Sunday, February 28, 2016

Portland Ends Trip On High Note With a 4-3 OT Win Over Kootenay

Adin Hill stopped 32/35 shots and Rihards Bukarts had the game-winning-goal
Per the WHL rules, you are only allowed to enlist the aid of three overage players per season. Overage players are those that are 20 years old in the year the season begins. Portland used their three allowed overage players Saturday night in Crnabrook B.C., to escape with a 4-3 OT win. Defenseman Blake Heinrich scored a goal (his third in two games). Alex Schoenborn had his first career four-point night, as he scored twice and set up to the two other Portland goals. Then, there last overage; Rihards Bukarts scored the overtime game-winner with 56 seconds left in the extra session. Playing against the team with the worst record in the WHL, Portland could not afford to drop this game and due to their oldest players, they escaped with an important victory.

Portland opened the game with six straight face off wins and utilized one to set up their first goal. Blake Heinrich sent an outlet pass to Alex Schoenborn and the San Jose Sharks' draft pick split the Ice defense and beat goalie Wyatt Hoflin for his 25th goal this year. The Ice got that goal back as Zak Zborosky fanned on a shot in the slot and Jesse Zaharichuk found the loose puck and beat an un-suspecting Adin Hill. Both teams had chances later in the period, but it was the last place Ice that took the lead. Zborosky received a pass at the Portland blue line and deftly played the puck off the boards and to himself in the Winterhawks' zone. While the play looked  alike a very borderline offsides call, no such call was made and Zborosky made a nice move on Portland's Jack Dougherty and beat Hill for his 25th goal this year.

The Ice then took a two-goal lead on Portland in the second period and seemed well on their way to sending Portland to their first four-game losing streak this year. The way they got their two-goal lead was something that Keoni Texeira will be thinking about for awhile. Texeira was fleeing Kootenay fore-checkers when the puck rolled off of his stick and right into the Portland crease where Hill was not aware it had gone. Noah Philp quickly jumped on the puck and poked it past Hill for his sixth goal this year. The Ice held a two-goal lead for just over four minutes. On the "bump-up" shift right after Portland killed a penalty, Keegan Iverson, who had just gotten out of the box, drove play into the Ice zone and fired a shot toward the Ice net that Alex Schoenborn deflected home. It was Schoeborn's second goal of the game. He already has eight goals more than his previous season-high with nine games to play. The Hawks tied the game, again on a "bump-up" shift, later in the period. Rodrigo Abols, who was just out of the box, made a nice drop pass to an onrushing Blake Heinrich. The overage d-man drilled a shot past Hoflin and just like that, the game was tied.

Both teams had great chances in the third period, but could not find the twine. In the strangest sequence of the game, Schoenborn drove the net, got a shot in on Hoflin and was checked by Kootenay d-man Troy Murray, into Hoflin. While Schoenborn was being checked, one of his skates appeared to come up and catch Murray in the neck area. Rihards Bukarts found the puck in the play that followed and drilled a shot off of the crossbar. At that point, a linesman blew the play dead, as he saw that Murray was bleeding. Murray was sent down the Ice tunnel to seek medical attention and did not return. It does not appear that the cut was too serious as Murray did not go straight to the bench and waited until play had stopped.

As neither team was able to score, Portland went to overtime for the second straight game. The Ice had their best chance in the overtime session, when Jason Wenzel was sent in on a clear breakaway that Hill was able to stop. Then Portland was able to get the winner from Bukarts as he caught Hoflin going the wrong way, on a wrist shot from just inside the Ice blue line. Portland ends their road trip with a 3-2-1 record for seven points out of 12 possible. They next play, after a six-day break, Friday night at home against Tri-City.

Hill played well, stopping 32 of the 35 shots he faced, while Hoflin stopped 31 of the 35 he faced.

Portland only got one power play chance, but they failed to score on the man-advantage for the third straight game. Kootenay not only did not score on their two power play chances, they gave up two goals, immediately following them.

