Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Victoria @Portland 11/25/14 Preview

Victoria (14-11-2-0, 30 pts, 2nd in B.C. @Portland (11-12-0-3, 25 pts, 4th in U.S.)
The Victoria Royals make their first appearance in Portland since the Winterhawks ousted them in the 2nd round of the WHL playoffs last season, ending their season. Portland is coming into the game having won 2 games in a row over the team with the best record in all of the WHL, while Victoria shut down both the Everett Silvertips and Regina Pats over the weekend at home.

When these two teams faced each other last this season, Portland was 1-5-0-1 and Victoria was 1-4-1-0. Both teams were not playing anywhere near expected to this season because of various reasons. Both teams have now finally gotten things going and are once again looking like top 4 teams in the Western Conference. 

The Royals and the Hawks both play 3 games in 5 nights starting tonight in important stretches as we approach the 30 game mark and inch closer to the trade deadline. All 3 of Victoria's games this week are on the road, while 2 of Portland's 3 are at home in Veteran's Memorial Coliseum. Both the Royals and the Hawks are itching to start rolling here at this point and tonight is big for both squads.

Season Series:
-Monday 10/6/14: Victoria 6 vs. Portland 2
Portland had just gotten most of their core pieces back in the lineup and was coming off of their first win of the season. Victoria, however, rode a passionate crowd inspired by what they view as a huge rivalry and jumped out to a 5-0 two period lead behind 1 goal and 2 assists from Austin Carroll (as well as an un-penalized head shot on Alex Schoenborn), before coasting to a 6-2 victory and in some way exercising some personal demons.

-Missing from the lineup are 16 year old forward Dante Hannoun (upper body; 1 week) and 17 year old Goalie Evan Smith, as well as, over-age RW Brandon Magee who is serving the 3rd game of a 5 game suspension for a spearing major against Kelowna last week. Magee was sure to receive his fair share of boos in Portland tonight, had he played, as he is is the player who cross checked Nic Petan in the throat near the end of the final game of the playoff series. Recently traded away from the Royals is big 19 year old D-man Keegan Kanzig and 17 year old depth forward Matthew Campese.

-Alas the nameless Portland injury list only lasted one week as Paul Bittner is listed out with a lower body injury. The time table is listed on the WHL website as "TBD," so my guess is they are waiting for some sort of doctor diagnosis.

Players to Watch:
-#17 Tyler Soy:
Soy was listed as a "C" skater by Central Scouting for the 2015 NHL draft and has shown potential this season, but sadly it has been up and down as far as factoring on the score sheet. Soy, recently has been centering the Royal's top line with over-age power forward Austin Carroll and 18 year old, former D-man Jack Walker to great success. In the last 4 games, the trio has combined for 12 points and has seemingly found some chemistry. The 3 are very different players form one another and compliment each other in a lot of ways. In my opinion, if Victoria is to go far this season, they need Soy and #2 Center (17 year old) Regan Nagy to take large strides forwards in their games.

-#15 Greg Chase:
Chase was coming off of a season, where he had 85 points in in 70 games, was signed by the team that drafted him (Edmonton Oilers) and seemed like a surefire pick for Team Canada for the World Juniors. Somewhere along the way, he became displeased with the Calgary Hitmen (or the Oilers didn't want him playing Calgary if you believe some conspiracy theorists) and he ended up demanding a trade. Royal's General Manager Cam Hope was obviously very interested in adding some more offense to his team in hopes to keep up with the explosive Kelowna Rockets and he pulled the trigger, bringing in the 19 year old, very talented Chase. So far, Chase has played with Nagy and, fellow NHL signed Axel Blomqvist and has 1 assist in 2 games this weekend. If he wants Team Canada to ignore the drama and add him to the team, he needs to get his season on track. With someone as talented as Chase, it's only a matter of time.

-#30 Jayden Sittler:
With 6'6" backup Goalie Evan Smith going out with an injury, the Royals made an under the radar move a few weeks ago and added an 18 year old Goalie that was toiling in the AJHL for the Ft. McMurray Oil Barons, buried on the Kootenay Ice's depth chart. Sittler served as a backup for Coleman Vollrath for the first couple weeks, before his 2nd start of the season last Friday vs. Everett, when he stopped 24 of 25 shots en route to his 2nd career WHL win. He followed that up with a 33 save shut out (his first in the WHL) in a 5-0 win over Regina the next night. Sittler, most likely will get the start tongith as the Royals hope to ride the hot goaltender.

-#12 Miles Koules:
The over-age winger had the timeliest of goals last Saturday when it seemed inevitable that Kelowna was going to come back from a 3-0 deficit and tie the game. Koules is fantastic at creating himself enough space and finding a shooting lane. He has seemingly found magic with Dominic Turgeon and Ethan Price after struggling with his "demotion" down the 3rd line in previous games. Though the Hawks have a lot of playoff experience, his play out there seems to calm them down when they most need it.

-#44 Keoni Texeira:
Texeira has not moved up in the CSS 2015 NHL draft rankings, like a lot of fans have expected him to yet, though he has found great chemistry with 19 year old Blake Heinrich and has even matched his goal output his 2013/14 goal output these past couple of weeks. The confidence is starting to shine through and has learns how to pick his spots to rush up the ice and when to pinch, he has the makings to fully realize the talent that he has shown flashes of. There are times this season, when  Texeira has been completely out of place or not played a 2 on 1 well and I think this has caused him to play more conservatively. Now that the defensive side seems to start getting into shape, I think the offense will start o come.

-#13 Keegan Iverson
Some consistency offensively is needed in Iverson's game as he only has 9 points on the season so far. He has played on countless different lines, but has yet to really get it going point-wise. If he is to play on the second line with Chase De Leo and the suddenly offensively explosive Alex Schoenborn, he needs to do more then throw his body around start to put the puck on net. Iverson has a great wrist shot and moves faster then he is given credit for on the ice, but the points need to start coming more often.

Game Outlook:
-The last game before the Thanksgiving break is usually a pretty good marker for whether or not to start becoming a buyer or a seller at the trade deadline. While, neither of theses team looks like they are going to be sellers, neither has consistently shown that they belong to be considered Western Conference Title contenders along with Kelowna. If you're the Hawks, you need to take advantage of the Royals being without their best scorer and play the type of game that you played last Friday in Kelowna. That is, winning the board battles and controlling the puck in the other team's zone long enough to create scoring chances and the other team to exhausted to get mcuh going the other way. Defensively, the Royals are missing a very big piece in Kanzig and the Hawks should heave more time and space in scoring areas. For Victoria, Ryan Gagnon, Joe Hicketts and Travis Brown will be relied upon heavily against the like sof Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan and Chae De Leo. Whether or not they are able to step up defensively against the Hawks players, willprobably spell who wins this game.

Adin Hill gets the start in net for Portland. He earned it after a great weekend in the Okanogan against a very offensively gifted team. This is only Hill's 3rd start of the season as he has battled injury problems. His hot play is probably just an excuse for the Hawks to get him some more games to make up for those he missed starting due to injuries.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Portland Comes Back from 3 Down; Wins in OT 4-3 Over Kelowna

Portland 4 @Kelowna 3(OT)

The Portland Winterhawks were trailing 3-0 after the first period and were written off by just about everybody, despite out shooting the Rockets 14-12. The game aired on Sportsnet in Canada and the NHL Network in the U.S. and seemed like a public embarrassment. Likely the national pundits forgot that this is the same franchise that was down 3 goals wit their season on the line in Edmonton during Game 6 last May. Again the Hawks just willed themselves to out shoot the Rockets 52-26 en route to a 4-3 OT win on Friday night.

