Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cougars Start "New Ice Age" With 6-3 Win Over Hawks

Jansen Harkins
The Prince George cougars opened their season in Portland and came away with their first regulation win  over Portland since 2009 and their first win in Portland since 2008: 6-3.

Leading the way for the Cougars was former second overall Bantam Draft Pick Jansen Harkins, who set up their first goal by walking around the Portland defense and then scored their second goal with a nifty move on front of the net to give P.G. a 2-0 lead just 9:03 inot the game.

The Cougars would eventually lead 4-1, 2:27 into the 3rd period, before Portland's young players launched a spirited comeback with goals from Layne Viveiros and Paul Bittner (his 2nd of the night) to cut the lead to 1.

It was all for naught though, as 20 year old Chance Braid banked the puck in off Portland's starting netminder: Michael Bullion and in for a 5-3 lead with 6:18 let in the game. They would also net an empty net goal to skate away with the 6-3 win.

Ty Edmonds stopped 31 of 34 shots on the night for P.G., while Bullion stopped 28 of 33 in his WHL debut for the Hawks.

Game Notes:
-Harkins was a nightmare for the Winterhawks defense. He walked right around them consistently and walked in on Bullion.
-Speaking of this; the Hawks really need Anton Cederholm back from NHL camp with the Vancouver Canucks as not a single D-man on the roster is of the shutdown variety. None of the 6 dressed this weekend were able to cut down the angles of an onrushing forward and force them to the outside.
-Not only this, but they also allowed P.G.'s forwards to come out from the corner and rush the side of the net. This is the equivalent of letting a basketball player go right down the baseline for a layup.
-If the Hawks wish to be successful this season they will need at least one of their D-men(besides Cederholm) to exhibit some better positioning and play the shut down role.
-The biggest bright spot this weekend is that the young Hawks did not mail it in after going down 4-1 and showed some grittiness down the stretch in making it a game.
-Bittner was so much better on Saturday then he was Friday. He seemed to move his feet more and create space for himself and his teammates, rather than just relying upon his reach to keep the puck away from defenders. He also looked to shoot more and was rewarded with 2 goals.
-Skyler McKenzie will eventually be slotted in as a 4th line center and the 16 year old showed enough this weekend for this to be a great thing. He was the Hawk's #1 Center and, while he has some growing pains to get through in his defensive zone, he showed a real nose for the net and helped set up 2 of the Hawk's goals.
-Alex Schoenborn again got caught up in the after the whistle shenanigans  and served 8 penlty minutes in total. When you are one of your team's top 2 forwards, you cannot afford ot be off the ice for this long. His offensive play was much better this night, but he has to stay within his role and nmot try and do too much.
-You could tell that the 2 games in 2 nights was wearing down the defensive corps, as on Friday, Coach Jamie Kompon kept rookies Carter Czaikowski and Brendan De Jong apart and this night they were paired together multiple times including in a situation that directly led to De Jong high sticking a P.G. forward and the Cougars getting the insurance goal. Whenever Portland gets one of their more experienced D-men back, I would look for these two to play a much more reduced role this season.
-17 year old D-man Nick Heid probably played the least minutes of the 6 D-men and I can't say I really agree with this. Sure he has a long way to go before he is comfortable playing the WHL style, but he looked very competent in his own zone and made several solid defensive plays.
-Meanwhile, Layne Viveiros had one of his worst games in recent memory for the Hawks. He was consistently out of position on plays made towards the net and just does not seem to have the foot speed to make up for this. He did score a goal, but it bounced off a P.G. defender in front. He looks like he should still be playing the tole of a bottom paring D-man and Portland is playing him in a shut down role; which is not good.
-Jack Flaman was impressive in all facets of the game, especially the penalty kill. He was the Hawk's best penalty killer, which is amazing considering he was not even signed by Portland a few weeks ago. He has great anticipation and helped break up several passes in his own zone. If he continues to show this then he may ned up in 2nd or 3rd penalty killing pairing for Portland, even when the big names get back.
-Michael Bullion will probably not be pushing Adin Hill for his back up role anytime this season. He sat way back in his net and just did not look too comfortable in his debut.
-Portland's power play went 0/8 while P.G.'s went 1/9.
-P.G. was assesed 3 different kneeing minors in the game, including a particularly vicious one thrown by Sam Ruopp.

3 Stars:
#3: Chase Witala: Had 1 goal and 2 assists and created nearly as many scoring chances as line-mate Jansen Harkins did.

#2: Jansen Harkins: 1 goal and 1 assist on the night and was jus tone of the more fascinating players to watch out there on the ice.

#1: Paul Bittner: Showed that he may be more than just a linemate for some more talented players. I was really impressed with his ice vision as he made several nifty passes in th attacking zone.

Next Game:
-Portland gets back at it with their first road game on Friday in Vancouver, taking on the Giants. There is some hope that they will get some of their players back from NHL training camps this week, but we shall see.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Red Deer 4 @Calgary 1:
The Rebels bounced back from their opening night loss with '96 born Evan Polei's 2 goals.
-Edmonton 4 vs. Kootenay 2:
The Oil Kings unveiled their many banners and were aided by 17 year old Andrew Koep's 2 goals to get the win.
-Swift Current 5 @Moose Jaw 2:
One night after scoring a hat trick, Jat Merkley had 2 goals, giving him 5 in only 2 nights as the Broncos won their weekend set.
-Brandon 6 @Regina 1:
The Wheaties took down their rivals 2 nights in a row and got a natural hat trick from draft eligible Jesse Gabrielle.
 -Prince Albert 3 @Saskatoon 1:
P.A. swept the 2 games and out shot Saskatoon 44-25 and 30-21 in the 2 games.
-Medicine Hat 5 vs. Lethbridge 1:
Could be a long season for the 'Canes and they were not helped on this night by 2 different checking to the head majors by one of their better forwards: Tyler Wong. He was tossed from the game and will most likely face league discipline.
-Vancouver 3 vs. Victoria 1:
Victoria only had 2 shots in the 3rd period and was out shot 45-12 on the night.
-Kelowna 6 vs. Kamloops 1:
Kris Schmindli and Tyson Baillie both had 3 points apiece as the Rockets opened the season in fashion.
-Everett 1 @Seattle 0:
One night after spoing the Hawk's home opener, Seattle was shut out by Everett's 16 year old rookie Carter Hart.
-Spokane 4 @Tri City 2:
Garret Hughson stopped 33 of 35 to spol the American's home opener.

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