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