Carter Hart of Everett and Adin Hill of Portland have been among the top goalies, statistically speaking, for most of the season so far. But their stats will now take a hit after this crazy night. Hart stopped only 26 of 33 shots and Hill, who was slightly better, stopped 33 of 38. The seven goals given up by Hart are the most he's given up in one game in his short career. He continues to be a Jekyll and Hyde goalie vs. Portland in his career. In six games vs. Portland this year, he has allowed two or fewer goals four times, but has also given up five or more twice.
Hill continues to be an interesting story this season. He was lights out in October, terrible in November and hit and miss this December. He gave up a couple of weak looking goals, including one where he was going the wrong way and made a fantastic initial skate save on Remi Laurencelle, before the the Tips' center put home the rebound. Then, he absolutely robbed Laurencelle with a highlight reel diving save made to his left, when the 20-year-old had the entire net to shoot at. He is such a big goalie and that seems to work both for and against him. It allows him to take up a large portion of the net and make saves he has no business making. But, once he is down and out, it take him a long time to get back in position. I think a big goal for him has to be limiting how much he scrambles and puts himself out of position.
In the game Wednesday night, Everett opened the scoring in a somewhat bizarre first period. Carson Stadnyk, who after being a legit Winterhawks killer last season, has been mostly transparent on the ice this year, opened the scoring. He did it by finding a seam in between the face off dots and after getting a nice pass from Cole MacDonald, filed it past Hill. Everett appeared to add to their lead moments later, as Remi Laurencelle scored with Jack Dougherty on top of his own goalie. The goal was immediately waved off as they determined that Dawson Leedahl had cross-checked Dougherty onto Hill. The waved off goal irritated the crowd, who started chanting "ref you suck!" Matters for Everett were not helped when Portland tied the score on the power play later in the first. Rihards Bukarts collected his own rebound, then swung around the Everett net and waited out Everett d-men trying to block his shot, as well as, Carter Hart. He then picked the corner and tied the score. Everett answered back just 12 seconds later as Laurencelle won a battle for a loose puck with Caleb Jones and found an open Carson Stadnyk for his second of the period. A wild and controversial first period came to an end with referee Ryan Benbow making another controversial goal to incense the crowd further. Everett's Spencer Gerth got tangled up with Adin Hill and appeared to catch him in the throat wiht his stick. Hill immediately pinched Gerth with his glove and then the two separated. Benbow waited another 4-5 seconds before blowing the whistle. While I think he made an accurate call (Gerth for goalie interference), he definitely waited way too long to make it.
The second period would continue in a wild way from the start with Portland tying the score off an incredible shorthanded goal from Alex Schoenborn. He stole the puck in his own zone from MacDonald and rushed the other way. Everett appeared to have shutdown his scoring angle, but he still picked Hart's glove side corner for his first goal since returning from injury. The Silvertips answered on a strange goal. Portland, while trying to exit their own zone, had the puck die on Alex Overhardt's stick. Everett's Yan Khomenko scooped up the biscuit and looked for a shooting lane. His shot looked like it was going wide, until it found the skate of Portland d-men Conor MacEachern. It ricocheted off of MacEachern's blade and past Hill for Everett's third one-goal lead of the game. With the way Everett usually locks down games in the third period, it appeared the Hawks would struggle to even get a point out of the night.
Things were quickly made worse for Portland in the third when Hill got out of position and Laurencelle found himself with an open net to shoot at. Hill made a great initial save, before the top-line center for Everett found the net for his 13th on the year. The game then appeared practically finished when a point shot from rookie Everett d-man Jake Christensen found the twine to make it 5-2 Everett with 17:39 left in the game. For the first time this year, Portland showed that a three-goal deficit in the third could be overcome with a valiant five-goal surge. First,, on the power play, Rihards Bukarts used Everett's best asset against them by pump-faking a shot and getting Kevin Davis to drop down for the block. He then used Davis to screen Hart and picked the top corner on the goalie to make it 5-3. Then after Carson Stadnyk took a hooking penalty on Skyler McKenzie, Caleb Jones took advantage of his promotion to the top power play unit and powered a shot past Hart from the point. Jones was only playing QB on the PP because Dougherty had briefly left the game. Portland tied the game with another power play goal from Rihards Bukarts, giving him the hat trick, all on the man advantage. Bukarts was fed off a perfect pass from behind the net by Schoenborn on the play. The Hawks would not settle for the tie though, as Cody Glass grabbed the rebound of a Blake Henirich shot and put it past Hart for the eventual game winner. The Hawks added to the lead when Colton Veloso put home the rebound of a McKenzie shot for the 7-5 final score.
