-Lane Gilliss was scratched as Ilijah Colina was given another opportunity to play between Evan Weinger and Ryan Hughes. The 16-year-old made a nice read on one play, gettign behind the defense and nearly beating Parenteau on one sequence.
-That line is an intriguing one as they can go quiet for most of the night, before very quickly scoring on a play that looked to be non-threatening. This was the case on Weinger's goal.
-For the second straight game, the game may've hinged on muscling in for a loose puck in front of an open net with the goalie out of position. This time it was Skyler McKenzie who could not quite get his stick on the loose puck as Parenteau was out of commission. If he had score,d it would have given Portland the 4-3 lead.
-Mike Johnston and co. are still willing to mess with the power play. They used Keoni Texeira as the net-front forward at one point and experimented with Ryan Hughes in place of Joachim Blichfeld on the left point at another.
-Portland's next game is Saturday vs. Kelowna. They play two straight at home vs. the Rockets to close out the week.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Seattle's Toth finally solves Portland with a 3-1 victory

When you are the overage goalie acquired by a team hoping to contend for the Ed Chynoweth cup, you want to prove yourself early on. No more so than against your team's hated rival. So when Portland scored 10 goals on Rylan Toth in just over a game and a half, he had to be entering Friday's match up with the Winterhawks with something to prove. He did just that, earning first-star honors by stopping 32 of 33 shots and earning his first win over Portland in three starts this season. Toth was not the only Thunderbird with something to prove as Ethan Bear was snubbed once again by Hockey Canda after being left off Team WHL for November's Canada Russia series. Bear also made his point by scoring the eventual game winner on a brilliant one-timer in the first period.

While Bear's goal was the winner, Seattle got their first goal of the game earlier in the first period, though it took a video review to prove it. Off a mad scramble in and around Portland goalie, Seattle's Nolan Volcan one-timed a bouncing puck off the upper part of the net and back out. Play kept going, but it was eventually whistled down and video was reviewed. Not only was it clear the puck went it after seeing the replay, it also became clear that Portland d-man Henri Jokiharju did his goalie no favors by accidentally interfering with his ability to get back into the play. Seattle doubled their lead later in the period on a power play goal from Bear. After Seattle won the opening draw of the man-advantage a pass form point to point intended for Bear went off the side boards. Instead of giving up on the opportunity, Bear wired a one-timer right over Kehler's glove. The Thunderbirds were given the power play after an ill-advised interference penalty taken by rookie Ty Kolle. Seattle took a 2-0 lead into the second period.

Portland would cut their lead in half in a familiar way in the second frame. After an interference penalty by Turner Ottenbreit, Skyler McKenzie capitalized on a tic-tac-toe passing play for his eighth goal of the young season. Caleb Jones started the play by passing across to the left wing, leaving McKenzie all kinds of room for a one-timer off a cross-ice pass back from Joachim Blichfeld. This was Portland's seventh power play goal on Seattle by Portland in three games.

The Third period was where Toth shined the most as he made two different brilliant right pad saves to preserve the 2-1 lead. His first save was off a one-timer by Blichfeld, where he looked to be well out of position. His second not only saved the game, it set up a push the other way by Seattle leading to an empty net goal for Matthew Wedman. This iced the game. He second, right pad save was a little different in that it came off the skate of a tied-up Keegan Iverson. If he were to score off the kick, it would have counted as he was outside the crease when he made contact.

Kehler also played well in his ninth start for Portland, but fell short, by stopping only 26 of the 28 shots he saw.

Portland's power play was 1/3, while Seattle's was 1/2. On the season, Portland is now 18/53 for 34 percent. Due to Tri-City failing on five opportunities tonight in Kelowna, Portland PP is once gain first in the league.