The scoring was opened 5:12 into the game when Rourke Chartier and Tyrell Goubourne found some space in a 2 on 2 vs. Anton Cederholm and Layne Viveiros. Chartier put a great pass on Goubourne's stick and goalie Brendan Burke could not get over in time so it was 1-0 Kelowna. The goal was Goulbourne's 11th of the year and 7th in the month of November. Portland seemed to respond well after this but could not solve Whistle. On the other end Jesse Lees got the puck on net and Burke appeared to have it covered. No whistle was sounded though and neither Cederholm, nor Viveiros could tie up Jesse Lees' stick. After several whacks at it, Lees pushed both Burke's left pad and the puck over the goal line for the 2-0 Rockets lead. The goal was Lees' 3rd in 2 games and 6th on the season. Kelowna was not done yet, however and after a play along the boards left both Brendan De Jong and Alex Schoenborn napping; Kris Schmidli was found in the slot and wristed it past Burke. The goal was the Swiss imports 3rd goal in 5 games and 5th on the season.


Portland's starting goalie Burke was yanked and replaced with Adin Hill prior to the start of the 2nd period. Burke left making 9 saves on 12 shots. Brendan was visibly upset with the call on the second Rocket's goal and upset with himself on their 3rd one. This would be Hill's 5th appearance on the season. The move was more in a response to the team's sloppy defensive play over the period then it was about Burke and the message was received. Portland received 3 straight power plays over the first 7+ minutes of the 2nd and made good on one of them when Alex Schoenborn got to a puck in behind the net and found Chase De Leo in the slot. Chase fired it home for his 3rd power play goal of the season. Then after Keegan Iverson made a solid play along the boards in his own zone, he was tripped and earned a power play with under 2 minutes to go in the period. Portland converted on the man advantage when an Oliver Bjorkstrand point shot was saved up into the air and was batted in by Schoenborn. It was Schoenborn's 1st power play goal of the year and his first since 10/12/13 vs. Kamloops. Portland out shot Kelowna 21-8 in the 2nd period.

Play continued to go Portland's way in the 3rd and it appeared that it was not if but when would Portland get their 3rd goal. Chase De Leo was the man who would knot it up as Whistle's pass to Madison Bowey behind the net ended up on Miles Koules' stick. He then found De Leo rushing into the zone and De Leo beat Whistle to tie the score. It was his 2nd of the game and his first multi-goal game since he had 2 in Brandon on 10/18. After Viveiros put the puck out of play and received a delay of game penalty, Kelowna put on some pressure on Adin Hill but could not solve him, forcing over time.

De Leo

In the over time session, Schoenborn and De Leo broke in on a 2 on 1 rush and Alex put in past Whsitle for his second over time winner of the year,

Whistle stopped 48 of 52 shots, while Hill got his first win of the year; stopping all 14 shots he faced.

Portland's power play went 2/6 on the night and Kelowna's top ranked PP went 0/5.

Game Notes:
-Heinrich was Portland's best D-man all night. He consistently took his man off the puck; even when it was Chartier or Nick Merkley. He also was leaned on heavily late for 2 important penalty kills. He even provided a couple blocked shots when they were needed most.
-Hill will most likely get the start tomorrow as Burke again struggled playing vs. Kelowna. It was his first game vs the Rockets since being pulled during their series with them last year.
-Ethan Price showed some incredible speed by beating Riley Stadel to a loose puck and getting a backhand shot on net.
-The Hawks did a great job of simplifying their game and not forcing the long home run passes, leading to controlled break outs and gradually wearing down the under-manned Rockets.
-Kelowna only played 10 forwards due to injury and a 1 game suspension for Rodney Southam. During the game, they were also afflicted by a 10 minute misconduct penalty to Colten Heffley and a short term injury to Tomas Soustal.
-Portland also suffered an injury on the night when Paul Bittner got his leg trapped underneath Cole Martin. He immediatelt could not put much pressure on it and slowly skated off the ice. He did not return and from seeing previous plays like this, my immediate assumption is a high ankle sprain and 6-8 weeks of recovery. Obviously this is without any inside knowledge of the state of his ankle/knee.
-Portland adjusted their lines prior to the game playing Miles Koules and Chase De Leo apart for the first time, since De Leo was moved off of the top line several weeks ago. There is obvious chemistry between De Leo and Schoenborn; as well as, Keegan Iverson. I would look for them to stay together for the time being.
-Portland's top line somehow did not find the net during 5 on 5 play, but had numerous chances that they somehow could not get past Whistle.
-This was the 2nd time Portland has beaten the Rockets on over-time this season with Bittner winning the 2nd game between the 2 back on November 1st.
-Portland is now 4-0 in OT and 0-3 in the shoot out on the season.
-The loss was Kelowna's first at home all year, snapping a 9 game home winning streak.
-The Rockets did keep their streak of getting at least a point going, for now 14 straight games.
-So far, their only home regulation loss is to Tri City 5-2 back on 10/18.
-Tyson Predinchuk joined the top line with Oliver Bjorkstrand and Petan to middling success. He had a great first 2 shifts, but seemed to struggle with the speed the two play at after that. I would assume he will be given another chance tomorrow night to play with the two.
-Nick Merkley again struggled (as much as he can) against the Hawks. He had 1 assist on the game, for 2 in 3 games against Portland. Considering he had 4pts in only 2 games last season vs. Portland in his 16 year old season; this is a drop off. Also, if you factor in that he is scoring at 1.86 points per game; he has not done nearly as well vs. Portland.


3 Stars:
#3 Jackson Whistle:
-A superb performance yet again by the Kelowna native. Coming into the game he was 2nd in GAA and 3rd in Save % and lived up to the billing. Two different times, he made highlight reel saves even without his stick. He is now 1-3 in OT. The most saves he had made in a game prior to this one was 12 less than his 48.

#2 Chase De Leo:
-De Leo has struggled recently and was looking to break out of this mini-slump right away. He had 3-4 shots in the first period alone and looked to get it on net any chance he got. He finished with 2 goals on the night.

#1 Alex Schoenborn:
-He doesn't always score goals, but when he does they are game winners. Schoenborn continued his impressive play after returning from his 4 game suspension. He now has 8 points in 6 games since coming back.

2 Teams Get Back At It:
-Tomorrow night with a 7pm face off ; the Hawks and Rockets play again. Portland is now 2-1 vs Kelowna. The win gets Portland back to within 2 games of .500 and with Seattle's loss, vaunts them into a tie with Spokane for 23 points and 3rd in the U.S. Division. If the playoffs started today the Hawks would play Kelowna in the 1st round.

Portland @ Kelowna 11/21/14 Preview

Portland (9-12-0-3, 21 pts, Tied for 3rd in U.S.) @Kelowna (21-1-2-0, 44 pts, 1st in B.C.)
In a game that will be aired on Sportsnet in Canada and NHL Network in the United States, two star laden tams face off in the first of back to back games in the Okanogan. Kelowna has managed to only lose 1 game in regulation, despite losing as many as 6 players at one time to injury. They are coming off getting 3 points out of a possible 4 in back to back games in Victoria on Tuesday and Wednesday. Kelowna has done this by scoring a WHL leading 118 goals, while giving up a 3rd in the WHL 56 goals. Portland hopes to steal a couple games this weekend from a team that is playing their 5th game in 8 days tonight and 6th in 9 tomorrow.

Season Series:
-10/30/14: Kelowna 5 @Portland 0:
Portland jumped on the Rockets for 15 shots in the first period, but were held goal-less by Kelowna goalie Jackson Whistle. They gradually took the game over and were led by 3 points apiece form Austin Glover and Justin Kirkland.
-11/2/14: Portland 3 @Kelowna 2(OT):
Paul Bittner put together one of his best shifts of the season, dominating possession in the Rockets zone in over-time and finding his own rebound to provide the heroics.

