Monday, February 1, 2016

Portland Gets Undisciplined in 5-3 Loss in Kelowna, Then Lets Game Slip Away in Kamloops 4-2

Rourke Chartier had two goals in the Rocket win
Kelowna 5 Portland 3:
The Portland Winterhawks appeared ready to get their two-game B.C. Division swing going Friday night in Kelowna. They and Kelowna like to play up and down styles and it was on full display as the Rockets were able to outscore the Winterhawks 5-3. The game turned on the fact that Kelowna was awarded a total of seven power play, converting on three of them. Of the seven power plays Kelowna had, six of them were granted in a 27 minute window in the game in the second and third period. They scored on three of them, which helped them, pull out the two-goal win.

Portland actually opened the scoring as Rihards Bukarts stick-handled into the slot, looking off Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer and sliding it to an open Cody Glass at the back door. Glass chipped the puck in for his first goal in six games and seventh of the year. Kelowna tied the game only 12 seconds later as Adin Hill let out an awful rebound and Rourke Chartier pounced on it. The initial save was made by Hill with his glove, low to the ice and he struggled freezing it. Later in the opening period, Rodrigo Abols scored a gritty goal to give Portland a 2-1 lead. He deflected a point shot from Caleb Jones onto Herringer and then, while falling to the ice, grabbed the rebound and backhanded it past the Rockets' goalie.

Kelowna quickly tied the game in the second period on a goal from Justin Kirkland 3:19 in. The Rockets scored when the initial shot deflected off of Dillon Dube's skate and right to a wide open Kirkland. The Nashville draft pick beat Hill and got Kelowna the momentum back. They took their first lead of the game, just over a minute later on the power play. Caleb Jones was called for holding and the Rockets capitalized on a strange goal. Nick Merkley's initial shot was caught by Hill, but once again not corralled and Rourke Chartier got his second goal of the game off a nice feed from Calvin Thurkauf.

Portland started to unravel at this point, taking penalties and setting up a Kelowna power play that moves the puck better than any other WHL team that I've seen this year. Nick Merkley, while on the power play, skated out into some space and picked the corner on Hill, giving them a 4-2 lead to start the third period. Then Dominic Turgeon was clearly interfered with behind the play by Nick Merkley, but instead of just avoiding the contact and getting back into the play, the Hawks' captain threw two cross-checks in on Merkley and gifted the Rockets a five-on-three power play. Of course the Rockets converted as Tyson Baillie fired a one-timer that Hill caught a piece of with his glove but could not stop.

Portland  cut into the lead off a slick play by Turgeon behind the Rockets' net. He got Herringer going the wrong way and tucked the puck into the open side. The Rockets then beared down and relied upon solid net-tending from Herringer for the 5-3 win.

The Rockets' win means that they swept the four-game season series with Portland, outscoring them 22-14. Adin Hill faced 43 shots and  stopped 39 of them. Meanwhile, Michael Herringer, who won his seventh game in January, saved 28 of 31 shots he was required to face.

Game Stats:
F/O %
Abols 1 1 2 5 3/5 60% 0 1 0
1 0 1 7 13/22 59% 0 0 2
Iverson 0 1 0 3 - - 2 1 2
0104 --202
Weinger0001 --100
De Jong0000  --210