Game Notes:
-Ryan Gropp was a scratch for the match up with a yet-to-be-determined injury.
-Cody Glass took an awkward tumble into the end boards in the first period but played the rest of the game. It was eerily reminiscent to the one he took that led to him being held out of the preseason. His lack of scoring opened the door for a new WHL scoring leader, but it wasn't who I thought it would be, that took advantage. Medicine Hat's Mason Shaw followed up a five assist night on Wednesday, with a three assist night on Friday for 21 total points. This is two more than Glass' 19.
-Henri Jokiharju seems to do one thing each game that impresses me. This time it was a slick backhand pass out of the zone, when everyone in attendance was expecting him to go the other way. His tangle up with Kehler was unfortunate, but the Finnish rookie is slowly and surely impressing in his first season playing in North America.
-McKenzie's eight goals matches his career high from last season. But instead of 68 games, he only took 13 to score eight goals this time around.
-Joachim Blichfeld played up with Evan Weinger and Ryan Hughes as the game grew long in the tooth. He was Portland's best offensive player on the night, continuously driving the play towards the Seattle net. I think that this could be a go-to move for Mike Johnston late in the game, but it won't be a regular lineup option.
-Brad Ginnell seems to have adjusted the most to playing in the WHL so far, of the 16-year-old rookie forwards Portland has on the roster. Even when he made mistakes, he quickly responded and kept them from multiplying.
-Portland has the odd weekend off as they do not play again until Tuesday night when they host Tri-City.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Parenteau gets redemption, helps Tri-City edge Portland 4-3

It turns out Rylan Parenteau just likes playing Portland in the Rose City. Just 12 days previous, the overage goalie was in net for the Prince Albert Raiders vs. Portland, who was in the middle of their road trip. Portland chased Parenteau with four goals in just over a period of play. This performance may have been the deciding factor in the Raiders dealing him away to the Americans at the deadline for going down to three 20-year-olds. In his second game in less than two weeks vs. Portland, Parenteau was the difference maker, turning away 38 of 41 shots and helping Tri-City to a 4-3 intra-divison win over the host Winterhawks. The last time Parenteau played in Portland was on October 13th, 2015, when he stopped all 36 shots he faced for a 4-0 P.A. win. His best moments in Tuesday night's Tri-City win were at the expense of Portland's leading scorer Cody Glass. He stoned the 17-year-old center four different times in tight throughout the game, giving his team a chance to come back from a 3-1 first period deficit.

In a game of odd plays and bounces, Keegan Iverson's first goal of the game, in the first period, may've been the strangest. After defenseman Conor MacEachern created zone entry with a nice bank pass from his own zone, Keegan Iverson's drive to the net, was turned away by Parenteau. His save popped the puck into the air above the crease though. Forward Parker AuCoin, who was covering for defenseman Dalton Yorke, took a mighty swing at the puck, but missed so much that his back made contact with the puck. After striking his back, the biscuit bounced into the vacant net for an Iverson goal. Tri-City responded with the first career WHL goal from 16-year-old rookie Keltie Jeri-Leon. This goal was also due to a strange bounce as Brad Ginnell's clearance attempt deflected off Brett Leason and Carson Focht's following shot attempt was blocked right over to a waiting Jeri-Leon. The rookie forward smartly adjusted over to his forehand and beat Portland goalie Cole Kehler.

Brendan De Jong, who was caught flat-footed on the Americans' first goal was part of Portland's very quick response. Just 17 seconds after T.C. scored, a slow and soft pass from Cody Glass across the T.C. blue line found it's way to De Jong. The defenseman powered a one-timer off of American's d-man Juuso Valimaki's stick and over Parenteau's blocker. This was De Jong's third goal of the season and gave Portland their second lead of the game. Iverson gave Portland a two-goal lead less than four minutes later. After Joachim Blichfeld drove the zone on the power play, he showed great patience finding an open Iverson in the slot. Iverson's deceptive wrist shot picked the blocker-side corner on Parenteau. Blichfeld demonstrated on that play why he has earned a spot on Portland's top power play unit.

