Portland 2 @Vancouver 3:
The Portland Winterhawks fell in Vancouver on Friday night, mostly due to a poor start and stellar goaltending from the Giant's Payton Lee. The game was a scrappy affair, especially as the game went on, partially sent off due to several collisions with goaltenders Lee and Portland's Brendan Burke.
The game opened with Jackson Houck finding the net behind Burke, just 20 seconds into the game off a turnover that was forced by 16 year old, former #1 overall Bantam Draft Pick Tyler Benson. The shot from Houck appeared to have deflected off of Portland D-man Layne Viveiros' and past Burke. The crowd was already emotional due to a moving tribute for NHL legend Pat Quinn, who was a minority Giants owner and passed away last week. The Giants were also inspired due to the recent coaching change that brought Claude Noel in. Combine these two things and giving up an early goal is the last thing you wanted to do if you were Portland. The Giants placed 6 shots in the first 6:30 of the first period on Burke, before Portland could get one on Lee. The lopsided play continued when Miles Koules was whistled for interference and Carter Popoff found a loose puck in the slot, beating Burke for the 2-0 lead. Insult was added when Anton Cederholm checked Jackson Houck into Burke, causing him to take an elbow to the head. It also appeared that the puck was on it's way to Burke when Cederholm was checking Houck into him. It'll never be known whether Burke would have stopped the shot, were he not to be interfered with, but regardless the Hawks were in a 2-0 hole. Some of this was helped when Blake Heinrich found a shooting lane and Alex Schoenborn tipped the puck past Lee to cut into the lead with 5:37 left in the frame. The Giants out shot 18-7 in the period and out chanced them by a large margin as well.
The second period was a much better effort by the Hawks, but despite a 53 second 5 on 3 power play, they could not beat Lee on 11 shots.
In the third, the Hawks continued to control a lot of the play but were faced with another 2 goal lead after Houck found a bouncing puck in the slot and put it past Burke, despite having 2 Portland players right around him. The goal was the Giants 2nd power play goal of the day. Then after Nick Heid's delay of game penalty put the Hawks down a man again, Miles Koules created space for himself in the Giant's zone and beat Lee form just below the blue line. The short handed goal was his first of that type this season and the Hawks 8th of the season. Koules and Paul Bittner both had grad A chances late but their shots found posts instead. With under a minute left, the Hawks were pressing and Schoenborn was checked into Lee by Dmitry Osipov. Directly as this was happening a Portland shot found it's way past Lee. The goal was waved off and no more Portland shots could find their way past him, handing the Hawks a tough loss.
Lee stopped 32 of 34 shots for his 2nd straight win and 30+ save performance. It was also only his 2nd 30+ save performance of the season. Burke played well after the initial 2 goals he gave up and saved 34 of 37 in the loss.
Portland's power play, which had come in as the #1 road power play in the WHL, was 0/6 on the night. Vancouver had 2 power play goals for the 2nd straight game, as they were 2/3 against Calgary.
-Schoenborn threw a late hit to the head of Mason Geertsen as the buzzer was sounding and was assessed a (post mortem) 2 minute "checking to the head" penalty. This created a melee after the game in which Geertsen threw several punches at Schoenborn, as the linesmen were trying to intervene. It is unknown whether any fines will be handed down, but I would not be surprised if there were some.
-Portland's top line was again their best tonight, despite not getting a goal behind Lee. Paul Bittner was especially good as he used his large frame consistently to shield Giants off the puck, leading to him drawing 2 different penalties.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand's 10 game point streak and his 5 game goal streak were both ended, despite great play.
-Chase De Leo's 6 game point streak was extended to 7 though as he had 2 assists on the night. He now has 8 points in his last 5 games.
-Miles Koules, who scored his 10th of the year, now has points in 3 straight.
-Schoenborn has goals in consecutive games and has 12 points in his last 12 games.
-Alex Overhardt had a couple solid plays, centering the 4th line for the Hawks. Chief among these was a great back-check on Alec Baer, who had a wide open net to shoot at.
-Dakota Odgers made his presence felt in one series of plays in which stirred things up after a whistle and then had a prime scoring chance, wrapping the puck around the net and nearly getting it past Burke. Odgers was playing in his 6th game with the Giants after being acquired from Swift Current. Oddly enough, his last goal was against the Hawks back on 10/22 when he was a Bronco.
-Dalton Sward had his captaincy removed before the game but his paly was solid, especially on the penalty kill and he should receive it back after the new coach gets to know the team better.
#3: Payton Lee:
The Koules goal, he would probably want back, but he made several great saves that were highlighted by one he made on a Chase De Leo deflection. Lee was atrocious earlier this season, but now has performed well in back to back games.
#2: Tyler Benson:
This guy does not play like a 16 year old player. He was able to beat Winterhawks to pucks or out-muscle them on numerous occasions along the boards. He had 3 assists on the night. This was his first 3 point game of his WHL career.
#1: Jackson Houck:
He only notched 2 points in the Hawks 4 game sweep of Vancouver in last year's playoff series, as well as, no points in all 4 games last year, yet he had 2 goals and 1 assist tonight. Houck is a physical presence out there and has an NHL type shot.
The 3 games in 3 nights continues with Portland hosting Everett Saturday. With Everett losing to Medicine Hat at home Friday, Portland is still 5 points behind them for the U.S. Division lead.