|Ivan Nikolishin scored the OT winner 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.
-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:Thursday:
-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:Thursday:
-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:Friday:
-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.