Game Stats:

F/O %
Abols 0 1 1 2 - - 0 0 2
Turgeon 0 1 1 5 16/21 76.2% 2 1 0
Iverson 0 1 1 4 - - 1 0 2
Nagel0001 --420
De Jong0002  --100
Game Notes:
-No Evan Weinger and Skyler McKenzie again tonight, for the second straight night.
-Without those two, coach Jamie Kompon often went with a third line of Ryan Hughes on left win with Alex Overhardt (center) and Colton Veloso (RW). Hughes did a pretty good job of skating the left side and did not get sucked down low. This is a challenging task that Kompon is giving to a kid in his 16-year-old season and speaks to how much he already trusts the Edmonton product.
-Portland struck two posts on the night and was honestly a bit unlucky to have the game even go to the extra session. They continue to have fluky things go against them. Texeira hit the same spot on the ice twice and had trouble skating/carrying the puck through. This comes after a slew of missed chances that were due to the puck rolling on their best scorers.
-Blake Heinrich is on the hottest streak of his career in Portland. He has five points over the past two games. He was somebody I was expecting to provide a little more scoring from the back end and he is finally starting to produce. He has really good ice vision and is the best Hawks' d-man at picking the right time to pinch or activate.
-Rodrigo Abols has three minor penalties over the past two games and they were all due to him not skating enough and getting caught in bad spots. He is 6'5" and tends to use his length as a crutch in reaching out too much and committing tripping penalties.
-I need to run Portland's record when Alex Schoenborn has five or more shots. It certainly seems like when the overage forward gets involved and gets shots going on net, the Hawks are more successful. His skating never ceases to impress me. In just three years time, he's gone from being a forward that while playing with Nic Petan and Brendan Leipsic, kept slowing down the play and turning the puck over, to a guy who carries the play for Portland's most offensively explosive line.
-Dominic Turgeon simply dominated the face off dot against Kootenay. He won his first 10 draws on his way to winning over 75%.
-Portland gets six days off now as they next play at home vs. Tri-City.
Winterhawks in the NHL:
-Derrick Pouliot had an assist for Pittsburgh as they took down Winnipeg 4-1.
-Seth Jones scored and Brandon Dubinsky had an assist as Columbus won in the shoot out 4-3 over . Dubinsky netted the shootout winner for the Blue Jackets.
-Colton Sceviour had a goal and an assist for Dallas, but they fell 3-2 to the N.Y. Rangers.
-Brendan Leipsic got his first career NHL assist for Toronto as the Maple Leafs fell to Montreal 4-1. Leipsic was demoted back to the AHL on Sunday.
-Ty Rattie scored for St. Louis in a 5-2 win over Carolina. The Blues promptly "awarded" the young sniper by re-assignign him back to Chicago of the AHL on Monday.

Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Craig Cunnigham netted a hat-trick for Springfield in their 5-2 win over Wilkes Barre/Scranton. He would end up getting called up on Monday to the Arizona Coyotes. In nine previous games in the NHL this year, Cunningham has one assist.
-Oliver Bjorkstrand scored a goal on Mac Carruth as Lake Erie edged Rockford in overtime. Carruth stopped 35 of 38 shots. The Icehogs' goalie, who had just signed a three-year AHL deal this last summer, was signed to a one-year NHL deal on Sunday. This makes him eligible to be called up to the Chicago Blackhawks.
-Rob Klinkhammer notched his 11th goal of the year for Bakersfield as they fell in a tight one to San Antonio 4-3.
-Taylor Leier scored his 18th goal of the year for Lehigh Valley and the Phantoms took down Hartford 2-1.
Winterhawks in the ECHL:
-Cam Reid had a goal and an assist for Reading as the Royals edged Adirondack 5-4 in a shoot out.
-Tristan King had an assist for Allen as the Americans put up a touchdown on Wichita 7-4.
-Patrick Wellar recorded an assist for Alaska in a 5-2 loss to Colorado.