Tri-City scored twice in the second period though, to tie the game up. First, they notched a power play goal of their own as a Juuso Valimaki shot from the point bounced off of De Jong's back and past Cole Kehler. It was the Hockey Gods evening up their favors for the earlier Iverson goal. Then, with both teams skating four-a-side, Tri-City tied the game. On a rush up the ice, Vladislav Lukin fired a shot against his momentum and past Kehler. After 40 minutes of play, the two U.S. Division teams were knotted at three.

The deciding goal of the game was scored by a likely suspect in an unlikely manner. Defenseman Dalton Yorke fired a shot from the right wing that was stopped by Kehler. He followed his own shot, beating MacEachern to the loose puck and throwing the puck into the crease. Michael Rasmussen was completely locked up with d-man Carter Czaikowski in behind an out-of-position Kehler. The bigger forward out-muscled Czaikowski just barely enough to just nudge the puck across the goal line before Kehler could get back. Czaikowski had good positioning on Rasmussen but just did not have quite enough force to keep him from the frozen rubber. In a game of inches that play ended up being the difference. Keegan Iverson had a great chance to tie the game late and notch a hat-trick but his shot went just wide and bounded off the outside of the net.

Kehler stopped 35 of the 39 shots he saw and was handed his third loss of the year. Portland was 1/4 on the power play, while Tri-City was 1/7. Both PPs are operating at over 34 percent. The Americans is at 34.2, while the Winterhawks is at 34.0. They are the top-two in the WHL.

Game Notes:
-With two assists, Cody Glass kept pace with the red-hot Sam Steel. Both have 19 points and are atop the WHL in points. Glass is tied for most assists in the WHL with Brayden Burke of Lethbridge. Both have 13 helper points.
-Michael Rasmussen had a goal and so has 11 in just 10 games played so far this season. He is on pace to be the first 50 goals in 50 games in the WHL since Portland's Oliver Bjorkstrand in 2014-15.
-If he continues this trajectory, it seems likely he will be a top-10 pick in next June's NHL draft.
-Keegan Iverson has five goals, but they have all come in just three games. This was his second two-goal game of the year. He had only two multi-goal games all of last season.
-Cole Kehler now has eight games started to Michael Bullion's four. Entering this season, it appeared that Bullion was the primary goalie, but Kehler seems to have wrestled the starting job away in the early going.
-Overage goalie Rylan Parenteau was recently acquired by Tri-City from Prince Albert. This seems to signify that Evan Sarthou's injury is a long-term one.
-Carter Czaikowski played a two-on-one about as well as you could want in the second period. He does not have the reach and so made up for that with perfectly reading when and where the pass was coming across and picking it off. He then quickly pushed the puck up the ice and out of the zone.
-Portland continually rolled out the Colton Veloso-Alex Overhardt-Joachim Blichfeld line out there against T.C.'s top line of Vladislav Lukin-Michael Rasmussen-Tyler Sandhu, every chance they got. There seems to be a real effort at getting this Portland line matched up vs. the top line for the other team. Overhardt and co. did a pretty good job in this game, limiting the amount of good looks that Rasmussen and his group were able to get.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Winterhawks end trip on high note, edge Chiefs in the shootout

We knew coming into this year that Caleb Jones would be relied upon a lot as the young Winterhawks found their legs. The Edmonton Oilers' signed prospect has done just that and more through Portland's first 11 games. After scoring the overtime winner (his third in two seasons) in Regina Wednesday, he notched the shoot out winner Saturday night in Spokane. This kind of clutch production just doesn't come from a WHL defenseman that often.

With the win over Spokane, Portland finished their eight-game road trip with a remarkable 6-2 record. They are now 8-3 overall and sit one point behind the U.S. Division leading Everett Silvertips. With another intra-division victory, Portland is now 4-1 within the U.S.

Portland went through large segments of play, where they looked road weary, so a clutch win is all the more important and surprising. Portland proved they could win a game within the division, when they weren't at their best.  Maybe their record can maintain it's current trajectory and a season of rebuilding is not what's in store.

