Friday, March 13, 2015

Portland @ Spokane Preview 3/13/15

Portland (40-20-2-3, 85 pts, 2nd in U.S. @ Spokane (32-29-3-1, 68 pts, 4th in U.S.)
In the 6th of 8 games in the season series between the two teams, the Portland Winterhawks travel to the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena for a 7:05 pm game tonight. The Hawks and Chiefs will actually face each other 3 times over a 5 day period as they also play Sunday in Portland and next Wednesday back in Spokane.

If Portland wins the U.S. Division title, they will likely face the Chiefs who are currently slotted into the frst Wild Card spot in the Western Conference playoffs. In a twist of fate, Spokane has a large hand in determining who they face in the first round, as they have 3 games with Portland, who is 2 pts behind Everett, with 2 games in hand. So, if Spokane fares poorly vs. Portland, it will all but mean that Portland will win the Division and take them on in the first round.

Spokane currently leads the season series 3-2, with two 4-3 wins in Portland, a 4-1 win at home and a 5-3 loss at home, as well as, a 4-1 loss in Portland the last time the team's played on January 23rd.

Season Series Point Leaders:
1)Adam Helewka: 5 Goals, 2 Assists-7 points
1)Keanu Yamamoto: 4G, 3A-7pts
3)Tyson Helgesen: 4A-4pts
3)Jason Fram: 1G, 3A-4pts

1)Paul Bittner: 6G, 2A-8pts
2)Oliver Bjorkstrand: 2G, 5A-7pts
3)Chase De Leo: 2G-4A-6pts

#19-F-Jacob Cardiff is out indefinitely with an upper body injury, #26-F-Hudson Elyinuk is out 1-3 weeks with an upper body injury and #21-D-Matt Sozanski is out indefitely with an upper body injury.
-Portland:-#22-F-Alex Schoenborn should be out at least  1-2 more weeks with a shoulder injury and #14-D-Nick Heid is out for the season. Paul Bittner was banged up towards the end of the Everett game on Wednesday, but should play.

Playoff Importance:
Currently sit 7 points behind Seattle with 7 games to play and a game in hand, for 3rd in the Division. They are also 9 points ahead of the Tri City Americans, who are in the 2nd Wild Card spot and the Kamloops Blazers, who are, right now, the 9th seed and out of the playoffs. Spokane has 1 game in hand on T.C. and 2 on Kamloops. Right now, Spokane is 2 points away from clinching a playoff spot. Tri City hosts Prince George tonight, while Kamloops hosts the #1 overall West seeded Kelowna Rockets. Spokane would need to probably win 5 or 6 of their last 7 games and have Seattle lose a bunch to move out of the wild card and into the 3rd seed in the U.S. Seattle hosts Everett tonight.

2 points behind Everett with 2 games in hand. They play 3 games in 3 nights this weekend and they will need  to win at least 2 of them to take over the lead for the Division. Tonight would be a great start. Everett travels to Seattle, where they lost 7-0 the last time they were there. Portland has won all the games in the series with Spokane that Nic Petan and Oliver Bjorkstrand have both played, so the outlook is pretty good.

Players to Watch:
#14-F-Adam Helewka:
Breakout season for the 19 year old, 3rd year player. He already has 76 points in 62 games this season and has been the team's most consistent all around player. He has 11 points in his last 7 games played, so he's stayed consistent as the season comes to an end. One of their best players at creating his own shot.
#22-F-Dominic Zwerger:
He's looked the most explosive of any Chief this year vs. Portland but it has not always translated into points as he has 2 points in the 5 games. His combination of speed and stick skills has not always been consistent from game to game, but for whatever reason, he's looked some of his best vs the Hawks.
#30-G-Garrett Hughson:
The fiery 19 year old netminder has been hit and miss vs. the Hawks this year. He won his first 2 games by stopping 29/32 and 38/39, but then lost his last two vs. the Hawks: stopping 31/35 and 26/30. He compltely flipped his lid when Keegan Iverson parked in front of him and initiated contact a couple times the last two times the team's played, earning a game misconduct for his shenanigans. On the season he has a 3.74 GAA and .904 Save %.

#13-F-Keegan Iverson:
2 assists in the 5 games vs. Spokane, but has physically been one of the most involved Winterhawks, as far as, hits are concerned. His recent play has been stellar and has helped save what would surely have been a disappointing season. He really needs to reach one more level of play, before I think the New York Rangers will sign him.
-#44-D-Keoni Texeira
The offesnive output has not quite been up to his potential yet this season (24 pts), but he's been shooting more from the point in recent games, which is a great sign. In watching him play, you can really tell that his confidence is soaring. Earlier in the season, a lot of defensive miscues had caused him to play more conservatively in the other team's zone. That has changed for the better now and you cannot understate Blake Heinrich's impact on his game as his defensive partner..
-#31-G-Adin Hill:
One of the few teams that Hill has seen a lot of this season (all 5 games) and he's won his last two in a row, which is a good sign. This is because, usually, the more a shooter sees of a goalie, the more successful they are. In his last game vs the Chiefs though, he stopped 33/34, so it appears that he's solved Spokane more than they've solved him.

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