Series Point Leaders Through 2 Games:
1)Rourke Chartier 3 (1 Goal, 2 Assists)
1)Justin Kirkland 3 (1 Goal, 2 Assists)
1)Austin Glover 3 (3 Assists)
4)Madison Bowey 1 (2 Assists)

1)7 players all have just 1 point.

-16 year old forward Dillon Dube and 6th leading scorer Austin Glover are listed as out for 1-2 weeks. 5th leading scorer Justin Kirkland should be out 1-3 weeks. D-man Dalton Yorke is expected to be out 3-5 weeks and D-man Mitchell Wheaton and forward Tanner Wishnowski are out indefinitely. Rodney Southam, who was recently acquired form Tri City, due to injuries was suspended for 1 game due to earning his 3rd Game Misconduct of the season in Wednesday's game @Victoria.

-Should be 100% healthy. Dominic Turgeon took a puck off his jaw Wednesday  @ Kamloops, but continued to play in the game.

Players to Watch:
-#10 C Nick Merkley:
Merkley somehow only has 1 point so far against the Hawks. This despite the fact that he leads the WHL with 42 points in just 24 games. He has found magic with line-mates Tyrell Goubourne and Rourke Chartier this season en route to tearing the league up offensively. These 3 seem to know where the others are on the ice and can make a defense get caught puck watching, while one of them gets to a prime shooting lane and capitalizes. Merkely will be highlighted most of the night as he and Paul Bittner are  both "A" rated 2015 NHL draft prospects and will get a chance to show their wares in front of Bi-National T.V. audiences.

-#2 D/LW Jesse Lees:
The latest in a recent line of successful transitions from Defense to Forward for the Rockets. Lees has a very quick release and finally looks comfortable enough to shoot at will. He has found recent success as he has 10 points in his last 5 games. He has played really well with Tyson Baillie and Tomas Soustal, giving the Rockets some scoring support, despite the injuries.

-#4 D Madison Bowey:
Has been forced into carrying a large amount of the load defensively recently with the injuries to Wheaton and Yorke, but has still found a way to contribute offensively with 28 points in 21 games so far this season. They have tried to manage his minutes but if either of these games continues to be close look for him to be forced into logging a lot of minutes.

-#27 RW Oliver Borkstrand:
8 points in his last 4 games but has left a lot more points on the ice. He missed a wide open net and struck a cross bar on two great chances in Kamloops. If Portland is to steal some important points this weekend, they will need some scoring from their Danish sniper. The chemistry finally seems to be there with linemates Paul Bittner and Nic Petan but they have not proven this enough on the scoresheet yet.

-#23 C Dominic Turgeon:
Only 2 assists over the last 4 games, he needs to be more consistent for the Hawks. Recently he has been lined up with Alex Schoenborn and Keegan Iverson and has gotten matched up with the other team's top line a lot. If this line can outplay the other team's top line or at least make it difficult to come out of their own zone, the Hawks will most likely win. The lack of consistent play among this group has been a big issue this season.

-#2 D Anton Cederholm:
Quietly does  a lot for the Winterhawks back-end and seemed to make a concerted effort early in the season to get pucks on net and/or carry the puck into the zone. Whether it has been the coaching staff's decision or his, he has not really stuck with that as the season has gone. He has been paired often with Layne Viveiros and seems to not want to jump up into the play. Whether this is because of a lack of confidence in Viveiros or not I don't know. As a leader on this defense, they really need him to start forcing the play more. Also, in his own zone, recently his positioning has not been the greatest. He seems like he relies upon his strength to reach out and separate the other tem's forwards from the puck, rather then concentrating on his skating and separating without having to do this.

Game Outlook:
-Portland can make a loud statement with a win on the road against the #1 team in the CHL. If there was ever a time to beat this team, it is now as they are depleted due to injuries and have played a lot of close hockey games recently, requiring their stars to play a ton. If Portland can play a solid team defensive effort tonight, they can wear down a Rockets team that is without some of their larger bodies. Portland's D-men need to do a much better job of covering Kelowna forwards in their own zone rather then just sit back and watch the play, thinking their positioning is perfect, when it really is not.

Something Portland did well in their blowout win over Everett last Sunday but did not do on Wednesday was puck support. Too many times a Blazers won 50:50 puck battles along the boards and created scoring chances. It should be easier for Portland to win these battles tonight playing a team that is only playing 10 forwards.

Winning the penalty battle (drawing more then you take) will also be key as Kelowna has the #1 Power Play in the WHL at 31.7%.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Blazers Take Down Hawks 4-1

Kamloops 4 vs. Portland 1
In a strange game on Wednesday night, the Kamloops Blazers snapped their 7 game losing streak, riding 41 saves by Connor Ingram to beat Portland 4-1.


In the first period, Portland really struggled in their own zone, both winning battles along the boards and turning the puck over at an atrocious rate. The Blazers opened the scoring when Keoni Texeira had the puck poked off his stick from behind by Matt Needham and right onto the stick of Cole Ully in the slot. Brendan Burke did not go out to challenge the shot and Ully picked his blocker side corner for his 10th goal of the season and his first since October 22nd. Then at the end of the period both Alex Schoenborn and Miles Koules took penalties leading to a 1:01 of 5 on 3 play for Kamloops to open the 2nd period.

Just 16 seconds into the period, D-man Michael Fora hit Mike Winther with a nice drop pass on the rush and Winther sniped it over Burke's shoulder. It was Winther's 2nd goal in as many games. The first pass out of the zone continued to be a problem for the Hawks and Brendan Burke was forced to come up big multiple times off of terrible turnovers in the zone. Kamloops jumped out to a 3-0 lead when they when they won another boards battle and Logan McVeigh found Luke Harrison in the slot for his 3rd goal of the year. Portland cut into the lead on a delayed penalty when Oliver Bjorkstrand found Keoni Texeira at the blue line. He wristed it past Ingram for his 2nd goal of the season and 2nd in 3 games.

Then in the 3rd period with Portland controlling almost all of the zone play, Collin Shirley's shot went well wide of the Portland net but bounced off the boards right onto 16 year Jake Kryski's stick. Kryski put it into the gaping net for his 7th of the year. Portland had 6 on 4 play for an extended period near the end of the game but could not beat the stalwart 17 year old Ingram, losing in regulation for the first time in 5 games.


Connor Ingram made 41 saves on 42 shots, including 15 of 16 in the 2nd and all 16 in the 3rd. Burke made 29 saves on 33 shots on the other end of the ice.

Portland's power play went 0/3 on the power play, though one of those was a very short one at the end of 4 on 4 play. Kamloops was 1/5 on their power plays.