Spokane and Portland played a tight-checking game in the first period, but neither got on the scoreboard until there was 2:16 left in the session. Logan Foster took advantage of a miscommunication between Portland defenders and fed a driving Koby Morrisseau. The Chiefs' forward buried the puck past Portland goalie Cole Kehler and it was 1-0 Spokane after one. This was Morrisseau's first goal in the WHL.

Portland got that goal back, just over five minutes into the second frame. Ryan Hughes circled the Spokane zone and looked to pass enough that Spokane goalie Dawson Weatherill was lulled out of position. Hughes then picked a corner from a tight angle for his fourth goal of the season.

Spokane jumped on a tired-looking Portland team in the third period, not allowing a shot on their net through the first ten minutes and dominating possession. They got their second lead of the night off another Portland miscue. Jake Gricius could not handle a puck in his skates at the blue line and Kailer Yamamoto scooped up the puck. The younger Yamamoto brother then found a driving Curtis Miske, who tipped home his pass. The Chiefs had chances to add to their lead, but Portland's Kehler made some clutch saves. After Riley McKay was the second man in on a check and was whistle for interference, the Winterhawks woke from their slumber. They carried possession for several minutes and cashed in with 3:05 left in the game. The tying goal came when defenseman Brendan De Jong drove the left wing and fired a pass to Weatherill's left pad. The ensuing rebound came right to Cody Glass, who buried it. This was Glass' sixth goal of the year and ultimately forced overtime.

Portland survived overtime with the Yamamoto brothers, which is not an easy task when playing three-on-three hockey against two relatives.

The shoot out ensued and Weatherill and Kehler exchanged stops, before Jones won it with a backhand through the Spokane goalie's five-hole.

Cole Kehler was Portland's best player in this game, stopping 29 of 31 shots. His biggest save came with four seconds left in the game when he closed the angle on an open Evan Fiala and stoned Spokane d-man. Spokane's Weatherill made another bid for the starting job with 27 saves on 30 shots. He has played well this season and may be starting to supplant overage goalie Jayden Sittler.

Portland's power play was 0-for-3, while Spokane's was 0-for-4. Despite not scoring on it, Portland's power play off the McKay penalty was the turning point in the game.

Game Notes:
-Carolina Hurricanes' prospect Hudson Elynuik was scractched for the game as he serves the first game of a "T.B.D" suspension. The suspension was for a hit to the head in Spokane's loss to Everett Friday. That five-minute major penalty was pivotal as Everett scored twice on the power play en route to a 4-3 overtime win.
-Spokane found a tactic for interrupting the flow of Portland's high-flying offense. They threw two fore-checkers at Portland's defense and created a multitude of turnovers. They scored twice off the turnovers and held Portland from any sort of real possession their zone for large segments of the game. Portland countered by having their d-men carry the puck more out of the zone, which limited how quickly they could gain zone entry. It will be interesting to see if other teams try this tactic.
-The 6-2 road trip record is impressive. They now head home where they will take on Tri-City on Tuesday.
-Cody Glass now shares the WHL lead in points, as Sam Steel also has 17.
-Cole Kehler has six wins and appears to be getting the bulk of the starts for Portland.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Caleb Jones and Winterhawks turn out the lights on the Pats 5-4 in overtime

Wild end-to-end games and the Portland Winterhawks seem to be going hand in hand this year. Especially on an East Division road trip that concluded Wednesday night with a 5-4 overtime win for the Hawks. Caleb Jones got the overtime winner for Portland, which is his third in two seasons for Portland. He seems made for the three-on-three overtime as he is one of the better offensive d-men in the WHL and isn't afraid to jump into the play and take chances.. The Hawks and Pats played a back-and-forth game that saw the teams trades 103 total shots. Amidst the shooting galleries, were some after the whistle shenanigans and two different accidental shutting off of the Brandt Centre's lights.

