Friday, February 19, 2016

Portland Starts Road Trip Out Right, Beats Lethbridge 4-2

Abols had three points in Portland's fourth win in five games
The Portland Winterhawks started their road trip through the province of Alberta the right way Friday night, with a big 4-2 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. They utilized the fourth three-point night this year from Rodrigo Abols, two goals from Alex Schoenborn  and 46 saves from Adin Hill to win the first of five games throughout the central Canadian province (plus one in British Columbia). It wasn't always pretty for Hill, who gave up a few juicy rebounds in front and had a couple shots trickle through his pads and wide of the net, bu he did enough to keep the high-scoring 'Canes in check for most of the night.

Portland opened the scoring with a goal just 29 seconds into the game. Keoni Texeira smartly fired the puck towards the Lethbridge net and Rodrigo Abols found the loose puck, backhanding it home for the 1-0 lead. Jordy Bellerive nearly tied the game after Hill misplayed the puck, but the 6'4" goalie fell back just in tiem to save his own bacon.

Lethbridge came out hot in the second and controlled most of the play through the first 10 minutes or so. They knotted the score right after a five-minute major penalty to Keegan Iverson had expired. The 'Canes goal was scored when a point shot from Toronto Maple Leafs' prospect Andrew Nielsen was saved and former Seattle Thunderbird Cory Millette found the rebound and poked it past Hill. The game then fell into a pretty back and forth affair until Portland's resident red-head broke the game open. He poked a loose puck away from a Hurricanes' d-man and quickly set up a two-on-one with Skyler McKenzie. The give-and-go with McKenzie ended with him lifting a shot right over Lethbridge goalie Stuart Skinner's glove for Portland's second lead.

The Winterhawks built momentum after Schoenborn's goal and got Lethbridge back on their heels in the third period. Rodrigo Abols took advantage of a poor decision by a Lethbridge defender, by sliding around him and setting up a three-on-two that Schoenborn capitalized on for his second of the game and a 3-1 Winterhawk lead. Schoenborn kept his great night going minutes later by drawing a penalty on Lethbridge d-man Darian Skeoch and earning Portland their fifth power play of the night. After Lethbridge made some good defensive plays on the PK, they over-committed to the rush and were undone by a quick stick by Jack Dougherty. The Portland d-man poked the puck away from the 'Canes and set up yet another odd-man rush with Rodrigo Abols carrying the puck. This time Abols called his own number and buried a shot between Skinner's pads for his second of the game. Portland appeared to be walking with a relatively lop-sided road win, but they made it tougher on themselves, as they are wont to do. Two straight penalties by Dougherty and Keoni Texeira set up an extended six-on-three man advantage for Lethbridge with 1:59 left in the game. Hill stood tall for the Hawks, until a weird bounce set up Tyler Wong alone with an open net and the 'Canes captain converted. There was not nearly enough time for the home squad though and Portland earned their 30th win of the year.

Hill stopped 46 of the 48 shots he faced and really was at his best when he was aggressive, taking away shooting lanes for Lethbridge shooters. He also broke in his new white glove with several nice catches. Skinner made a highlight-reel stop on Schoenborn, who had an open net to slide a loose puck into, but was ultimately handed the loss, stopping 33 of the 37 shots that he saw.

F/O %
Abols 2 1 3 4 1/3 33.3% 0 1 0
Turgeon 0 1 1 3 13/26 50% 1 0 0
Weinger 0 0 0 2 - - 3 1 0
Veloso0001 --400
De Jong0001--110
Czaikowski0001  --200

Game Notes:
-Keegan Iverson, in his second game back after suffering a concussion, looked more like himself  in the first period, throwing the body around and creating havoc. Unfortunately, he stuck with a hit that he was trying to throw near the Portland blue line on Colton Kroeker too long. There did not seem to be any ill intent on the hit, but Iverson still caught Kroeker with his knee and was called for a five-minute major for kneeing and a game-misconduct. Kroeker did not return to the game. I do not think there will be a suspension for Iverson on the hit, however.
-Lethbridge could not convert on the five-minute, unlimited power play, which stood up as a pivotal moment in the game. Portland was helped out by Lethbridge rookie forward Jordy Bellerive, who was called for a fairly obvious interference penalty, cutting the power play to just three minutes.
-Skyler McKenzie continues to play really well. He was perhaps the most consistent Hawk throughout the night and was a big problem for Lethbridge d-men as they tried to clear their own zone. McKenzie has been playing on a lien with Schoenborn and Cody Glass, in the injured Rihards Bukarts' spot. The three of them were the best line Friday night, causing a lot of turnovers and creating looks from multiple angles.
-Abols now has 40 points this season, but has looked his best over the past two weeks. With Bukarts out, he has become Portland's most exciting offensive player, as he stick-handles and creates at will. He now has eight points over his last five-games.
-Major props to Blake Heinrich and Caleb Jones who played nearly two full minutes of action for Portland, as Dougherty and Texeira (the other top-four d-men) were both in the sin bin. They played extremely well in this spot and were only undone by a fanned-on pass and a shot that Hill was not expecting.
-Alex Schoenborn is making an argument, in my opinion, as the team's regular season MVP. He has been their most consistent scorer and just does a little bit of everything (especially agitating the opposition). He has six points and only two penalty minutes this month, which is an impressive stat for a guy who has been known to take bad penalties in his career.
-Ryan Hughes did a good job of sliding into Iverson's left-wing spot on the third line. He seemed to struggle with not going in deep like he is used to as a center, but once he got used to it, he was solid.
-Cody Glass was terrible at the face off dot, winning only five of 22 draws, but a lot of that could be due to his tendency to try and force the play forward.
-Road trip continues tomorrow night in Medicine Hat.

Winterhawks in the NHL:
-Jannik Hansen notched an assist for Vancouver and they fell to Calgary 5-2. Tyler Wotherspoon was called up by Calgary from Stockton of the AHL for the game, making his season debut with the Flames. He skated 15:52 of ice time and blocked four shots, while dealing out two checks.
Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Oliver Bjorkstrand scored his 10th goal of the season, sparking a comeback from a 3-1 deficit for Lake Erie. They completed the comeback and beat San Antonio 4-3 in overtime.
-Travis Ehrhardt notched an assist for Utica in a 5-4 loss to Syracuse.
-Brendan Leipsic returned to the AHL's Toronto Marlies and had an assist in a 4-2 win over Wilkes Barre/ Scranton.
-Mac Carruth stopped 22 of 24 shots for Rockford, but was undone by Nic Petan and Chase De Leo, who both had assists in a 3-2 Manitoba win.
Winterhawks in the ECHL:
-Anton Cederholm scored his first professional goal for Kalamazoo and added two assists, for his first three-point game in his entire time playing in North America (he never had a three-point game with the Winterhawks). Kalamazoo edged Colorado 6-5 in a barn burner of a game.
-Gasper Kopitar had a goal and an assist for Manchester as they took Reading to the wood shed 5-2.
-Tristan King scored his eighth goal of the year for Allen, but they still lost to Missouri 4-2.
-Quad City blew out Cincinnati 6-2 and Miles Koules got in on the action, notching an assist.
-Garrett Haar returned to the lineup for Alaska and had an assist in the Aces' 3-2 loss to Rapid City.

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