 Game Notes:
-Portland's defensemen and forwards played one of their worst defensive games since much earlier in the season. There were just way too many passes out across the middle of their own zone, some of which were blind passes. I don't know whether it's laziness or something else, but at times Portland tries to make the long first pass to start an odd man rush, rather then make the safe play up the boards. Recently, a lot of their success has come directly from controlling play out of their zone instead of making the risky home run pass. Coach Jamie Kompon needs to nail this home or these costly turnovers will keep leading to prime scoring chances.
-On the Blazer's 3rd goal, Josh Hanson was caught in no man's land as Harrison was allowed a prime lane to shoot from. A 20 year old D-man needs to get out and challenge that shot. Also, Hanson's game seems to have gotten worse as the season has gone on, not better. He seems almost frightened when an opponent is about to hit him in his own zone and he forces a bad pass. This is one reason, probably that he has been healthy scratch from some games recently. I would not be surprised of Nick Heid sees the ice on Friday instead of Hanson.
-Talking about not challenging shots, Brendan Burke needs to be more aggressive when a player is shooting from the slot like Ully and Harrison were. He is 6'4" and could take away a lot more of the net if he went at the player more.
-How Portland's top line only came away with one goal in this game, I will never understand. They were clicking on all cylinders and controlled the zone play on nearly every shift. Bjorkstrand hit the cross bar on a 3 on 1 rush and then a wide open net as well. Nic Petan was consistently the most dangerous player on the ice and was creating at all times. He is finally starting to consistently show the talent that we all know he has.
-Schoenborn's penalty late in the first is exactly the kid of play that got him in the coach's dog house earlier in the season and again led to a goal for the other team.
-Portland's 4th line of Ethan Price, Alex Overhardt and Skyler McKenzie did not have the same jump that the same unit (except for Predinchuk in place of Overhardt) did on Sunday vs. Everett. On most shifts, they struggled just getting it out of their own zone.
-Matt Needham did exactly what I wanted Bjorkstrand, Petan and Chase De Leo to do and that's draw penalties. By my count he drew at least 2 of the 5 Portland penalties and was tough for the Portland defense to handle all night.
-De Leo had one of his worst games of the season, as he was not as explosive and creating as he has been all season. His line (with Koules and Evan Weinger) could not get the puck going towards the Blazer's net.
-I had a real issue with the charging call on Koules to end the 2nd period, not because it wasn't  a penalty, but because Mike Winther slashed him very hard directly afterwards. The correct call, in my opinion was to match the 2 up, instead of just calling one and giving Kamloops the 2 man advantage.

3 Stars:
#3: Nic Petan
-Held off the score sheet, even though he was the flashiest player all game. Kamloops could not get the puck off of his stick. If he does this again this weekend, there is no chance he does not get at least one point.

#2: Matt Needham
-1 assist on the night for Needham, but he was the player that kept this team ticking all night. His line was one of the only ones for Kamloops that consistently held the puck in the Portland zone. His play on the fore-check was also a difference maker.

#1: Connor Ingram
-First 40+ save game for Ingram this year and a few were very pretty ones. He earned his 3rd win of the season and his first since October 25th. During the 5 games in between that he played in, 2 of his losses were in the shoot out. Right now anyways, he has the #1 spot in Kamloops over fellow 17 year old Cole Kehler.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Swift Current 5 vs. Brandon 0
Landon Bow got his 5th shut out of the season, making 25 saves. It was the first time the high scoring Wheat Kings have been held goal-less all season.
-Edmonton 3 @ Moose Jaw 2 (OT)
One night after Connor Gay provided the heroics against the Oil Kings, Brett Pollock did so for the defending champs, with only 46 seconds left in OT.
-Prince George 6 vs. Vancouver 1
The night after they lost in a really tough way, the Cougars rode 2 goals apiece from Chase Witala and Cal Babych for the lop sided win.
-Kelowna 5 @ Victoria 3
In a game that got ugly near the end, the Rockets got back on the winning track, led by 2 goals and 1 assist from Jesse Lees.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Portland @ Kamloops Preview 11/19

Portland 9-11-0-3, 21 pts (Tied for 3rd in U.S.) @ Kamloops 9-10-2-2, 22 pts (Tied 3rd in B.C.) 
-Portland heads into a 3 game B.C. Division road trip; starting up in Kamloops who has lost 7 straight hockey games after a fast start to the season. Portland, on the other end has won 4 of their last 6 and is coming off of scoring 7 goals against Everett on Sunday.
-Injuries, illness and lack of power play scoring has plagued Kamloops during this 7 game losing streak and they are looking for something to turn around at home tonight.

Season Series:
-Saturday 11/8/14: Portland 4 vs. Kamloops 3(OT)


Portland's top power play unit made good on opportunities late in the 1st and 2nd periods to come back from two different 1 goal deficits. Then Nic Petan converted in OT off a feed from Oliver Bjorkstrand for the win.

-Brady Gaudet has been out since November 7th (missing 3 games) with an upper body injury. He is still listed as "day to day." Also Chase Souto is still listed on their roster but has not played yet this season and has been fighting post concussion syndrome down in his home in California. Portland is currently 100% healthy (knock on wood) and will be icing a complete lineup in Kamloops.

Players to Watch:
-#11 LW Matthew Campese
The 1997 born Campese was recently acquired from Victoria along with a 2016 5th round Bantam Pick for a 3rd round 2015 Bantam Pick. Scoring depth has been an issue all season long for Kamloops, even when their top line was firing on all cylinders, so they needed another, older forward. Campese has gotten into 14 games for Victoria, playing mostly in a 4th line role; scoring 2 goals and 0 assists in those games. The Blazers have 3 other 1997 born players on the roster, so this seems like a move to take a chance on a guy developing in your system, where he hasn't yet down elsewhere with limited playing time.


-#21 LW Cole Ully
On October 25th, Ully had 6 goals and 13 assists for 19 points and was among the WHL leaders. He then battled an illness and missed 3 games. Ully rode his hot start in getting named to Team WHL and played in the Subway Super Series vs. Team Russia as a late add. He scored 2 points in his 2 games (playing alongside Nic Petan) and firmly placed himself as a dark horse to make Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. Since returning to the lineup though, Ully only has 2 assists in 4 games and has been held off of the score sheet in the last 2 games. He is the power play quarterback and has to take a lot of the blame for their recent power play woes. Simply said to get back on the winning streak the Blazers need Ully to get going.

-##24 D Ryan Rehill
The 2014 5th round New Jersey Devils draft pick has been forced into a much larger role this season, especially since Gaudet went down. In their 7 game losing streak, he has 2 assists and is a minus 1. More importantly though, considering what has caused them to struggle, he has 19 penalty minutes and has placed them on the penalty kill way too much. When your top P.K. D-man is the one placing you on the kill it is going to affect your kill and it has. During their skid he has committed penalties (leading to power plays) that led to the other team scoring 3 different power play goals. He needs to stay out of the box of Kamloops hopes to right this ship.

-#3 RW Ethan Price
Price got into the top 9 forwards by improving many aspects of his play. He had 3 of his 4 points during the season during this recent stretch. Last Sunday though, he was moved off the line with Miles Koules and Chase De Leo and down to the 4th line with Skyler McKenzie and Tyson Predinchuk. Price did not seem to sulk after his demotion and was a part of a 4th line that played a great game and created many scoring chances in their limited (early in the game) time. If he keeps his solid play up, the Hawks will be forced to find more ice time for him.


-#13 C Keegan Iverson
Iverson only has 8 points on the season, but 3 in his last 4 games, including his first multi-point of the season vs. Everett on Sunday. During that game, he played on a line with Alex Schoenborn and Dominic Turgeon and they combined for 5 points. Portland has expected that this line would have built off the chemistry they built while playing together last season, but this really had not happened prior to the Everett game. These 3 are such a load to play against and they need to step up in order for Portland to have many more games like the one last Sunday.

-#21 D Brendan De Jong
I don't know, at this point of he gets into tonight's game but it does appear that he is the favorite among the coaching staff. He split time with Nick Heid, Josh Hanson and (before he was sent down) Carter Czaikowski in the early part of the season, but has gotten into 4 straight games now for the Hawks and has improved greatly. While I have said time and again that I think the 1 year older Heid should get more ice time, I cannot argue that De Jong's mistakes have decreased greatly and his shot from the point is getting more accurate. Watching this guy improve over the next couple of seasons will certainly be a joy and it speaks to how Assistant Coach Kyle Gustavson and Head Coach Jamie Kompon have developed him so far.