The Pats and Winterhawks had a combined five power plays and traded 14 shots apiece, but both Michael Bullion for Portland and Tyler Brown for Regina refused to yield any goals.

The goose egg for Portland was broken 5:40 into the second period off a great play by Joachim Blichfeld. The Danish import was in his own end, in the corner and he smartly lobbed the puck off of the glass and out to center. This set up a two-on-one rush for Lane Gilliss and Bronson Sharp. Gilliss looked off Tyler Brown, convincing him he would pass, before slipping the puck through Brown's five-hole. This was Gilliss' third goal in four games. Since moving between Ryan Hughes and Evan Weinger, Gilliss has five points in as many games. That Pats tied the game very late in the second on a smart play by Adam Brooks. The WHL points leader for the 2015-16 season, collected the rebound of a Jake Leschshyn shot and spun around to get a forehand shot past Bullion. Just like the previous night when Reid Duke scored against Portland in his first game back from professional training camp, Adam Brooks did as well.

The third period was where things got wild Wednesday night. The two teams traded four goals in less than three minutes and six overall. Portland opened the period's scoring when Ryan Hughes slipped past James Hilsendager along the right wing boards and forced Brown to make a save. Brown also stopped Gilliss' rebound chance, but could not turn away Evan Weinger's follow up chance. Just 32 seconds later, Portland made it 3-1. Brad Ginnell won a puck battle in the Regina zone and fed an onrushing Colton Veloso. The 19-year-old right wing's first try was stopped, but he poked home his own rebound. This was Veloso's fourth goal of the year.

Regina responded 34 seconds after that as a point shot from Sergey Zborovskiy was intercepted by. Adam Brooks who backhanded a shot into the open part of the net for his second of the night. Bullion was heavily screened on the play and was expecting a straight shot on net. Then on the power play, Filip Ahl dug the puck out of Bullions' glove and Anaheim Duck's prospect Sam Steel slammed home the rebound. Regina took their first lead of the game with 9:48 left off another point shot from Hobbs. Bullion's glove, once again, could not contain the puck and Ahl put home the rebound himself this time. Regina appeared to be clamping down late in the period, holding a 4-3 lead, but one sequence changed all of that. Joachim Blichfeld drove through the neutral zone and forced a stick-less Ahl to hold him. After the whistle blew for the penalty, Rykr Cole and Evan WEinger came together and both fell to the ice. Carter Czaikowski took exception, apparently believing it was an intentional kneeing hit by Cole. Connor Hobbs then tackled Czaikowski from behind and took him to the ice in a headlock. His actions set Portland up with a five-on-three power play with 4:40 left in the game.

They converted after Caleb Jones set up Keoni Texeira with room for a slap shot and the d-man wired a shot past Brown's glove. Texeira now has four power play goals and five total. Texeira's key goal set up overtime, where both teams continued to trade chances. After Riley Woods missed the net short-side on one end in over time, Caleb Jones collected the puck and had a two-on-one with Blichfeld. He waited until he got very close to the net, before beating Brown to win the game.

Bullion's athleticism was again on display as he stopped 48 of the 52 shots he faced. He made another highlight-reel stop in this game, as he dove to his left and made an excellent toe save. he was seemingly way out of position on the play. Bullion is an extremely athletic goalie, but this sometimes gets him into trouble, as evidenced by a couple of Regina's goals. Brown turned away 46 of 51 or Regina.

Portland's power play again found the net and was 1/5 overall. They are now 16/43 on the season for 37.2 percent. Regina was 2/5 on their man-advantages.

