Friday, March 4, 2016

Portland Edges Desperate Tri-City 5-3, Gets Big Two Points in U.S. Standings

The Portland Winterhawks really needed the two points they got in a 5-3 victory Friday night at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland. They did not need the game, half as bad as the very desperate Tri-City Americans did though. The Americans were four points behind the Spokane Chiefs, entering the game, with only nine games left in their regular season. They dropped a crazy 5-3 game in a playoff style atmosphere and with Spokane also winning Friday, they now need a whole lot to go there way to extend their season.

It was a great win for Portland, as they continued to score big goals in fighting off the Americans, gaining four different two-goal leads in the game. Overage d-man Blake Heinrich continued his torrid streak, that he started at the end of the Central Division swing and notched both the eventual game-winner and an empty net goal, for five goals in his last three games. Heinrich also had an assist and has eight points over his last three games. For a guy known far more for being physical in his own zone and making life difficult for opposing forwards, it is great to see him providing needed goals at crucial times late in the season.

Portland opened the scoring in the first period, on the power play. Rodrigo Abols drove the zone and fired it off of Americans' goalie Evan Sarthou's right pad. Ryan Hughes gobbled up the rebound with Maxwell James all over him and put a shot between Sarthou's pads for the 1-0 lead. It was the first goal in quite awhile for the struggling second power play unit, a great sign for Portland. The Winterhawks then added to their lead on soccer-style skills put on display by their captain. Dominic Turgeon, who has had awful luck with bouncing and rolling pucks recently, tracked down a loose puck and kicked it around Tri-City d-man Dylan Coghlan and back to himself, setting up a two-on-one with line-mate Keegan Iverson. Turgeon looked off Sarthou and buried a shot in the near corner, over Sarthou's blocker for his 31st goal of the year.

The hard-charging Americans got a goal back only 31 seconds later as rookie forward Michael Rasmussen drove the net and jumped on the rebound of a Vladislav Lukin shot, backhanding it past Hill.

Portland got their second, two-goal lead of the game, early in the second period as Keegan Iverson easily shrugged off an open-ice check from Parker Wotherspoon and centered a brilliant pass right to Abols. Sarthou made a big save on the lanky Latvian and Cody Glass pounced on the rebound for his ninth goal of the year. Tri-City cut the Portland lead back to one again on a ridiculous pass and finish by Parker Bowles and Tyler Sandhu. The former lobbed a shot/pass back door to the latter, with Adin Hill having little chance to stop the play. Portland would get the eventual game-winner on another great play by Abols. He drove into the Americans' zone and split defenders Coghlan and Juuso Valimaki, giving the rushing Blake Heinrich an open lane to the net. He waited out Sarthou and tucked a backhand past Sarthou for a 4-2 Portland lead.

For the third time, Tri-City got back to a one-goal deficit and it was another beauty. Vladislav Lukin got his stick low and expertly tipped a Valimaki shot past Hill, setting up a hard-fought third period.

The Winterhawks held tight defensively in the third period, only allowing seven shots on Adin hIll, who rose to the occasion, stopping all of them. Head Coach Mike Williamson got aggressive late, pulling Sarthou with 2:38 left in the game, hoping for at least one-point out of the night. Heinrich had other things on his mind though as he capped off some hard work by Turgeon in the neutral zone, to put the game away 5-3.

Adin Hill made several great saves and did not have much of a shot on two of the three T.C. goals. He stopped 27 of 30 shots on the night. Sarthou made a few big stops too, but gave up four goals on the 33 shots he faced.

Portland's power play was 1/4 on the night and they stayed pretty discipline overall, only allowing two, abbreviated T.C. power plays, on which they did not allow many good looks on Hill.