Outlook Tonight:
-Kamloops finally scored on a power play in their last game, last Saturday in Everett. They had gone goal less in 25 straight power plays prior to that goal. During their last7 games, they have given up multi-power play goal nights to opponents 3 different times. As I mentioned earlier, they are taking way too many penalties defensively and have been paying the price. This could be one reason, why they have lost all 7 games, despite out shooting opponents in all but one of these games.

The Blazers have also not gotten consistent goaltending from their 1997 born tandem of Cole Kehler and Connor Ingram. They seem to just be going with the hot hand so far and have not named one of them the #1 goalie yet.

Portland meanwhile need to take advantage of getting 2 points in game against a reeling team. Oliver Bjorkstrand, Nic Petan and Chase De Leo drew some penalties against Kamloops' defense by carrying the puck in the opponent's zone and along the boards. They need to continue to do this and convert the chances they are given.

Portland's draft eligible players will get a large stage tonight with the game being aired on Shaw TV in Canada. A great game by Bittner, Keoni Texeira or Evan Weinger will certainly go a long way into getting them some more attention from scouts.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Brandon @Swift Current
A large East Division match up against the top 2 teams in the division. The Broncos are currently 7 points back and need this win.
-Edmonton @Moose Jaw
Connor Gay scored a highlight reel for Regina last night; handing the Oil Kings a tough loss. Edmonton hopes to respond against a team that has only; won 3 of their last 10 games.
-Medicine Hat @Kootenay
Sam Reinhart has helped the Ice win 5 straight games and is making it tough for the Ice management to trade him during what was looking like a rebuilding year.
-Vancouver @Prince George
The Cougars were given a gut punch of a loss last night in the first of 2 at home vs. Vancouver. They tied the game late and immediately gave up the winner with under a minute to go; robbing them of at least 1 point.
-Kelowna @Victoria
The Rockets 7 game win streak was snapped last night, when Axel Blomqvist sniped one home in the over-time session. The Rockets are looking to get revenge tonight in the second in 2 nights in Victoria.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Everett and Portland Split 2 Games on the Weekend

The Everett Silvertips and the Portland Winterhawks on opposite ends of the U.S. Division standings played one game in Everett on Friday and one in Portland on Sunday, splitting the two.

The games could not have played out differently as Everett came back from a 3-1 deficit to win 4-3 in a shoot out up in Everett and Portland scored 7 unanswered goals en route to a 7-1 shellacking in Portland on Sunday.

Friday 11/14: Portland 3 @Everett 4 (SO)
Keoni Texeira opened the scoring for Portland just 1:11 into the game as a he wristed a point shot that ended up down in the lower right corner of the net. It was Texeira's first goal of the season and his first since Game 6 of the WHL Final against Edmonton. Portland dominated play in the period launching 12 shots on Everett goalie Carter Hart, while the Tips got only 5 on Brendan Burke.


Former Winterhawk Brayden Low answered back for the Tips off a great pass from Carson Stadnyk on a 3 on 2 rush against the flow of play 1:39 into the 2nd. Just over a minute later Tristen Pfeifer was whistled for slashing and Portland's power play and Chase De Leo gave the Hawks back the lead, deflecting home a Layne Viveiros point shot for his 12th of the season. Paul Bittner then gave the Hawks a 2 goal lead and it looked like the Hawks might be running away with it. Then Everett scored 2 straight goals; both times capitalizing on tired Portland units that could not get the puck out of the zone. First Noah Juulsen fired home a shot form the point, then Ivan Nikolishin beat Burke from the slot to tie it up.

The Hawks did a great job in the 3rd period at keeping Everett to only 4 shots and probably only one solid scoring chance, while getting 9 of their own, but Carter Hart made several impressive saves to force over time.

The over time didn't have many good coring opportunities and the Hawks went to their 3rd shoot out of the year and the first that was not against Seattle. Just like in their first 2 shoot outs though, the Hawks fell after Dominic Turgeon and Nic Petan could not beat Hart and Burke was beat by Nikolishin and Graham Millar.

Portland was 1/4 on the power play, while Everett was 0/2. This was the first of the 5 match ups this season, that Everett had more penalties called against them then Portland.

Burke stopped 22 of 25 pucks on net, while Hart stopped 29 of 32.

Game Notes:
-Yet another disappointing loss for the Hawks this year as they are now 4-5 in 1 goal games. They are 0-3 in shoot outs. Last season they started 0-3 in shoot outs before winning their final 3 to finish at .500 on the season.
-Interesting in the 2nd period when the goal judge behind the Portland net, could not get his light to work after the Low goal. This light did not go off after the Nikolishin goal wither, but they waited until the start of the 3rd period before any repairs were made. You would think that the instant the light wouldn't go off, the goal judge would have made the referees aware, but this was not the case.
-Low, Kevin Davis, Patrick Bajkov and Stadnyk continue to impress me this season. Nikita Scherbak did not have a great game and they just found a way for their other lines to create scoring chances and come back from a 2 goal deficit. The 2nd line actually factored in on all 3 goals for Everett, while Portland spread theirs across 2 different lines and one power play unit.
-Miles Koules got into his first fight with the Winterhawks after his check in the 2nd period did not sit right with Carter Cochrane who instigated the fight. I don't know how Cochrane didn't get an instigator on the fight as he came from a good distance away to start the fight with Koules.
-Petan was stopped in the shoot out for the 2nd time in 1 week, as he also failed to scored for Team WHL vs. Russia on Monday.
-Portland's poor line changes in the 2nd when they have the long change really was poor this night. There were a couple moments when Portland's forwards could have changed but chose to take it into the zone instead, leading to them being gassed in their own zone and failing to get out and close shooting lanes. This has to be improved.
3 Stars:
#3: Brayden Low:
-Low is a legitimate top 6 forward for Everett and this is a far cry from what I thought of him last year. He had 1 goal and 1 assist on the night and did not appear to have a single bad shift for the Tips.
#2: Oliver Bjorkstrand:
-2 assists for the Hawks and could easily have had 3-4 more points. 2nd straight 2 assist night for Oliver after playing one of his worst games of the year against Red Deer. He is looking to create more for the Hawks and this should set up his insanely hard wrist shot even more.
#1: Ivan Nikolishin:
-1 goal and 2 assists and a shoot out snipe for Russian. He was pretty mediocre for Russia in the game he played vs. Team WHL on Monday and no doubt wanted to change some opinions of him in this one. Easily the most dangerous Silvertip all night.

Sunday 11/16: Everett 1 @Portland 7:
This night it was Everett who opened the scoring when a Nikita Scherbak shot ended up right on Kohl Bauml's stick and he banged it home into an empty net 6:05 into the game. It as Bauml's 8th of the season and 3rd against Portland this year. Then after a great shift by the Hawks 4th line earned a penalty on Everett D-man Kevin Davis, Nic Petan scored off a great cross-ice feed from Oliver Bjorkstrand on the ensuing power play to tie it up. Petan later scored his 2nd of the game, finding a rebound off a Paul Bittner shot and using his backhand to get it past Austin Lotz for the lead. Everett Coach Kevin Constantine was then ejected from the game after he refused to send out his players and was giving the referees ironic applause. This was all presumably in response to a hit that Alex Schoenborn laid on Ivan Nikolishin along the far blue line that left him slow to get up. No call was made on the play and the ensuing scrum led to a 4 on 4 that Portland's goal came on. Constantine was also called for a delay of game minor penalty and Oliver Bjorkstrand score on the power play to give the Hawks a 3-1 first period lead.

Portland kept it up this time after getting the 2 goal lead as the Hawks 2nd power play unit converted when Blake Heinrich picked up the rebound of a Miles Koules shot to score his first career WHL goal. Then after a nice penalty killing shift, Miles Koules found some space and sniped it past Lotz for the 5-1 lead. Portland made it a touchdown in the game when Anton Cederholm made an impressive play keeping it in the Everett zone, leading to a 2 on 1 rush and a Schoenborn rebound goal.