Game Notes:
-Colton Veloso was moved down to the fourth line with Jake Gricius and Brad Ginnell. Brosnon Sharp drew into the lineup and played on Portland's third line with Alex Overhardt and Joachim Blichfeld. Veloso responded with a goal and now has six points in 10 games. I don't think this was a demotion, but was more of an attempt to look for some more chemistry in the bottom-six.
-Sharp also saw some power play time in an increased role.
-Another lineup note was the increased playing time for Carter Czaikowski. The defenseman was essentially the team's fourth d-man, after spending most of the year as their clear number five guy. This increased time could also be because of Portland playing six games in just eight days.
-Besides the Czaikowski, Hobbs dust up, there was another interesting interaction after the whistle. This was when Skyler McKenzie checked Adam Brooks after the whistle and the two traded some checks. McKenzie appeared to throw the check because Brooks was heading right for an ill-prepared Keegan Iverson well after the whistle. The play by McKenzie handed Regina a power play. Iverson had upset the Pats after throwing a huge open-ice check on Hilsendager, right before the defenseman received a pass. While the check didn't hit Hilsendager's head, it caught him by surprise and appeared to injure him.
-Portland finished the East Division trip with a 4-2 record and is now 5-2 on their eight-game road trip. The trip concludes with a game on Saturday in Spokane.
-Portland now has the 1-2-3 leading scorers in the WHL now as Ryan Hughes had two points. He now has 13 points and is three points behind Cody Glass. Skyler McKenzie has 12 points and is third in the WHL (tied with four others).

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Old time hockey back in Brandon as Portland wins 7-6

The Portland Winterhawks (6-3) and the Brandon Wheat Kings (2-3-1) played a wild, back and forth affair Tuesday night. This would be a complete anomaly for most teams, but Portland fans are getting used to this type of game. The Winterhawks have 42 goals for, which is eight more than any other team and 31 goals against, which is third highest in the league. Their 73 total goals scored in their games is five more than the next WHL team (Vancouver with 68).

A big reason that so many goals were scored a Westman Place Tuesday night was the 18 total power plays that were handed out. Portland converted on five of their nine, while Brandon scored on two of their nine.  Portland's top-ranked power play is now zooming along at a 39.5 percent clip (15/38).

Portland was led to to their win by three assists from Skyler McKenzie and a goal and two assists from Joachim Blichfeld. Brandon's Tanner Kaspick scored twice for the Wheat Kings, while Reid Duke had three points in his return to the WHL.

Brandon jumped on a road weary Portland team early and forced them into four straight penalties to start the game. Their first power play goal came when Reid Duke sent a saucer pass to defenseman Jordan Wharrie plenty of room to shoot. His slap shot beats Cole Kehler for his first with the Wheat Kings. Then, after Portland captain Keegan Iverson took an interference penalty in Brandon's zone, the Wheat Kings scored their second, early power play goal. Top NHL-draft prospect Nolan Patrick found Ty Lewis open on the left wing. Lewis fired a shot on and the rebound from Portland goalie Cole Kehler bounced off a Portland skate and in. Portland d-man Brendan De Jong was fighting for positioning and he was unlucky enough to have the puck bounce off his skate and in. The Wheat Kings out shot Portland 18-12, in an up and down period.

Portland responded well in the second period and scored three straight to take the lead. There would be a total of six goals scored in the crazy period. Portland  notched their first power play marker, when Caleb Jones made a brilliant spin move, after holding the puck in at Brandon's blue line. He then fired s nice spin pass to a wide open Lane Gilliss, who teed up a slap shot for his second of the year. The goal came just six seconds after the Wheat Kings had killed off Portland's five-on-three man advantage.The Winterhawks tied the game up just over four minutes later on the power play. The Hawks scored on the rush as Skyler McKenzie appeared to be trying for Cody Glass in the middle of the ice, but his pass went behind him. Joachim Blichfeld followed up the play, received the pass and wired a shot top shelf that beat Brandon goalie Jordan Papirny.  After Brandon tried to notch a short handed goal, Ryan Hughes led a four on three rush the other way. Hughes was patient and drove  away from the net, feeding Evan Weinger on the right wing. Weinger swiftly fired a slam dunk pass to Keoni Texeira back door. The goal was Texeira's fourth of the season. Three of those four goals have been scored while on the man advantage.

