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.
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.
-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 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.