Austin Lotz was pulled going into the 3rd period, in favor of Carter Hart. He made 24 saves on 30 shots. Schoenborn closed out the scoring took a fantastic drop pass feed from Dominic Turgeon and beat Hart for his 5th on the season and 2nd in the game. Both Schoenborn and Petan had great chances at the hat trick but could not convert, but Portland held on for the 7-1 win.

Portland and Brendan Burke beat Everett for the first time in regulation this season as he stopped 19 of 20 on the night. Hart came in and made 9 saves on 10 shots.

Portland's power play was 3/5 on the night and is now 21 of 94 on the season for 22.3% and 7th in the WHL. Everett was 0/6 and Portland's PK is now 86 of 107 for 80.4% and 12th in the WHL.

Game Notes:
The Schoenborn hit on Nikolishin was not whistled for a penalty though he did appear to hit Ivan a little from behind on the play along the boards. Nikolishin stayed down until the play stopped and then made it to the bench under his own power. Nikolishin has a bit of a reputation in the league as somebody who will go down easy in order to get a call. He demonstrated this by collapsing pretty easily along the boards later in the 2nd after getting cross checked from behind by Chase De Leo. Nikolishin first penalty on the season was against Spokane last weekend for embellishment.
-Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand are finally on a tear and seem to be playing well together. They each have 7 points in the last 3 games and Petan has points in 6 straight games.
-Schoenborn is also playing very well; now on a line with Keegan Iverson and Dominic Turgeon. After being held off of the score sheet for 4 straight games and then getting a 4 game suspension, Alex has a point in 4 straight games, for 5 total.
-The Miles Koules, Chase De Leo and Evan Weinger line also showed a lot of great chemistry this game with 5 points amongst the 3 and many great scoring chances.
-Anton Cederholm was much better after having a couple poor games. On Friday in Everett he lost a lot of 50:50 pucks and was out muscled often. Sunday he did a much better job of winning these battles.
-Petan now sits at 99 career WHL regular season goals.
-Nikita Scherbak was given a 10 minute misconduct at the end of the game.
-On Friday, I wrote that it would not be long until Blake Heinrich scored his first WHL goal and I was right as he found the net in this one.
-Paul Bittner is back on the first power play unit, after Keegan Iverson played in front of the net the previous 3 games. While Iverson is pretty good about using his size in front, Bittner should be in this role as he is the Hawks best player in this role.
-Layne Viveiros has gotten so much better at playing in his own zone and positioning in particular. Viveiros is tied for 5th among D-men in scoring with 19 points in 23 games.
-Weinger is tied for 13th among WHL rookies in scoring with 9 points in 21 games.

3 Stars:
#3: Blake Heinrich:
-1 goal and 1 assist for his first multi-point game. Hopefully this get him going as he has the potential to lead this team in soring among D-men. Pairing him with Keoni Texeira again is the right move in my opinion.

#2: Oliver Bjorkstrand:
-2 assists for the Danish winger. He has moved up to 18th in the WHL in scoring with 12 goals and 12 assists for 24 points in 18 games.

#1: Nic Petan:
-His play the last 6 games, has been a breath of fresh air as he is finally getting back to playing like one of the elite play makers in this league.

-Portland heads to B.C. for 3 games. they play Kamloops on Wednesday before playing 2 straight in Kelowna on Friday and Saturday.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Portland @Everett 11/14 Preview

Portland (8-11-0-2, 18 Pts) @ Everett (12-2-2-1, 27 Pts)
-For the 5th time this season, Portland takes on the Everett Silvertips in a U.S. Division match-up. It is a battle of first vs. last in the Division, though Portland is working on decreasing that gap, winning 5 of their last 7 games. They will get a chance this weekend as they play Everett again on Sunday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Everett has only lost twice in regulation this season, both times to Spokane at home. Everett has won 6 of their last 7 games, so this will be a match-up of two streaking teams.

This Season:
-9/27: Everett 5 @Portland 1:
The Tips were granted 11 power plays, to Portland's 1 and were led by Carson Stadnyk's 3 points night.
-9/28: Everett 6 @Portland 4:
Portland chased starting Goalie Carter Hart, behind 2 goals from Evan Weinger, but Everett responded with 5 straight goals (2 tipped in by Graham Millar) and went on to win for 2nd consecutive night in Portland.
-10/4: Portland 3 @Everett 2 (OT):
Alex Schoenborn scored the over-time winner after a great shift by Miles Koules and himself and Portland finally tasted victory this season over Everett.
-10/10: Portland 2 @Everett 6:
The Tips got 3 points apiece by Carson Stadnyk and Ivan Nikilishin and poured 40 shots on Portland goaltender Brendan Burke for the win.

Leading Season Series Scorers:
  1. Carson Stadnyk 5 Goals, 5 Assists for 11 points.
  2. Ivan Nikolishin 1G, 5A, 6 pts.
  3. Graham Millar, Kohl Bauml and Noah Juulsen have 4 pts.
  1. Chase De Leo 3G, 3A, 6 pts.
  2. Layne Viveiros 4A, 4 pts.
  3. Evan Weinger and Oliver Bjorkstrand have 3 pts apiece.
-Austin Lotz 3 Games Played (2 Started): 3 Wins, 0.938 Save % and a 1.20 GAA.
-Carter Hart 2GP (2 Starts): 1 Loss, 0.867 Save % and a 4.00 GAA.

-Brendan Burke 4GP (4 Started): 0.854 Save % and a 5.17 GAA.
-Adin Hill 1GP (0 Started): 1.000 Save % and a 0.00 GAA (Stopped all 10 shots in 3rd period of 9/28 game).

-Everett will definitely be without Dawson Leedahl, as he has ligament damage in his knee. Remi Laurencelle should also still be out, as well as, 16 year old Nik Malenica, who were new additions to this week's injury report. Austin Lotz, Noah Juulsen, Tristen Pfeifer and Gunnar Wegleitner were also listed as "day to day," but have practiced this week and should play.

-Portland gets Adin Hill back from injury (he missed over a month), but could still be without Paul Bittner, who missed both of last weekend's games.

Players to Watch:
-(RW)#8 Patrick Bajkov:
Bajkov has taken full advantage of being placed on the Tip's top line alongside Montreal Canadians first round pick Nikita Scherbak and 20 year old Center Kohl Bauml. He has 12 points on the season, nearly already eclipsing his 19 points that he had all of last year already. He is coming off of 2 straight 2 point games and has 4 multi-point games so far this season.

-(RW)#16 Carson Stadnyk:
-He has 11 of his 20 points on the season against the Winterhawks and has played on a line with Brayden Low and Ivan Nikolishin for 12 games straight. He has shown great chemistry with Nikolishin especially and have given Everett superb secondary scoring behind the Scherbak line. The major question for Everett entering this season as where goal scoring was going to come from and Stadnyk was often looked at as a guy who would need to step up for Tips in his 19 year old season. He has done that so far and looks to keep it up against a team he has found great success against.

-(D)#38 Kevin Davis:
-Davis, along with Cole MacDonald has formed a fantastic shut down pairing for the Tips that night in and night out has been able to limit scoring chances for the other team's top line. Davis is in his draft year and if he keeps this defensive play and finds a way to continue his offensive output (13 pts so far), he will move up in a lot of draft rankings.

-(C)#19 Nic Petan:
-Petan finally found the back of the net the last time out for the Hawks in over-time. Hopefully this will shake him from his goal scoring funk and he can start producing like he has the past 2 seasons. The effort has improved for Petan, who appeared to not give his all after being sent down by Winnipeg.  He has 17 points in 14 games so far and Portland will need him get closer to 2 points a game average in order for the wins to start increasing.