Brandon tied the game on another fortunate bounce. Reid Duke's shot off the face off was saved by Kehler, but Caleb Jones' clearance pass bounced  right off of Tanner Kaspick and in. Portland took their second lead of the game with just over five minutes left in the period. Alex Overhardt was johnny-on-the-spot for the rebound of a Keoni Texeira shot from the point and it was 4-3. The Wheaties just refused to go away though as their fore check set up their fourth goal of the game. Rookie forward Brad Ginnell was out-muscled by Tanner Kaspick and he lost puck deep in his own zone. Stelio Mattheos beat Colton Veloso to the loose puck and he fed the puck back to Kaspick. Kaspick waited out Kehler and backhanded it past him.

Joachim Blichfeld played his best game in a Portland sweater so far Tuesday night and his play is what gave Portland their third, one-goal lead of the game very early in the third period. Blichfeld circled the Brandon net and he found an opening in tight, to Papirny's right. Keegan Iverson muscled his way in and poked home the loose puck. Brandon responded 46 seconds later as Reid Duke wrecked havoc in the Portland zone, while on the PK. He forced a bad pass out of the zone, which was collected by Connor Gutenberg and given right back to Duke on a break. Duke deked out Kehler and slipped a backhand shot past the goalie.

Portland notched their sixth goal off a broken play around their opponent's net while on the power play. Evan Weinger's back door pass to Iverson banks off of his skate and went into a mass of bodies. Cody Glass was the late-comer to the scrum and he poked it home.  This gave Portland a 6-5 lead. Brandon pressed late in the game, hitting a post with all of their pressure, but Cole Kehler turned away all of their other chances. The Wheaties pulled Papirny for an extra attacker late in the game and it partially backfired on them. They gave up a empty net goal to Evan Weinger, after Colton Veloso sprung him with a slick bank pass. off of the far boards. Nolan Patrick notched a goal with four seconds left, but it was not enough.

Portland's Kehler did not play too poorly, despite the six goals against. He stopped a total of 40 of the 46 pucks he saw. Two of the six goals he gave up were off really strange passes and his defense hung him out to dry on most of the other goals. Brandon's overage goalie Papirny, meanwhile turned away
29 of the 35 shots he faced.

Game Notes:
-Portland was really sloppy early in the game.They were chasing the puck from the get-go and some of their penalties were direct results of this.
-Four power plays for Brandon in the first 12 or so minutes of the game.
-One such penalty was rookie d-man Matt Quigley hitting a player behind the play, away from the puck. Interference was  common call for the referees.
-I've not been too impressed with defenseman Carter Czaikowski's play so far, but he was much better tonight. He fired one brilliant stretch pass that nearly sprung Skyler McKenzie in for a breakaway. I like how his head is always up while holding the puck in his own zone. He is constantly looking for a good outlet pass.
-Nolan Patrick was not his best this night. Yes, he scored once and had an assist, but he also took two really bad penalties. Both were when he was caught flat-footed and he had to slow down two different Portland centers.
-With his goal, Cody Glass is still atop the point charts with 16 points in nine games. His linemate McKenzie is tied for second in the league with 12 points now.
-Texeira has 10 points, which is tied for most in the WHL among d-men.
-Blicheld has seven points in only seven games. It should not be too surprising that he played his best game the same day it was announced Rodrigo Abols had been released. The overage, import center could not find a suitor in the WHL and so Portland was forced to release him. Abols is extremely talented, but did not show enough consistency in performance to warrant another WHL team to make room for the two-spot Latvian. Hopefully, he finds a home in the OHL or QMJHL like a couple overage WHL goalies did last year. Blichfeld now has the peace of mind that he is with the team for the rest of the season, instead of having to worry abut what move would be made to take care of Portland's import dilemma.
-Reid Duke had a strong game back as he was returned from his tryout with the Hartford Wolf pack of the AHL. He did hit Weinger with a cheap shot after the Californian scored his empty-net-goal.
-Alex Overhardt also got caught up in the act minutes later as he took exception to Tyler Coulter getting a late stick in on his goalie. Overhardt lost his cool, going after Coulter and he was given a late game misconduct. 
-Three Manitoba natives played for Portland Tuesday night in their home province. Colton Veloso and Cody Glass are from Winnipeg and Cole Kehler hails from Altona, Manitoba. 

