Thursday, December 17, 2015

Portland Can't Sustain Comeback This Time and Fall to Tri-City 6-4

Jordan Topping had two goals in the Ams' win
The Portland Winterhawks came into Kennewick Tuesday night at a bit of a cross-roads in their seaosn. They had recently learned that star forward Paul Bittner would be out indefinitely after undergoing hip surgery and have been struggling to get over the .500 mark for most of the last month.

Unfortunately, hey left Kennewick with just more questions then answers. The Tri-City Americans took advantage of some lackadaisical defensive play in jumping out to a 4-0 first period lead. Then, they came out spitting hot fire in the second period and scored four straight goals in tying the game, before falling 6-4.

To the question: can Michael Bullion be your number one goalie, if you decide to trade Adin Hill (who is likely your best asset) and give up on the season: "I don't know." He struggled right from the get-go and was letting out juicy rebound after juicy rebound. But then again, it was only one game and not a large sample size. To the question: does this team have the overall talent to make a playoff run, or should you start trading guys?: "I don't know." They can now score in bunches and have two potent lines (especially whenever Keegan Iverson returns and slides into the left wing spot on Dominic Turgeon's line) even without Paul Bittner. However, their team defense has been spotty recently and they seem to want to stay committed to the Mike Johnston/Jamie Kompon style of hockey that I'm not sure they can win at.

Portland fell behind early once again Tuesday night. First, a great pass from Vladislav Lukin sent Brian Williams in on a two-on-one. He was given way too much room by Portland's forwards, who instead of backchecking, coasted into their own zone and allowed Williams to walk in on Bullion. He beat Bullion through his five-hole. Then, right as an Americans' power play expired, a Juuso Valimaki point shot got through to Bullion, who gave up a rebound to Tyler Sandhu. The former Winterhawk draft pick corralled the puck and beat Bullion for the two-goal lead. The rout was seemingly on as Alex Overhardt, once again struggled in handling a bouncing puck and the opponent was able to set up a break out the other way. This time it was Parker Bowles who sent Jordan Topping on a breakaway and he beat Bullion for the 3-0 lead. The scoring was not over for the period though as Topping got his second goal in four minutes of action on a deft deflection of a Parker Wotherspoon shot to send the team's into their locker rooms with four goals separating them.

After only getting five shots in on Tri-City goalie Evan Sarthou in the first, Portland finally got it going in the second. Cody Glass had one of his best overall shifts in the WHL; twice keeping the Americans from clearing the zone with forecheck pressure and then sniping a shot past Sarthou when a Rihards Bukarts shot bounced to him on the right wing. The lead was cut to two, moments later when Blake Heinrich smartly activated and was found by Bukarts on the back door with a nice pass. The goal was only Heinrich's second of the year.

Alex Schoenborn, who after suffering a shoulder injury, sitting out a handful of games and then playing in two that he probably should not have, has been on fire recently. He kept his hot streak going Tuesday, when he picked off a pass in his own zone and broke out the other way. He drove in on a two-on-one and picked the blocker side of Evan Sarthou. This was his third goal in four games and they were all scored in eerily similar ways. All of them were scored on the rush, with him shooting and picking a corner. Two of his goals in that span were while his team was on the penalty kill. Portland completed the comeback with a nice outlet pass from Brendan De Jong that sprung Dominic Turgeon. The team captain snapped a wicked wrist-shot past Sarthou to tie the game.

The game would not have a great ending for Portland though, as Tri-City scored two goals over a 21 second span in the game's final frame and skated out with their second win in six games vs. Portland this year. Parker Wotherspoon, who was bloodied by Spokane's Adam Helewka in his last game, fired a wrist-shot past Bullion from the point. This goal was the eventual game-winner and it did not appear that Bullion was screened on the play. The Americans finally put the wild game away with Jordan Roy's first WHL goal. The goal was set up by an outlet pass from Caleb Jones that Alex Overhardt could not handle. Portland got sustained pressure, but their best chance (a shot from Dominic Turgeon) was saved by Evan Sarthou's elbow.