-(RW)#22 Alex Schoenborn:
-Schoenborn had a ghastly start to the season for Portland, taking way too many penalties and gradually being moved down the Hawks depth chart, before an ill advised check got him suspended for 4 games. He responded in his return from this suspension with a point in each of his first 2 games back last weekend and was a driving force every shift. Alex has a never ending motor when his head is in the game and if he keeps this play up, look for Coach Jamie Kompon to again give him opportunities to play on the top line with Petan.

-(D)#16 Blake Heinrich:
-How he has not scored for Portland yet this season is a puzzle to me. He has a great slap shot from the point and seems to have a creative hockey mind. The more comfortable he gets in Portland's system, the more I would expect to see his name on the score sheet. Maybe he can finally pot his first WHL regular season goal this weekend. Portland definitely needs more point production from the back end as Layne Viveiros has 9 more points then the next D-man.

Outlook Tonight:
Once it was clear that the Winterhawks would be getting off to a very poor start, I had these games before Thanksgiving circled on my calendar. 4 of their next 5 games are against the top 2 teams in the Western Conference, so they will be tested. Also, if the Hawks do not get at least get one of the games this weekend against Everett, the U.S. Division lead will be very difficult to overcome.

What Everett has done well this season is to not take any dumb penalties and to play a defensive system that values taking players off of the puck. Especially on the road, they have played such suffocating defense that other teams just cannot create too many scoring chances. This system has done a great job against Portland so far this season. They made it a habit in recent years of sitting back and watching Portland create and this led to many lop sided Portland wins. Portland has not been able to posses the puck for large portions of games so far this season vs. Everett and will look to do a better job of it in the next few games.

In watching Spokane beat Everett last weekend, I noticed that they were able to break through this season and just try to create a lot of rebounds in front of the Everett net. This is something Portland should learn from. Instead of trying to score the perfect water bottle popping goal, it might be better to just get pucks low and on net.

Everett has taken far fewer penalties then the rest of the WHL so far this season. Chase De Leo, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Portland's other top penalty drawing players need to take it upon themselves to take it right at the Silvertips D-men and draw more man advantage situations. Even if Juulsen and Pfeifer are good enough to play, it is likely that they are not playing at 100% and Portland should try to take advantage of this.

Elsewhere in the WHL:
-Moose Jaw @Prince Albert:
With the blazing hot Zach Sawchenko out with an injury, the Warriors will turn to Jackson Paulic to carry them against the Raiders in their only game this weekend.
-Medicine Hat @Regina:
The Tigers look for their 4th straight win and take on the Pats, who scored 8 goals the other night in Prince Albert.
-Seattle @Brandon:
So far Seatttle has had the worst East Division trip of any U.S. Division squad at 1-2. They will look to get going against the top team in the Eastern Conference.
-Saskatoon @Edmonton:
The Oil Kings finally come back home after dropping 6 of 7 on the road. They went together, as a team to watch former Oil King Center Curtis Lazar play at Rexall against the Oilers last night.
-Lethbridge @Red Deer:
The Hurricanes have dropped 4 straight games and hope to improve on their 2nd from last in the WHL goal total of 49.
-Calgary @Kootenay:
The Ice have won 3 straight games after the return of Sam Reinhart and if they keep this up will likely keep him in an attempt to make a playoff run.
-Spokane @Kamloops:
The Blazers have dropped 5 straight games and will be without Brady Gaudet and Josh Connolly on the blue line.
-Kelowna @Prince George:
20 year old forward Chance Braid will miss the first of 2 games this weekend against Kelowna, who have won 8 of their last 10 games and have the WHL's top 2 scorers.
-Victoria @Tri City:
The Americans are another team in the U.S. Division, Portland is trying to catch. They play at home vs. a resurgent Royals team that has won 6 of their last 10.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday 11/13: News and Notes

Petan Returns From Subway Super Series:
-Nic Petan returned after playing for Team WHL against Team Russia in Saskatoon (Monday) and Brandon (Tuesday) in the 12th annual Super Series.
-Petan was held scoreless in the 2 games. He was +1 in the first game; a 3-2 shootout loss to Russia and a -1 in the 2nd game; a 3-2 regulation loss to the Russians. Petan was the 3rd shooter in the circus on Monday, but could not find a way to beat Russian goalie Dennis Kostin.
-Everett Silvertips forwards Ivan Nikolishin and Nikita Scherbak, who the Hawks play Friday and Sunday this weekend played against Team WHL. Nikolishin played only in Monday's game and Scherbak played in both games. Scherbak beat Tri City American Eric Comrie in the shootout, but was held off the score sheet other then that.

Laurencelle and Lotz

Everett Finally Getting Hit by Injury Bug:
-The Silvertips have gotten off to a torrid start this season, going 12-2-2-1 so far for 27 points, 1st in the U.S. Division (by 3 points) and 2nd in the Western Conference (10 pts back of Kelowna).
-Weirdly enough their only 2 regulation losses are to Spokane at home (5-4 on 10/22 and 6-4 on 11/8).
-They have done this with the aid of not facing many injuries. Besides a knee ligament injury to Dawson Leedahl on 10/18 that has him out indefinitely, none of their players have missed any significant time.
-This week's injury report, though had 6 new names listed for the Tips:
  • D- Noah Juulsen: lower body (day to day)
  • C- Remi Laurencelle: lower body (day to day)
  • G-Austin Lotz: upper body (day to day)
  • LW-Nik Malenica: upper body (week to week)
  • D- Tristen Pfeifer: lower body (day to day)
  • RW- Gunnar Wegleitner: illness (day to day)
-This is the worst timing if your Everett as it faces it's very first 3 games in one weekend of the season with games at home Friday (Portland) and Saturday (Kamloops) and Sunday in Portland.
-According to Everett Silvertips blogger Nick Patterson Juulsen, Pfeifer, Lotz and Wegleitner practiced this week and are hoping to be good to go for this weekend. Laurencelle was hurt in a game against Red Deer on 11/5 and was not included amongst those that practiced this week. Malenica, a 16 year old also looks to be out for some time.
-Everett had already been dressing two D-men (Carter Cochrane and Jordan Wharrie) as forwards on their 4th line, so most likely will have to dress one player short with Malenica out.


Norman Chooses College Route:
-Portland's 5th round 2011 Bantam Pick (108th overall) LW Ryan Norman signed with the University of Minnesota today. Norman is an 18 year old that currently plays for Shattuck St. Mary's and hails from Maplewood, Minnesota.
-Looking back at the 2011 WHL Bantam Draft is not pretty for the Winterhawks, if you take it at the surface level.
  • Traded first round pick to Vancouver for Craig Cunningham.
  • 2nd round (34th): Zach Paterson- Has played 5 total games for Portland and seems on the outs with the coaching staff.
  • 2nd round (42nd): Tyler Sandhu-Traded to Everett as part of the Seth Jones deal. He now plays for Red Deer and has yet to improve on a solid 16 year old campaign.
  • 3rd round (64th): Dominic Turgeon- 53 points in 139 WHL games so far and an integral part of this year's team.
  • 4th round (86th): Mitch Skapski- Traded to Everett as part of the Seth Jones deal. Has since been traded to Victoria and has never really broken out of a 4th line role.
  • 5th round (92nd): Michael Fortin- Has not signed with Portland and is no longer listed as a prospect on the team's website. He has played in 18 games in the MJHL, putting up 3 pts.
  • Collins
  • 5th round (108th): Ryan Norman.
  • 7th round (152nd): Josh Blanchard- Has not signed with Portland but did play some in the 2011 Neely Cup. He has played the last 3 seasons in the BCHL, putting up 13 points. He is no longer listed as a prospect on the team's website.
  • 8th round (174th): Ryan Collins- Signed with the University of Minnesota. Has since been drafted by Columbus in the 2014 draft (47th overall).
  • 9th round (196th): Layne Viveiros- Has been put in a top 4 D-man role with Portland this season and is the power play quarterback. He has many detractors in the Rose City, but has improved a lot this season, capitalizing on his increased role.
  • 10th round (218th): Rhett Wilcox- Has not signed with Portland and is no longer listed as a prospect on the team's website.
-Having only 2 players from a Bantam Draft play any significant time for you is not good for any team. If you dig deeper though and factor in acquiring Cunningham and Jones, it does not look as bad. Especially considering Cunningham played a major role in the 2011/12 WHL Final run and Jones did as well for the 2012/13 Memorial Cup Final run. What has saved this particular age group for Portland is the signings of undrafted players like Keegan Iverson, Paul Bittner and Adin Hill. If you factor these 3 players in as well the picture isn't as bleak for the 1996 age group.