Game Stats:

F/O %
Abols 0 3 3 4 1/2 50% 0 0 0
Turgeon 1 1 2 4 16/28 57.1% 0 0 0
Iverson 0 1 1 3 - - 6 1 0
Nagel0000 --207
De Jong0001  --100
Game Notes:
-Evan Weinger and Skyler McKenzie were held out of the lineup with "day-to-day" injuries for the third straight game. Due to not having two of his top-nine forwards, coach Jamie Kompon stayed with the same, unique look with his forwards tonight. That being Alex Overhardt centering Bronson Sharp and Tanner Nagel early in the game and then getting Ryan Hughes and  Colton Veloso on his wings as needed. It worked great Friday, as Veloso and Hughes were extremely disruptive in the T.C. zone, causing Brandon Carlo to take a penalty, leading to the Hughes power play marker.
-Portland got two goals from their "16-year-old" forwards tonight, with both getting rewarded for hard, physical work in the dirty areas on the ice.
-Abols continues to display elite level set-up skills at time. He is great at catching d-men off balance and either getting a good look himself or setting up somebody else.
-His line with Turgeon and Keegan Iverson was the best unit on the night. They drove the play and gave NHL drafted d-men Brandon Carlo and Parker Wotherspoon fits in their own zone.
-Iverson has had a really disappointing season so far, but what he does great was on display Friday. He used his size to set up plays (like he did on Glass's goal) and caused a number of turnovers with his hits and presence. Those three are finally seeming to click consistently. On too many nights, they have been out-shined by Glass, Rihards Buakrts and Alex Schoenborn, so this was a great change of pace for three, very talented forwards.
-How much Caleb Jones has improved this season, was shown in one big play in the third period. With Portland on a power play, Tri-City started a rush the other direction and appeared to be setting up a two-on-one. Jones read the play and played it perfectly, position-ally, taking away the passing lane, breaking up the outlet and starting play back into the Americans' zone. Being out of position was his biggest weakness earlier in the year and he has improved so much in this area, while still flashing his great play-making abilities at the other end.
-Spokane edged Prince George 3-2, meaning Portland stays one-point up on Spokane with eight games left in the regular season.
-With the win, Portland wins the season series over Tri-City with a 7-3 record.
-There was a crazy melee in the second period, when Colton Veloso was caught in the neutral zone with his head down. Brandon Carlo appeared to catch Veloso up high, while leaving his feet (I could not see whether he caught him in the head). Veloso did not miss any time and Carlo did not receive a penalty on the play. Keegan Iverson and Alex Overhardt took exception to the hit and 18 total penalty minutes were handed out.
Winterhawks in the NHL:
-Brendan Leipsic, who had been called up on an emergency basis by Toronto, fired two shots on net , blocked a shot and threw four hits in 14:06 of ice time in the Maple Leafs' 2-1 loss to Minnesota.
-Paul Gaustad potted his second goal this year for Nashville in their 5-4 overtime loss to New Jersey.
-Sven Baertschi helped Vancouver to a 2-0 lead in the first period, by scoring his 13th goal this year. Unfortunately, the San Jose Sharks stormed back and edged the Canucks 3-2. Jannik Hansen was scratched with an undisclosed injury.
-Brandon Dubinsky had an assist for Columbus as they took down Edmonton by a 6-3 score.
-Colton Sceviour scored the game winner and assisted on the insurance marker for Dallas as they beat New Jersey 4-2.

Winterhawks in the AHL:
-Taylor Aronson notched his 22nd assist in a 4-3 shoot out win over Oliver Bjorkstrand and Lake Erie. Aronson is just seven points away from setting his AHL career high.
-Travis Ehrhardt had an assist for Utica, as the Comets shut out Toronto 4-0.
-Nic Petan had an assist for Manitoba, as they shut out San Antonio 3-0.

Winterhawks in the ECHL:
-Cam Reid had three points as his two goals and one assist were still not enough in a 7-4 Reading loss to Wheeling.
-Manchester fell to Orlando 3-2, with Gasper Kopitar assisting on a goal.
-Miles Koules made his debut with Wichita and he scored the shootout winner for the Thunder in their 3-2 victory over Missouri.
-Troy Rutkowski had an assist for Evansville as they blew out Tulsa 6-2.
-Patrick Wellar has two goals this year and they are both in the last week. His Alaska Aces fell to Idaho 5-2 on the night.

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