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.

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