Tri-City goalie Evan Sarthou got the win by stopping 22 of 26 shots, while Bullion only saved 23 of 29. Portland's power play could not convert their only chance of the year. It was an abbreviated PP though and does not mean that Portland's recent hot streak on the man advantage is over. The Hawks are now 30/137 for 21.9%(tied for sixth in the WHL). On the PK, Portland now has four shorthanded goals and is 111/134 overall (eighth in the WHL). 

F/O %
Texeira 0 0 0 1 - - 12 2
1 0 1 4 15/26 57.7% 2 0 0
Weinger 0 0 0 1 - - 1 0 0
00 01--222
Overhardt000 6/1250%104
Dougherty 0 0 0 2 - - 9 1 2
De Jong0112--520
-Absolutely no control on rebounds for Bullion. This was the biggest thing that led to his nightmare night. He continues to have either really good games or really bad games, making  his future with Portland as a top goalie still completely unknown.
-Skyler McKenzie had a great chance on three-on-two and his shot was blocked by Dakota Krebs. Krebs was a stand out for me on the ice. He is a 16-year-old rookie d-man who has been forced into a lot of ice time due to injuries and absence of Brandon Carlo and he has improved as the season has gone on. I would look for him to be a shutdown d-man in the next couple of seasons for T.C. Developing d-men has been something Tri-City has excelled at over recent seasons. Dylan Coghlan is another success that their coaching staff can point to.
-Really poor point coverage recently by Portland's forwards, as well as, poor coverage deep when d-men are out numbered. Both of these things are paramount to being successful in the type of system they play in. If you are going to play an up and down game, you have to come back take away the prime scoring chances.
-Alex Overhardt had wide open net to shoot at and fired it high. The biggest weakness in his game is his puck-handling. Over the last few games, goals have been scored against the Hawks, because Overhardt could not corral a puck. Combine that with his inability to score consistently from prime scoring areas and you have a definite weakness in his game. If he wants to be drafted to the NHL, he needs to improve a lot in this area of his game.
-11 points in the last four games for Alex Schoenborn. Since returning from injury, he's been on fire. 
-Rihards Bukarts has 13 points in eight games this month and 17 points overall in his 13 games with Portland. He has seemingly found a natural fit playing across from Schoenborn. Both of them do very different things on the ice and they compliment each other very well. Bukarts has an eight-game point streak going currently.

Winterhawks in the NHL:
-Rob Klinkhammer played in his first game since October 27th and saw 8:59 of ice time throwing four hits in a 4-2 Edmonton loss to the Rangers.
-Jannik Hansen scored his ninth goal of the year, but Vancouver fell to Minnesota 6-2. Both Nino Niederreiter and Matt Dumba had assists in the Wild win.

Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Ty Rattie had an assist, but Chicago fell to Taylor Aronson and Milwaukee 2-1.
-Two-game goal streak for Oliver Bjorkstrand as he scored his second professional goal in a 3-2 Lake Erie loss to Grand Rapids.
-After another brief call up for Craig Cunningham to Arizona, he was sent back down to Springfield of the AHL.
-Travis Ehrhardt had an assist in a 5-2 Utica victory over Rochester. He now has nine points over his last eight games for the Comets.
-Jason LaBarbera returned to the lineup after being out for a month on the I.R. In his first game back he stopped 22 of 25 shots in a 3-0 loss to Wilkes Barre/Scranton.
-Nic Petan had a goal and an assist and Chase De Leo had an assist for Manitoba in a 5-1 win over former Seattle Thunderbird goalie Calvin Pickard and San Antonio. Petan's goal came on the power play and was assisted on by De Leo.
Winterhawks in the ECHL:
-Mac Carruth stopped 21 of 25 shots as the Indy Fuel fell to Toledo 5-1.
-Troy Rutkowski had a goal and an assist for Evansville, but they fell to Thomas Frazee and Atlanta 6-5 in OT. Frazee had an assist in the win for the Gladiators.
-Two goals for Cam Reid as he now has a four-game point streak going for Reading. The Royals won the game 6-3 over Norfolk.


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