5 WHL Players Score First Goals:
-In somewhat of an oddity last night when there were only 3 WHL games; 5 different players scored their first career goals:
  1. Regina D-man James Hilsendager in his 18th career game; a 8-3 win in Prince Albert.
  2. Moose Jaw LW Jiri Smejkal in his 20th career WHL game; a 6-2 win over Seattle.
  3. Moose Jaw D-man Dustin Perillat in his 3rd career WHL game.
  4. Vancouver LW Johnny Wesley in his 1st career WHL game; a 6-2 win over Tri City.
  5. Vancouver D-man Brennan Menell in his 8th career WHL game.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Hawks Lose Thriller in Devastating Fashion; 5-4 to Rebels

Red Deer 5 @Portland 4
-In the 4th of their 5 game U.S. Division road trip, the Red Deer Rebels found a way to eke a huge win out over the Portland Winterhawks in front of 6,696 fans in the Moda Center. Red Deer got the game winning goal from Wyatt Johnson with 10 seconds left to play in regulation. It was Johnson's 2nd goal of the night, 3rd point and 9th point in the last 8 games.

The game winning goal was even more devastating when you figure in that Portland was outplaying the Rebels in such a serious way in the latter half of the 3rd period that Rebels coach Brent Sutter was forced to call a timeout with 1:06 left.

Portland opened the scoring on one of their stranger goals of the year. Recently returned from a 4 game suspension, Alex Schoenborn just threw a puck on net from a distance and found it bounce off Rebels goalie Rylan Toth and in. It was Schoenborn's first point since he had a goal in a game in Moose Jaw on October 17th. Red Deer responded when 2014 1st round Colorado Avalanche draft pick Conner Bleackley played the puck off the boards and right around Brendan De Jon, setting up a 2 on 1 rush. He chose to shoot, roofing it past the left shoulder of Michael Bullion.  Bullion swiftly made up for this goal, by banking a long pass off the boards and setting up a Portland 3 on 2 rush. Miles Koules then sniped it past Toth for his 50th career WHL regular season goal. Red Deer again found a reply when Austin Strand's pint shot deflected off of D-man Layne Viveiros and in. The score was tied 2-2 after 1 period.

The game slowed down a bit to start the 2nd and this favored the Rebels, who took advantage of a long rebound for a power play marker by Evan Polei and Johnson scored off the rush for a 2 goal advantage 13:51 into the period. The Hawks had a couple of solid shifts setting up some momentum and a fantastic drive to the net by Nic Petan, setting up a rebound goal by Dominic Turgeon; his 2nd goal in as many games. Then Petan again put Red Deer on their heels by driving a backhanded shot on net and setting up a point shot from Viveiros, that deflected off of Keegan Iverson and was slammed home by Chase De Leo. This swiftly tied the game entering the 3rd period.

Portland then outshot Red Deer 15-7 in the 3rd period and gradually established control of possession. The Rebels started looking like a team that was playing it's 3rd game in 4 nights and could not maintain the frenetic pace that Portland was forcing. Unfortunately for Portland, Petan took a loose puck in his own zone along the boards and threw a blind pass right between the faceoff circle, where Johnson was waiting. He fired it past Bullion and stole at least a point away from the Hawks.

The goal was Johnson's 2nd "game winning goal" of the season as he scored the 4th goal in a 6-3 win over Prince George on 10/24/14.

Toth got the win with 44 saves on 48 shots, while Bullion's hot streak was broken, getting the loss with 26 saves on 31 shots.

Portland, who used 5 forwards on the power play at one point were 0/4, while Red Deer was 1/2.

Game Notes:
-Nic Petan was finally playing like an elite player in this game, notching  1 assist on the night and driving the play on just about every one of his shifts. It was great to see him get into the flow of the paly and finally start to shoot the puck more then he has been. Hopefully, he can put away the horrible gut wrenching feeling of being responsible for losing a game your team should not have lost and can maintain his great play tomorrow night.
-This turnover/loss was not quite as awful to watch as in game 6 of the 1991-92 first round playoff series against Spokane. Portland's D-man Jason McBain had his pocket picked coming out of his own zone by Valeri Bure, who walked right in and scored ending Portland's season.
-Tyson Predinchuk continues to impress me with his play. He set Petan up all alone in front with a slick backhanded pass form behind the net. Petan was stoned by Toth on the play.
-Brendan De Jong could not find his legs in the pace that Portland was forcing and by my count was out there for 3 of the Rebels 5 goals.
-Anton Cederholm was missing from the lineup as he was suspended for one game by the WHL, so Portland was forced to skate 2 of the 3 D-man rotation of Nick Heid, Carter Czaikowski and De Jong. Of the 3, I'm more of a believe in the 17 year old Heid then I am of either 16 year old.
-If he is back to full strength after an early season illness, I'd like to see 17 year old D-man Justin Greer get brought back in. Through my research I can't find that he has played any games with a AAA Midget team yet this year.
-Former Winterhawk Presten Kopeck started off great and was playing with a lot of zip, but seemed out of gas, like a lot of his teammates by the end of the game.
-Ethan Price continued his stellar play, playing along Chase De Leo and Miles Koules. He had only 1 point all year entering last weekend and now has 2 in 3 games, with his assist tonight. Price must've had 4-5 shots on net entering the zone that created rebound opportunities or at least chances to control zone play.
-On Turgeon's goal, Portland was actually very lucky as after he shot it initially, Petan kicked the puck off of the post. If the puck had gone in there was little doubt I would have been dis-allowed.
-Another thing that was frustrating about Portland dropping this game is the fact that they finally stayed out of the penalty box for the most part. They only committed 2 minor penalties all night. This has been something that has plagued the Hawks for a lot of the season and it was great to see them correct this, if for only one game. I do not think it was a coincidence that they played some of their better possession control hockey this night as penalties have killed momentum for most of the season.
-Paul Bittner was a late scratch as he most likely thought he could play through something that was nagging him during the week. He was listed as out with a "lower body injury."

3 Stars:
#3: Layne Viveiros:
-Viveiros stepped into the role of shut down D-man in the absence of Cederholm. This is something that nobody expected, but Layne made many great one on one plays in his own zone, taking away scoring chances.

#2: Wyatt Johnson:
-The game winner and part of the line that was the most dangerous for Red Deer all night. He had 3 points on the night.

#1: Nic Petan:
-Despite the costly turnover, there is no denying that Petan was the best player on the ice all night for either side.

Portland returns to play tomorrow night against Kamloops who has lost 4 in a row. Brendan Burke is likely to be in net for the Hawks, as he has returned from a groin injury.