Friday, March 21, 2014

Winterhawks Survive Giants in Game One: 4-3

It was a wild one at the Mode Center on Friday night, as the second seeded Portland Winterhawks were given all they could handle from the Vancouver Giants, despite controlling most of the game and out shooting the Giants 45-16. Vancouver, well coached under 3 time Memorail Cup champion coach Don, Hay, took advantage of a couple generous bouces to make this game far more interesting for the 9,756 in attendance then it really should've been.

The Giants tied the game at three, 7:16 into the third period, when a Brett Kulak dump in took a bounce off of the boards behind Portland Goalie Brendan Burke and slowly rolled in off the back of his skate and then into his own net. This would've been a series changing moment, were the Giants to win. Instead after sustained pressure, Portland forced a Vanouver icing and a subsequent time out, Oliver Bjorkstrand found a rebound off a Mat Dumba point shot and skillfully flipped it to his fore hand in order to flip it into the gaping net. The Giants pressured late in the game, but Derrick Pouliot and the Hawk's defense stood and held serve on home ice 4-3.

Game Notes:
-Brendan Leipsic was a human dynamo out there tonight for the Hawks. He scored twice, hit one post and set up countless other scoring chances as his play was inspired.
-Mat Dumba and Layne Viveiros, paired together for large chunks of the game, were victimized on two of the Giant's goals and allowed a couple other golden scoring chances. Vancouver's first goal was scored when Dumba was beat to a a puck along the boards by Carter Popoff, who then slipped it past Viveiros and to Jackson Houck in front of Burke. Houck, who is the Giant's best sniper, tipped it past Burke for the 1-0 lead. On the Giant's second goal, Cain Franson, with his back to Viveiros, fed Thomas Foster in the slot for the one timer, tying the game at 2 late in the "first period." Viveiros ended the night as a -2.
-Another crazy moment happened in this one, when the player's bench gate became broken with 2:52 left in the first, prompting the officials to call an end to the period and just play the last 2:52 at the start of the second. This could not happen at a better time for the Giants, as they were getting overwhlemed and a 2 goal lead seemed inevitable for the Hawks. Instead they got a breather and managed to actually tie it up.
-Keoni Texeira was fantastic as he seems to be really getting better with every game. It was his drive on the net that set up a rather flukey Oliver Bjorkstrand wrap around goal, giving the Hawks a 2-1 lead. Look for 19 year old Josh Hanson to continue to get benched in favor of Texeira.
-Keegan Iverson, who earlier in his career really played on the edge, often taking dumb penalties, got under the skin of some of the Giant's players; namely Defenseman Mason Geertsen. He drew a couple penalties with some after the whistle shenanigans. His physical play also helped the Hawks set the tone in a way that let the Giants know their phyiscal style would not let them run rough shod over the Hawks.
-Leipsic and Nic Petan had one of the prettier plays of the year when their give and go goal worked so well, that Payton Lee did not weven know which of them was even shooting the puck.
-Look for the Giants to start burying Dmitry Osipov on their defensive rotation, as he made several poor plays and almost seemed afraid to get hit on one segment of play.
-It was great to see Adam De Champlain back and playing well after a 4 week absence.
-Burke stopped 13 of 16 and really only made a few good saves. He will definitely need to be better or he may ned up getting the hook for Corbin Boes at some point.
-Lee stopped 41 of 45 for the Giants and made about 5-6 great stops on Grade A scoring chances.
-Both teams were not able to convert on the power play as Vancouver went 0-2 and Portland 0-5. Portland actually gave up about 3-4 solid short handed scoring chances. The Hawks power play will have to improve.

3 Stars:
#3- Payton Lee- He really had a great first playoff game for the Giants. This game may've been put out of reach late in the first period, were he not able to stone wall the Hawks.

#2- Oliver Bjorkstrand- 2 goals for the Danish sensation, including the game winner. The presence of mind on that game winner, to flip it to get a better shooting angle is really something that you only see NHL caliber talent do.

#1- Brendan Leipsic- 2 goals for the 19 year old with the fresh hair cut, as he got 21st and 22nd career playoff goals. He really seems to be just too fast for Giants Defensemen, not named Brett Kulak,. Look for him to continue potting some points in this series.

Tomorrow night, we do it all again as the Hawks host the Giants for Game 2 of their first round match up.

The only other game was another Game One as the 4th seeded Medincine Hat Tigers beat the 5th seeded Swift Current Broncos 2-1, behind 25 stops on 26 shots by Marek Langhammer and goals by Curtis Valk and Chad Butcher.

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