Sunday, March 27, 2016

Portland Gets Blanked by Petit 3-0. Drops Game One in Everett

Friday night at Xfinity arena, Portland had to be licking their chops. They were about to face a franchise, whose season they had ended twice over the past three seasons and they had learned that WHL Western Conference (and possibly the entire WHL) Goalie of the Year Cart Hart was out with a lower-body injury. The goalie they got instead though, was every bit as good, if not better, than Hart has been against Portland this season. Backup goalie Mario Petit, who only started nine games over the entire season, stopped all 32 shots (my count) Portland threw at him, in leading the Silvertips to a 3-0, opening game of the series win. On the offensive end, Everett got two goals from a guy who had only played in two games over the last month and fired 50 shots, a season high, on Adin Hill.

Everett set the tone early, by bumping, hitting and getting in the face of Portland goalie Adin Hill every chance that they got. It was extremely clear that throwing Hill off of his game, was a big part of their series game plan. Dawson Leedahl, who has been battling a hand injury over the last month, threw three hits in his very first shift and set up a style of hard-nosed play that it was clear Everett was more comfortable with. Leedahl later bumped Hill with his hip/shoulder and sent the goalie flying. Portland did not get awarded a goalie interference related power play until Yan Khomenko backed right into and fell on top of Portland's goalie. Portland had one of the best looks in the early going when Dominic Turgeon received a pass in a prime scoring area and was turned aside by the rookie goalie. Everett's best scoring chance in the scoreless opening frame was when Hill sprawled out to rob Brian King with his glove.

Everett straight up dominated the game's second frame in practically every aspect. They hung two goals on Portland, while establishing a potent forecheck and fired 22 shots on the Hawks' net. The Silvertips were certainly helped to that lopsided shot count by a five-on-three power play. They were unable to score on that advantage, but scored the game's opening goal moments after it was killed, undoubtedly helped by momentum they gained. The second penalty was called when Portland's Blake Heinrich bumped Carson Stadnyk from behind near the net and the Everett forward went flying onto Hill. In multiple views of the play, it seems clear that Stadnyk went down very easy and almost certainly re-directed himself to land on top of Hill. Regardless, Everett's first goal was scored by Brandon Ralph, who skated in and looked off Hill, like he was going to pass, before beating him over the left shoulder. It certainly appeared to be a shot, that Adin Hill could have stopped. Then, Everett created confusion in the Portland zone and when both Cody Glass and Keoni Texeira went to take away the guy at the far post, Dawson Leedahl skated right in on Hill and beat him easily. It was a full defensive meltdown and gave Everett needed insurance.

In the third period, Portland got some great looks, two of which were for Caleb Jones, who was stoned twice by Petit, when he got behind the defense. Jones's second chance was stopped by the right toe=pad area of Petit. Then Portland's defense failed Hill again as Carson Stadnyk faked a shot and deftly passed the puck to Leedahl at the far post. Leedahl had boxed out Texeira, giving him an easy lane to both receive the pass and beat Hill. Portland got consecutive power plays later in the period, but Petit stood tall and turned them away.

Mario Petit was the unexpected star of the game, stopping all 32 shots that he saw. Meanwhile, Adin Hill turned away 47 of the 50 that he faced.

Game Stats:

Link Here
Game Notes:
-It seemed like everyone of Everett's players bought into their game plan and the team as a whole got into Portland passing lanes and took away their best skill, open-ice passing. Without clean passes through the neutral zone, they struggled with creating odd-man rushes. This is where Portland does a lot of their damage. Everett head coach Kevin Constantine created a good game plan for frustrating Portland's skill players. It only worked though, because Everett had incredible puck support. Every time that a Portland player stickhandled around one Everett player, there was another there. A lot of the time, that next player was throwing a check and taking them off of the puck.
-Meanwhile, Portland turned an uneven defensive effort. Every time an Everett player got around one Winterhawk, there was boatloads of ice for them to skate into and oftentimes a three-on-two rush. Portland has to have better puck support. If the style of the game is not open and loose, they cannot let themselves play that way. I really thought that this team was more adaptable to different styles, but it appears that they have had too many bad defensive habits in order to do that.
-The worst defense of the game was played by Portland's Keoni Texeira. He made a poor decision on Everett's second goal and just got outmaneuvered and out-muscled on the second one. He had a lot of bad defensive lapses about halfway through the season, but had been playing better, as of late.
-The WHL has had their officials make calls that were statements against goaltender interference over the last couple of seasons. In this game and over the past few months, I've seen far too many liberties taken on the game's most valuable position. With four of the 16 teams in the playoffs, without their top goalies, you would think that the league's officials would be making more of an effort to protect them.
-On the flipside, the old school side of me thinks that if the officials are not calling bumping the goalie, well after the whistle, do it at the other end as well. Everett, at this point, does not have a backup that has ever played at this level, so you might as well take some liberties of your own. At the very least, the Silvertips may back off of taking so many cheap shots on Hill.
Winterhawks in the AHL Friday:
-Mac Carruth came into the game in relief of the starting Rockford goalie and stopped nine of the 10 shots he faced. His squad fell 51 to Lake Erie.
-Craig Cunningham had an assist for Springfield in a 4-3 loss to Portland.
-Taylor Leier had an assist for Lehigh Valley in their 4-3 victory over Providence.
-Ty Rattie extended his point streak to three games with an assist as Chicago beat Iowa 3-2.
Winterhawks in the ECHL Friday:
-Kevin Young had an assist and scored the game-winner for Reading, as they beat Manchester 4-3.

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