Monday, December 28, 2015

Winterhawks Beat Americans In a Thriller 5-4

photo by Bryan Heim
You can say one thing about the Portland Winterhawks over the last couple of weeks: they play entertaining hockey. For the third straight game against a U.S. Division foe, regulation was not enough. Sunday night at the Moda Center though, Portland won in over time in fairly unique fashion. After a terrific feed from Alex Schoenborn, Caleb Jones appeared to be breaking through the Tri-City defense for a breakaway. In desperation, American defenseman Dyland Coghlan hauled down Jones with his stick. A penalty shot was awarded and the d-man did not disappoint.

Jones went in tight on Tri-City goalie Evan Sarthou, deking to the backhand, before going back to the forehand and sneaking it past the goalie's right pad. It does not get more entertaining than that.

During a predictably, post-holiday, sloppy first period, both Portland and Tri-City found the net twice. Portland opened the scoring on a power play, when Rodrigo Abols fired at the net from the right face off dot, after the Americans' penalty killer oversold on Jack Dougherty's potent slapshot. Abols' shot was deflected by Alex Schoenborn and past Sarthou for the 1-0 lead. Tri-City would then take a lead of their own after a beautiful tic-tac-toe goal that set up Parker Bowles alone with an open net. Then on a not so pretty play, Jeff Rayman's point shot deflected off of Keoni Texeira's stick, near his hands, in front of the Portland net and past Adin Hill.

Portland would respond though and score with under 30 seconds to play in the period. After a great shift by the Cody Glass line, Jack Dougherty's point shot was deflected in front by Rihards Bukarts and the red-hot Bukarts grabbed his own rebound to tie the game at two. With the goal, Bukarts extended his point streak, which is now at 11-games.

In the second period, Tri-City controlled a lot of the early play and was rewarded with two goals. First, Kurtis Rutledge fired a shot towards the net that was expertly deflected past Hill by Morgan Geekie, as he cut across the net. Then, recent Winterhawks' killer, Tyler Sandhu, who has four of his eight goals vs the Hawks, took advantage of a great Morgan Geekie drive toward the net and pass, beating Hill for a two-gaol Tri-City advantage.

The Winterhawks got one goal back before the second frame ended when Rihards Bukarts found a wide open Rodrigo Abols with a cross-ice pass and the Latvian sniper beat Sarthou far pot to cut the lead to one. This game was Abols' first back from the World Junior Championships Division 1A tournament, which he and Latvia won.

Portland completely owned the third period, peppering Sarthou with a multitude of shots and controlling a large majority of possession. They would not break even, though until less than six minutes left to play. The game tying marker was netted by Evan Weinger, who received a Caleb Jones outlet pass on the rush and picked a corner on Sarthou. Weinger's goal set up Jones' over time heroics and the win moved Portland to within six points of the U.S. Division lead.

Portland's power play was 2/5 on the night and is now 22.1% overall. They moved past Seattle into seventh overall on the man advantage in the WHL. Portland's PK was 1/2 and is now 82.1% overall. This is good for eighth overall in the league.

Two of the four goals Adin hill gave up were off of deflections in front and the other two were set up by pretty passing plays that left him out of position. He played well overall, despite only saving 21 of 25. Sarthou stood tall in the Americans' net, stopping 41 of 46 shots.

Game Stats:

F/O %
Abols 1 1 2 3 - - 0 0 0
0 0 0 6 14/22 63.6% 2 3 0
Iverson 0 0 0 3 - - 5 0 0
1126 --100
Overhardt00 026/1346.2%202
Weinger1011 --52 0
Clayton0 0 0 0--40 2
Hughes0 0002/633.3%00 0
0 2 2 4 - - 3 0 0
Texeira00 04--102
De Jong0002  --00 0

-It was great to see Abols and Keegan Iverson back in the lineup. Iverson left in the first period of a game vs. Moose Jaw, the day before Thanksgiving and had not played since. He did not seem to be at full speed, but still provided the top-six forward group with a heavy body that can cycle with the best in the league.
-One thing Abols does as a left wing now on Dominic Turgeon's line, is use his reach to corral loose pucks off the draw. This helped Turgeon's overall f.o. percentage on this night as he did this on four of Turgeon's wins.
-Jack Dougherty looked like a man on a mission out there. After his mistake led to Portland losing to Spokane right before the break, he wanted to make up for it. He had two assists and committed to rushing the puck more himself. I don't think I quite knew how good he could be as a puck-rusher until this game. His decision making while skating at full speed is superb. He has to be one of the more underrated defensemen in the WHL.
-Caleb Jones also appeared to be in top form. After getting caught out of place on the first Americans' goal, he was much better in his own zone, all the while, looking great at starting a rush.
-Ryan Hughes is improving a lot at getting himself into good areas on the ice. Twice in this game, he set himself up in great scoring areas, received passes and just could not get the shot on frame. If he continues doing this, he is going to start scoring in bunches.
-Speaking of Hughes, he seemed to be the focal point of the best puck possession that I've seen from the second power play unit in awhile. It has to help to have Caleb Jones as the QB, but Hughes made several solid plays in keeping possession in the Americans' zone.

Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Brendan Leipsic had a goal and two assists for the Toronto Marlies as they fell to St. John's 5-4.
-Jason LaBarbera notched his first shutout of the year, stopping all 35 shots he faced in a win for Lehigh Valley over Wlikes Barre/Scanton.
-Craig Cunningham had a goal for Springfield as they fell to Portland 5-1.

Winterhawks in the ECHL:
-Cam Reid had another assist for Reading as they fell to Brampton 5-4.
-Gasper Kopitar had an assist in a 2-0 Manchester victory over Adirondack.
-Mac Carruth was solid for Inday again as he stopped 27 of 28 shots in a 2-1 win over Quad City.

The Mac's Tournament:
-This year there are several Winterhawks prospect competing at the Mac' AAA Midget World Invitational Hockey Tournament. There are already a couple of them that have factored into the scoring and the tourney is only a couple of days old.
-Signed Portland 16-year-old d-man Jake Hobson had an assist for the Prince Albert Mintos as they tied their first game of the tourney 2-2 with the Calgary North Stars.
-Unsigned 15-year-old forward prospect Ilijah Colina had two assists for the Valley West Hawks as they also tied the Calgary North Stars 3-3.

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