Portland's power play is on fire right now, notching four goals on six chances on the night. It is now all the way up to third overall with 23.2% or 29/125. Portland's penalty kill was 3/3 on the night and is now 101/123 or 82.1% (ninth in the WHL).
-Rihards Bukarts loves to play in Everett, apparently, In just three career games vs. Everett, he has five goals and two assists for seven total points. The hat-trick was Bukarts' first of his WHL career. This is surprising considering he has 11 career two-goal games.
-The experiment of putting Keoni Texeira on Dominic Turgeon's wing, appears to be now be over, as he was moved back to the blue line. As I was in Everett, Wednesday night, it was the first time, I've seen him play as a forward in person. I point this out, because, you really have to be there live to see how in the flow of the game a player is. Texeira looked completely lost as a forward and a couple of times was moving away from where his line mate was cycling the puck. He also struggled, after he was moved back to defense, nearly coughing up the puck behind his own net, under zero initial pressure from Everett. After a stellar start to the year, Texeira's game has gone completely south. I don't know if Kompon moving him out of his comfort zone was some effort on his part to shake him out of his poor play, but it obviously has not worked.
-Brendan De Jong played well in the top-four in his absence, making it a real possibility that Texeira cpuld soon find himself down in the bottom pairing with Conor MacEachern.
-Speaking of MacEachern, tonight was the first time I've seen him rush the puck up the ice and he looked very good at it. It did not result in a shot on net, but it allowed his team to make a much needed change. As his confidence grows, look for him try this more often.
-Alex Schoenborn is a difference maker for Portland. He works so well in open ice and is Portland's best forward at getting pucks on net, especially on the rush. His shorthanded goal was just that. Him getting out into open ice, using his speed to create separation and just picking the near-side corner on Carter Hart.
-Schoenborn was used towards the end of the game, with Turgeon and Weinger (bumping Weinger over to the left side), but it appears he has found some good chemistry with Cody Glass and Bukarts.
-Portland was once again without the services of Paul Bittner and Keegan Iverson. Both of whom are out with lower-body injuries. Iverson was listed as "day-to-day," while Bittner was tagged with a "TBD." That is a little scary as in the NHL, it usually is tagged on someone waiting on an x-ray or a second doctor's opinion. We will know more about Bittner, as we get closer to the USA's World Juniors camp.
-Cody Glass had another up and down game, but his up came when it mattered the most. His goal was a thing of beauty as he gathered the rebound of of a Blake Heinrich shot and used both Tips' and Winterhawks' players to screen Hart, while he shot the puck along the ice to the far post. Most young forwards would have rushed the shot, but Glass showed patience in picking the area that the goalie gave him.
-Evan Weinger had one of his best games of the year. He showed, at times, fantastic puck control abilities and it appears he is now comfortable playing in the top-six with Turgeon. He made one incredible rush, when he anticipated his teammate getting to the puck before an Everett forward and gave himself an open lane all the way to the Tips' net. He hit the post on the play.
-Noah Juulsen and Remi Laurencelle for Everett and Jack Dougherty for Portland all left to the locker room at some point, but all of them ended up returning.
-Lauarencelle has improved so much at the face off dot. Last season, during the playoffs, it used to be that his only hope of winning a draw was to let the other center win and just hope he could beat them to the puck before possession was gained. That is not the case anymore, as he won more draws against Turgeon, then most centers in the league are able to do.
Winterhawks in the NHL:
-Ryan Johansen had his 14th assist of the year, in Columbus' 3-2 loss at home to the L.A. Kings.
-Johansen added two more assists as the Blue Jackets fell to Winnipeg 6-4.
Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Craig Cunningham had an assist for Springfield as they fell to Portland 5-1.
-Taylor Leier had two assists, including one on the OT winner for Lehigh Valley as they took down Hershey 3-2.
-Derrick Pouliot had an assist for Wilkes Barre/Scranton as they blew out Syracuse 8-2.
Winterhawks in the ECHL
-Gasper Kopitar had an assist for Manchester as they edged Brampton 4-3.
-Troy Rutkowski assisted on the eventual game winner for Evansville and they took out Toledo 3-2.
-Cam Reid scored his fourth of the year, but could not convert his shootout chance and Reading fell to Florida in the circus 3-2.
-Allen shut out Idaho 4-0, behind two goals and one assist from Tristan King. He now has 14 points in 18 games this year. Taylor Peters is currently out if the lineup for Idaho.