Friday, February 26, 2016

Former Division Rivals Doom Portland as Red Deer Wins 4-3 in OT

Ivan Nikolishin scored the OT winner Friday night
The Portland Winterhawks thought they were done with the likes of Ivan Nikolishin and Adam Helewka when first the former and then the latter were traded away to the Central Divisions Red Deer Rebels. Nikolishin had played 24 games over the previous two seasons with Everett against Portland, including the playoffs. In those games he had six goals and 18 assists for 24 points. Helewka was a force over his previous three seasons, while playing with Spokane. In 28 games against Portland, including the playoffs, he had 12 goals and eight assists for 20 points. So it should have come to no surprise that the two, who are now playing for the 2016 Memorial Cup host Rebels, tortured visiting Portland on Friday night.

The two of them possessed the puck in one sequence during overtime, for nearly 30 seconds, leading to Helewka finding Nikolishin with a beautiful pass back door for the OT winner in a 4-3 win over Portland.

The loss drops Portland to 2-2-1 on their six-game swing through the Central Division.

Portland opened the scoring in their fifth game on their six-game Central Division road trip. While skating four-on-four, Rihards Bukarts dug the puck out of trouble in his own zone rushing it back the other way, finding Blake Heinrich on the rush. The overage D-man wired it home for his sixth goal of the year. Portland played solid defense the rest of the way in the opening period, as they held the Rebels to only nine shots on net.

Red Deer would get the tying goal to open the second period though. Adin Hill faced a flurry of shots and gave up a couple juicy rebounds. The second rebound came right out to Rebels' d-man Haydn Fleury who hammered it home. The goal was reviewed for an extended period of time before being held up. There was not an overhead view available to me, so I will have to trust the official's ruling. Heinrich quickly gave Portland a lead again, as he picked off a Fleury cross-ice pass, rushed the other way and picked the far corner for his second goal of the night. This was Heinrich's first career two-goal game. Red Deer tied the game again later in the period on a fluky play. Jack Dougherty was skating the puck through the neutral zone, when he had rookie forward Brett Clayton skate right in his way. Clayton's skate poked the puck right off of Dougherty's stick and right to a johnny-on-the-spot Adam Helewka. The overage forward rushed the other way, made a slick move to open up Hill's five-hole and slid it into the net for his 13th career goal vs. the Hawks.

The Rebels took the lead early in the third period on another goal that had to be reviewed. Grayson Pawlenchuk took the puck on the rush and fired a shot on Hill. The puck sneaked through Hill and rolled towards the goal line. Alex Overhardt appeared to freeze the puck, which was on end, in time to keep it out. The officials called a it a goal immediately though and after another long review, held up the ruling. One hopes that they had access to an overhead shot, because form my angle it really appeared to have been stopped in time. Portland's Dominic Turgeon, who had not been having one of his better games, was able to tie the game with just over five minutes left. They scored when Caleb Jones smartly turned play, quickly the other direction, not allowing the tired Rebels to change.  Rodrigo Abols chipped it into Red Deer's zone to Turgeon in space and the Hawks' captain beat Rebels' goalie Trevor Martin on the far side to help Portland get one point on the night.

In overtime, Red Deer nearly won it  early as Pawlenchuk rang iron, but Portland was not able to take advantage of a second chance and the Helewka/Nikolishin show commenced.

Adin Hill was stellar for Portland again as he recovered from two sub-par outings on the trip to turn away 39 of the 43 shots he faced. Trevor Martin made a couple huge saves when Portland was pressing in the third period and stopped a total of 34 of the 37 shots he saw.

Portland's power play had good puck movement, but was not able to strike gold on the five chances they were given. Meanwhile, Red Deer failed to convert on their two man-advantage opportunities.