-Portland stuck with the switched up d-pairings as Blake Heinrich stayed with Caleb Jones and Keoni Texeira stayed with Jack Dougherty.
-Adin Hill made three different, big saves on breakaways over the first period. One of these saves was on Cole Linaker, who streaked in short-handed and tried to go five-hole. A lot of goals that Hill has given up have through this area, but he seems to have made improvements over the most recent games.
-Key in any game against Kelowna, especially if you try to play the up and down style with them, is the fact that all of your forwards have to back-check like crazy and take away looks from prime scoring areas. Portland continually is getting uneven efforts in this area from their forwards. The best examples of good back-checking were from Rodrigo Abols and Alex Overhardt in the first period, as they likely prevented goals, by skating hard back into their own zones and tying up sticks. I get that playing this style for the full 60 minutes vs. Kelowna is nearly impossible, but unfortunately, it is the best way to beat them, while playing their style.
-Brendan De Jong is slowly rounding that long stride he has into form  and his skating has improved overall. Over the last month, he has gained confidence in his skating and is carrying the puck up the ice, starting the rush. His ice-time also seems to have increased and his skating is probably one of the reasons why.
-I've been struggling over the past few weeks to determine, why exactly Caleb Jones seems to have games, like this one, where he struggles in his own zone. I have a theory: his passing out of his own zone is solid, but he often is not aware of the second level of fore-checking that teams like Kelowna have. Meaning, that his outlet passes are often intercepted in the high defensive zone or the neutral zone and then quickly turned back the other way. He had three or four turnovers in this game that were right to that area and helped Kelowna establish yet more offensive zone time. Not every WHL team has the ability to cover this area and that is why Jones does not always have this problem. Unfortunately for him, this will definitely be exposed at the professional level if it is not improved upon greatly.
-Carter Czaikowski had his first career fight and picked a tough customer to do so against. He dropped the gloves with Riley Stadel and surprisingly held his own. I like the fight in the Hawks' d-man (literally).
-Kelowna continues to be the best at this level at interfering without getting caught. Multiple times in his game it helped set up good shooting looks and in one case, it cause Turgeon to take a penalty, which led to a goal. Their forwards are so good in making it look just enough like it's their normal skating path, yet still bumping a fore-checker off of his stride and giving the puck-carrier more room to operate.
-There were also a few plays in which it looked like an out of control Rockets' player, contorted their body to make dangerous contact with a Winterhawk. One instance was a situation where Dillon Dube was not pushed but fell towards the Portland net and swung his legs around to make contact with Hill, while he was in his crease. Another was where Lucas Johansen was bumped from behind by Ryan Hughes and used his momentum to grab Hughes' stick and hold it to an area, where it appeared he was being hooked. He got the call. The last instance of this behavior was Devante Stephens and Rodrigo Abols were tied up and fell to the ice. Somehow, despite falling Stephens landed with his stick making forceful looking contact with Abols' head and pushing it hard into the ice. Abols was not too happy about the play, but it was not called.
-Despite the little, chippy things Kelowna does away from the play, Portland needs to keep their cool and stay out of the penalty box. They are a team heavily laden with 19 and 20 year olds and these players need to restrain themselves better in key situations.

Connor Ingram made 41 saves for the 4-2 Kamloops win

Kamloops 4 vs. Portland 2:
After losing a tough game in the Okanogan, Portland traveled over to Kamloops and played the last game of their four-game season series with the Blazers. As was the case, the last time the two teams faced each other, Connor Ingram was the difference. Portland fired the puck early and often in on Ingram, totaling 43 shots. Unfortunately, for them Ingram was game, stopping all but two of them and earning the Blazers a 4-2 victory and a 3-1 season series win. Chief among Ingram's saves were a couple directly after Portland tied the game at two in the third period.

Kamloops opened the scoring on the power play in the first period. They converted on the opportunity by collecting the puck off of a Blake Heinrich block and getting a tip from Nick Chyzowski on a point shot by Garrett Pilon. Connor Ingram made an early statement as Portland had one of their best looking power plays this year without scoring. They won five out of six face offs while on the man advantage and fired seven shots on net, but could not solve Ingram.

Pilon, who has played really against Portland, scored a nice goal on a three-on-two rush, giving Kamloops a 2-0 lead. He was carrying the puck down the left wing, with Portland defenseman Conor MacEachern, skating with him and trying to take away the pass. He slammed on the brakes and got MacEachern to slide on by. He then walked into the slot and fired the puck past Hill and into the top right corner. MacEachern had one of his worst games this year, as, while Kamloops was on a later rush, he was juked out of skates by Matt Revel, nearly leading to a goal.

