Sunday night, Portland again gave up an early goal to the Chiefs. This time it was Austrian sniper Dominic Zwerger, who scored a nifty goal to open the scoring. Zwerger received a pass down in the low slot and out-waited Portland goalie Adin Hill, before tucking the puck into the near post. Portland responded with a now, not that rare, goal from their second power play unit. This time, it was 16-year-old rookie Ryan Hughes, who split the defense and beat Spokane goalie Tyson Verhelst on the blocker side to tie the game. Hughes is starting to look a lot more comfortable in the WHL and is starting to showcase the elite offensive skills that he showed at lower levels of hockey. Portland got two more goals in the first period to stretch out to another two-goal early lead on Spokane. First, Caleb Jones led an odd-man rush, made a nice drop pass to Skyler McKenzie and watched as McKenzie sniped one past Verhelst's glove. Then, while on the man advantage a Jack Doughterty point shot once again created offense on the top power play unit. This time, it was Alex Schoenborn, who corralled the rebound and beat Verhlest for a dirty goal.
Portland added another goal on the power play in the second period off a shot/pass from the low slot that Dominic Turgeon deflected past an out-of-position Verhlest for the three-goal lead. The top power play unit now has another weapon outside of Dougherty firing rock-hard slap shots from the point and that's Rodrigo Abols' work on the half-boards. Abols has created wonderful scoring chances for Portland, particularly on the right side of the attacking zone, by firing deflect-able shots down low at the goalie with a Winterhawk forward parked in front. Whether it is Schoenborn, deflecting the puck past a goalie, while screening them, or Turgeon sneaking to the back post, he is a dangerous passer.
The Winterhawks added another goal in the third period and it was gain scored by Turgeon, who had two in the game. This time, though, Turgeon scored his goal on the penalty kill. The goal was scored on his second straight breakaway, after he forced consecutive turnovers off of Spokane forward Curtis Miske, manning the right point. The second time was the charm, as Turgeon roofed a backhand shot past Verhelst, for his 19th of the year. The 19 goals is a career-high for Turgeon, who had 18 last year.
Portland's Adin Hill, was stellar once again for Portland, stopping 30 of 31 shots. Meanwhile, (by my numbers), Verhelst stopped 24 of 29 shots. Portland's power play was amazing, scoring three goals on five chances. Their PK, meanwhile stopped four of five chances. Portland's power play is now 37/163 (22.7%), which is good for fifth in the league (highest it's been all year). Their PK, however, has not had the same surge and is 135/167 (80.8%), good for 10th in the WHL. They do now have, six short handed goals (two by Turgeon) which tied for sixth in the league.
-Good to see Dominic Turgeon get his faceoff percentage back above 50, after struggling at the dot for the last few games. Glass, had one of his worst games of the season at the draw, only winning three out of 13. He often tries to push the puck forward at the draw, but this is something that has not really worked out very often.
-The Bukarts-Glass-Turgeon line has been the best cycling line on the team, since they were put together a few weeks ago. There are several reasons, I think, that they work so well together. First of all, they all see the ice very well and seem to know where they are needed to receive pass on the cycle. Secondly, they are all excellent skaters and probably rank among the top third, as far as speed, on the team. Lastly, Bukarts and Glass have been turned loose, because of their speed on the forecheck and have created countless turnovers in the opponent's zone. Couple, that with Schoenborn hanging back near the blue line and reading where a d-man's desperate pass is going and you have a dynamite trio on the attack.
-Blake Heinrich and Jack Dougherty have been paired together for most of the year and are finally starting to work seamlessly together. This was probably the first game, where they showed that they just knew, without even looking, where the other was going to be. One example was a play where Heinrich drove a forward around the back of the net and Dougherty, who started to go around behind them, changed directions and met the forward on the other side, taking away the puck. When you have absolute confidence in your d-partner, as they are starting to show, in frees you up to help at the exact right moment, rather than try to make the same play they are making. This is a great sign for Portland's defensive corps for sure.
-Ryan Hughes is starting to show signs of becoming an elite WHL play-maker. In the early going, he seemed to struggle in trying to out-muscle other forwards for the puck and have to concentrate on his positioning to make sure he was not giving up a breakout the other way. Now that he has made great strides in those areas of his game, it has started to free up and let his offensive creativity flow.
-Hughes and Glass together on the second power play unit, for awhile, seemed like a gamble meant to pay off next season when they will likely be the team's top two centers. Instead it is already paying off this season.
-Portland heads to Seattle Friday, for a very pivotal U.S. Division Thunderbirds, who will have the likes of Matt Barzal, Scott Eansor and Alexander True back in the lineup.
Winterhawks in the NHL:Sunday:
-Colton Sceviour is seeing increased power play time for Dallas and had one of his two assists on the man advantage for the Stars in their 6-5 loss to the New York Islanders.
-Sven Baertschi sat out another game in Vancouver's 3-2 loss to Arizona, but he is expected to return from his neck injury in time for Wednesday's game vs. Carolina.
Winterhawks in the AHL:
Sunday:-Jason LaBarbera was stellar for Lehigh Valley, stopping 37 of 38 shots in a 2-1 victory over Portland.
-Ty Rattie notched an assist for Chicago in their 5-2 win over Lake Erie and Oliver Bjorkstrand.
-Cam Reid gets his third tryout contract in the AHL this season. This time with the Hershey Bears, who are in need of center help.