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Flodell shuts down Winterhawks 3-1

The Logan Flodell story in Saskatoon, is quickly becoming one of the more intriguing ones in the WHL this season. Flodell started out both last year and this year as the expected starter for the Seattle Thunderbirds. Last season, the Birds elected to bring in Landon Bow, putting Flodell back to the back up role he was in previously. Then Seattle chose to trade for another overage goalie in Rylan Toth, spelling the end of Fldell's time in Seattle. Saskatoon picked him up, by trading 1998-born defenseman Anthony Bishop to Seattle. Since arriving in the "toon" Flodell has had a lights out 1.75 GAA and 0.947 save percentage in four games.

The most recent of those four games, was Saturday night vs. Portland. Flodell was stellar turning away 34 of the 35 shots that he saw, en route to a 3-1 Blades' victory over the visiting Portland squad. Saskatoon got goals from Josh Paterson, Mason McCarty and Bralyon Shmyr, while Jake Gricius notched his first career WHL goal for Portland.

McCarty opened the scoring in the first period for Saskatoon. He took advantage of a poor turnover in front of his own net by Cody Glass, swiftly flicking a wrist shot over Portland goalie Cole Kehler's shoulder. Glass was handcuffed by a bouncing puck and could not re-direct it away form danger, before it was stolen form him. Portland answered behind a a very pretty goal from Jake Gricius. The fourth-line center demonstrated great hands by pouncing on a bouncing puck and stick-handling around Flodell in tight.

The lone goal of the second was also a thing of beauty. Bralyon Shmyr rushed up the ice and sold a shot on defenseman Henri Jokiharju, before sniping a shot past Kehler. Jokiharju bit on the fake and this gave him enough room to score. Keegan Iverson took a bad stick-handling penalty on the power play, setting up the four-on-four that Shmyr converted on.

Portland fired 14 shots on Flodell in the third period, but the 19-year-old net minder was up to the task. His best two saves were late in the period. First, he got just enough of his pad on an Evan Weinger shot after the winger got behind the defense. Then, after tic-tac-toe passing set up Alex Overhardt with a good look, Flodell got there just in time. The Blades iced the game with an empty net goal from Josh Paterson.

The Hawks are now 2-2 on their East Division swing and 3-2 on the road trip. They next play on Tuesday vs. Brandon.

Portland's Cole Kehler stopped 20 of the 22 shots he faced for his first loss in net with Portland. It was the first time that a Portland goalie had been given consecutive starts this year.

The Hawks power play went 0/5, while their PK was 3/3.

Game Notes:
-Ilijah Colina was given his spot between Evan Weinger and Ryan Hughes back. This, despite the fact that Lane Gilliss has been great in that spot. This could be Portland trying to get a longer look at the 16-year-old to see if he should stick around or be re-assigned. This could be a tough decision for Portland. They came into this year, preaching that they were all about the youth this year. However, a 5-3 start could have them convinced that they could make a run this year.
-Portland still has 16 forwards on their roster. One would think that at least two of those are on their way out. If Abols is dealt, that leaves another forward to be moved. I like Colina, but I think he would be best served by being re-assigned.
-The Hawks love to use the sauce pass. Nic Petan was perhaps the best I've seen at it. Joachim Blichfeld could make a run at that "title" though. He fired a couple great passes that freed up line mates for odd-man rushes up the ice. There is a lot to like about the Dane, especially on the power play.
-Jackson Caller got to play his old team as the 17-year-old d-man was sent to Saskatoon in September.