Portland increased the pressure in the third period and finally were able to get the tying goal. They scored on the power play, as Jack Dougherty utilized a screen in front and fired a point shot past the Kamloops goalie. Despite making a frantic comeback and getting the better of play, Portland made a big mistake and lost the game because of it. Dominic Turgeon, who took a really poorly timed penalty the previous night, tried a dangerous looking cross-ice pass in the Blazers' zone that was easily intercepted and carried the other way. Deven Sideroff fed Jake Kryski on the rush and he beat Hill for the eventual game-winning-goal. The pass from the corner to the high slot, while trying to hit a rushing teammate is one of my least favorite passes in the game. This pass, when successful can lead to a "Grade A" scoring chance, but this is a really hard pass to convert through traffic. More often than not, the pass is made behind the teammate, leading to an odd-man rush the other way. Portland pulled Hill and had a power play for a six-on-four advantage late in the third, but another poor pass form Turgeon gift-wrapped an empty net goal for Collin Shirley for the 4-2 final.

Kamloops got 41 saves on 43 shots from Ingram , while Portland got 39 save son 42 shots from Adin Hill. Portland's power play was 1/5, while Kamloop's was 1/1. The Winterhawks have given up four power play goals over their last two games.

Game Stats:
F/O %
Abols 0 0 0 4 - - 2 0 0
0 0 0 3 18/27 66.7% 3 0 0
Iverson 0 0 0 1 - - 1 1 0
0223 --000
Veloso0005 --400
De Jong0001  --200

-Colton Veloso switched lines with Evan Weinger. Weinger had been playing pretty well, in my opinion, on the line with Alex Overhardt and Skyler McKenzie, but it seems clear that coach Jamie Kompon really likes Veloso with those two and looks for a reason to put him there.
-Rodrigo Abols was probably on the losing end of huge Ingram saves the most. He had two clear looks in one sequence and Ingram stopped both of them.
-It seems pretty clear now that Conor MacEachern needs to work on his one-on-ones. Both Matt Revel and Garrett Pilon made him look pretty ridiculous at times.
-The Cody Glass-Rihards Bukarts-Alex Schoenborn line is getting much better at knowing where each other are going to be in the opponent's zone and this has helped them not only have one of the most consistent cycling units, it allows them to find each other for breakaways.
-This game will be remembered as yet another, where Portland had every opportunity to pull out the win and just let it slip away from them. They outplayed Kamloops for almost all of the third period, but just could not get an important win.
-Things got worse Sunday night as Spokane won and took over third place in the U.S. Division. Portland is now one-point back and has an important game in Everett on Wednesday night.
Winterhawks in the NHL:
-The NHL is currently on an all star break and they do not have any games scheduled until Tuesday, February 2nd.
-Ty Rattie go called up again by St. Louis and will be looking to build off of his three goal, six game stint last time he was up.

Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Brendan Leipsic notched an empty net goal in a 4-2 Toronto win over Grand Rapids.
-Taylor Leier had an assist as Lehigh Valley pulled out a big OT win over Wilkes Barre/Scranton 4-3.
-Chase De Leo and Nic Petan both assisted on a second period power play goal for Manitoba in a 6-2 loss to Bakersfield.
-Craig Cunningham had a goal and an assist as Springfield beat Portland 6-2.
-Taylor Leier had a goal and an assist as Lehigh Valley beat WB/S yet again 5-3. Jason LaBarbera, who was sent back to the AHL again got the win, stopping 27 of 30 shots.
-Taylor Aronson had an assist as Milwaukee blew out Chicago 7-3.
-AHL skils competition took place but with Derrick Pouliot being called up tot he NHL and him being the lone former Winterhawk, representative, there are no longer any Winterhawks there.
-Regular play resumes Thursday, February fourth.

Winterhawks in the ECHL:
-Quad City got an assist from Miles Koules, but fell just short to Anton Cederholm, Brett Ponich and Kalamazoo 6-5.
-Troy Rutkowski had an assist, but Evansville fell to Indy 7-3. 
-Daniel Johnston and William Wrenn each had an assist as Alaska fell to Colorado 5-2.
-Cam Reid had an assist for Reading as they edged Adirondack 3-2.
-Daniel Johnston had another assist for Alaska, but they fell again to Colorado 7-2.
-Thomas Frazee opened the scoring with his seventh of the year, but Atlanta fell to Idaho 5-2.

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