F/O %
Abols 0 1 1 4 1/3 33.3% 3 1 2
Turgeon 1 0 1 5 12/28 42.9% 1 1 0
Iverson 0 0 0 5 1/1 100% 2 1 2
Nagel0001 --100
De Jong0000  --010
Game Notes:
-Skyler McKenzie was out injured along with Evan Weinger. McKenzie left the game in the first period of the Hawks last game against Edmonton and did not return. Weinger played the entirety of the game with no apparent issues.
-Bronson Sharp was brought back to the team due to all of the injuries. He played in his third game with Portland and got a lot more playing time, as he skated most of the game with Overhardt and Tanner Nagel on Portland's third line.
-The Cody Glass line with Rihards Buakrts and Alex Schoenborn was put back together and they did not miss a beat. They again controlled most of the possession while on the ice and provided a speedy fore-check.
-Caleb Jones took a high-stick to the ear area from Nelson Nogier in the first period. He went down in a heap and did not return until about five minutes were left in the second. When he came back, he was sporting a full cage, meaning that some stitching was likely needed. Nogier was given a double-minor on the play, which Portland was not able to score on. In the absence of Jones, Brendan De Jong had a to play a lot more, including on the power play. It was fairly apparent that he was not quite comfortable with this increased role.
-I was prepared to write a lot here about Dominic Turgeon's recent poor play, but he goes ahead and scores the game-tying-goal. Turgeon, at one point, in the game, had no shots, zero hits and was 7/20 at the face off circle. He ended the game 5/8 on the draw, fired five shots on net and even threw a hit. I still want more from the Hawks' captain, as he has not been the force out there that he was in late December and early January.
-A continuing theme for Portland has been how snake-bit they've been. I've already written about two open nets that Portland shooters could not score on, because the puck rolled on them in their last two games. In this one, Keegan Iverson stole the puck from Martin and had an open net to shoot at, only to lose a skate edge and fall down. Later, Iverson had a juicy rebound come right to him, with Martin well out of position. The puck bounced right over his stick and out of the zone. These things swing back and forth and Portland should be getting some bounces soon.
-Saturday night in Kootenay is as close to a must-win as it gets at this point in the season. The Ice have by far the worst record in the WHL this year, with 10 wins in 61 games played. They have also dropped six in a row, appearing ripe for the picking.
-Friday night in the U.S. Division was kind to Portland. Spokane ran into hot goalie in Ty Edmonds and were shut out 6-0. That means that Spokane and Portland are once again tied for third in the U.S. Division. The Chiefs have a game in hand. If you are curious about who will win the tie-breaker, if the two remained tied after 72 games, it should be Portland. The first tie-breaker is wins (Portland currently has 31, while Spokane has 29) and the second tie-breaker is points against the other team. Portland is currently 6-0-1 vs. Spokane this year with one game left to play in their season series.
-Seattle beat Tri-City 4-2, meaning they now have a  five point lead for second in the U.S. Tri-City now falls four points behind Kamloops for the last playoff spot, as the Blazers beat Everett 3-2 in overtime.

Winterhawks in the NHL:
 -Brandon Dubinsky scored his 14th this year in a 6-1 smashing of New Jersey by Columbus.
-Braydon Coburn signed a three-year contract extension with Tampa Bay and he celebrated by helping the Lightning to a 4-0 win over New Jersey.
-Nino Niederreiter scored for Minnesota, but they fell to the first-place Washington Capitals 3-2.
Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Oliver Bjorkstrand had an assist for Lake Erie in a 5-2 win over Rochester.
-Bjorkstrand scored this time for Lake Erie in their 5-4 win over Rockford. He now has 21 points in 39 games, in his first pro season.
-Rob Klinhammer gave Bakersfield a 3-2 lead in the third period. However, San Jose stormed back and got the 4-3 win.

Winterhawks in the ECHL:
-Anton Cederholm notched two more assists for Kalamazoo in their 5-2 victory over Orlando.
-Cam Reid returned from the injured reserve and got an assist, sparking Reading to a 5-3 win over Elmira.
-Miles Koules was traded from Quad City over to Wichita. He goes from the likely playoff bound Mallards to the last place in the entire ECHL Thunder.
-Thomas Frazee scored twice for Atlanta and they ended up beating Evansville and Troy Rutkowski 4-3 in the shoot out.