Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Old time hockey back in Brandon as Portland wins 7-6

The Portland Winterhawks (6-3) and the Brandon Wheat Kings (2-3-1) played a wild, back and forth affair Tuesday night. This would be a complete anomaly for most teams, but Portland fans are getting used to this type of game. The Winterhawks have 42 goals for, which is eight more than any other team and 31 goals against, which is third highest in the league. Their 73 total goals scored in their games is five more than the next WHL team (Vancouver with 68).

A big reason that so many goals were scored a Westman Place Tuesday night was the 18 total power plays that were handed out. Portland converted on five of their nine, while Brandon scored on two of their nine.  Portland's top-ranked power play is now zooming along at a 39.5 percent clip (15/38).

Portland was led to to their win by three assists from Skyler McKenzie and a goal and two assists from Joachim Blichfeld. Brandon's Tanner Kaspick scored twice for the Wheat Kings, while Reid Duke had three points in his return to the WHL.

Brandon jumped on a road weary Portland team early and forced them into four straight penalties to start the game. Their first power play goal came when Reid Duke sent a saucer pass to defenseman Jordan Wharrie plenty of room to shoot. His slap shot beats Cole Kehler for his first with the Wheat Kings. Then, after Portland captain Keegan Iverson took an interference penalty in Brandon's zone, the Wheat Kings scored their second, early power play goal. Top NHL-draft prospect Nolan Patrick found Ty Lewis open on the left wing. Lewis fired a shot on and the rebound from Portland goalie Cole Kehler bounced off a Portland skate and in. Portland d-man Brendan De Jong was fighting for positioning and he was unlucky enough to have the puck bounce off his skate and in. The Wheat Kings out shot Portland 18-12, in an up and down period.

Portland responded well in the second period and scored three straight to take the lead. There would be a total of six goals scored in the crazy period. Portland  notched their first power play marker, when Caleb Jones made a brilliant spin move, after holding the puck in at Brandon's blue line. He then fired s nice spin pass to a wide open Lane Gilliss, who teed up a slap shot for his second of the year. The goal came just six seconds after the Wheat Kings had killed off Portland's five-on-three man advantage.The Winterhawks tied the game up just over four minutes later on the power play. The Hawks scored on the rush as Skyler McKenzie appeared to be trying for Cody Glass in the middle of the ice, but his pass went behind him. Joachim Blichfeld followed up the play, received the pass and wired a shot top shelf that beat Brandon goalie Jordan Papirny.  After Brandon tried to notch a short handed goal, Ryan Hughes led a four on three rush the other way. Hughes was patient and drove  away from the net, feeding Evan Weinger on the right wing. Weinger swiftly fired a slam dunk pass to Keoni Texeira back door. The goal was Texeira's fourth of the season. Three of those four goals have been scored while on the man advantage.

Brandon tied the game on another fortunate bounce. Reid Duke's shot off the face off was saved by Kehler, but Caleb Jones' clearance pass bounced  right off of Tanner Kaspick and in. Portland took their second lead of the game with just over five minutes left in the period. Alex Overhardt was johnny-on-the-spot for the rebound of a Keoni Texeira shot from the point and it was 4-3. The Wheaties just refused to go away though as their fore check set up their fourth goal of the game. Rookie forward Brad Ginnell was out-muscled by Tanner Kaspick and he lost puck deep in his own zone. Stelio Mattheos beat Colton Veloso to the loose puck and he fed the puck back to Kaspick. Kaspick waited out Kehler and backhanded it past him.

Joachim Blichfeld played his best game in a Portland sweater so far Tuesday night and his play is what gave Portland their third, one-goal lead of the game very early in the third period. Blichfeld circled the Brandon net and he found an opening in tight, to Papirny's right. Keegan Iverson muscled his way in and poked home the loose puck. Brandon responded 46 seconds later as Reid Duke wrecked havoc in the Portland zone, while on the PK. He forced a bad pass out of the zone, which was collected by Connor Gutenberg and given right back to Duke on a break. Duke deked out Kehler and slipped a backhand shot past the goalie.

Portland notched their sixth goal off a broken play around their opponent's net while on the power play. Evan Weinger's back door pass to Iverson banks off of his skate and went into a mass of bodies. Cody Glass was the late-comer to the scrum and he poked it home.  This gave Portland a 6-5 lead. Brandon pressed late in the game, hitting a post with all of their pressure, but Cole Kehler turned away all of their other chances. The Wheaties pulled Papirny for an extra attacker late in the game and it partially backfired on them. They gave up a empty net goal to Evan Weinger, after Colton Veloso sprung him with a slick bank pass. off of the far boards. Nolan Patrick notched a goal with four seconds left, but it was not enough.

Portland's Kehler did not play too poorly, despite the six goals against. He stopped a total of 40 of the 46 pucks he saw. Two of the six goals he gave up were off really strange passes and his defense hung him out to dry on most of the other goals. Brandon's overage goalie Papirny, meanwhile turned away
29 of the 35 shots he faced.

Game Notes:
-Portland was really sloppy early in the game.They were chasing the puck from the get-go and some of their penalties were direct results of this.
-Four power plays for Brandon in the first 12 or so minutes of the game.
-One such penalty was rookie d-man Matt Quigley hitting a player behind the play, away from the puck. Interference was  common call for the referees.
-I've not been too impressed with defenseman Carter Czaikowski's play so far, but he was much better tonight. He fired one brilliant stretch pass that nearly sprung Skyler McKenzie in for a breakaway. I like how his head is always up while holding the puck in his own zone. He is constantly looking for a good outlet pass.
-Nolan Patrick was not his best this night. Yes, he scored once and had an assist, but he also took two really bad penalties. Both were when he was caught flat-footed and he had to slow down two different Portland centers.
-With his goal, Cody Glass is still atop the point charts with 16 points in nine games. His linemate McKenzie is tied for second in the league with 12 points now.
-Texeira has 10 points, which is tied for most in the WHL among d-men.
-Blicheld has seven points in only seven games. It should not be too surprising that he played his best game the same day it was announced Rodrigo Abols had been released. The overage, import center could not find a suitor in the WHL and so Portland was forced to release him. Abols is extremely talented, but did not show enough consistency in performance to warrant another WHL team to make room for the two-spot Latvian. Hopefully, he finds a home in the OHL or QMJHL like a couple overage WHL goalies did last year. Blichfeld now has the peace of mind that he is with the team for the rest of the season, instead of having to worry abut what move would be made to take care of Portland's import dilemma.
-Reid Duke had a strong game back as he was returned from his tryout with the Hartford Wolf pack of the AHL. He did hit Weinger with a cheap shot after the Californian scored his empty-net-goal.
-Alex Overhardt also got caught up in the act minutes later as he took exception to Tyler Coulter getting a late stick in on his goalie. Overhardt lost his cool, going after Coulter and he was given a late game misconduct. 
-Three Manitoba natives played for Portland Tuesday night in their home province. Colton Veloso and Cody Glass are from Winnipeg and Cole Kehler hails from Altona, Manitoba. 

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