Saturday, October 1, 2016

Portland spoils Seattle's ceremonies: 6-1

There was a lot of energy in the crowd on the night of Seattle’s home opener. No doubt chills were going down the spines of the 6,138 fans in attendance as an extended ceremony was put on before the game. A video highlighting not just last year’s Western Conference title team, but a few of the big moments in years before as well was part of the presentation. After the banners were raised and homages were paid through, Portland spoiled the festivities with four power play goals en route to a 6-1 victory.

The Thunderbirds were their own worst enemies early and often and Portland’s crisp passing and work in the tough areas while on the power play helped them make Seattle pay.

Portland was led by a career high four assists from defenseman Keoni Texeira, one goal and two assists from Ryan Hughes, two goals and one assist from Keegan Iverson and two points from Cody Glass. Texeira now has seven points in just four games this year, while Hughes has eight.

Not only did the teams face a long delay due to the opening night events, they had to wait another 10 minutes or so just five minutes into the game, for a sheet of plexiglas along the corner boards to get replaced. After the flow of the play finally got going a bit, Ryan Hughes was able to draw a holding call and Portland’s power play went to work. After some nice movement around the exterior, Cody Glass got a good look in tight on Seattle goalie Rylan Toth and Skyler McKenzie was quick to the rebound on the far post to poke it home. Then while on another penalty kill later in the first, Brandon Schuldhaus delivered a crowd-pleasing hit on Alex Overhardt. The center got the puck to Texeira and a mini two-on-one developed off of the hit. Colton Veloso found some room on the far post, deflecting a hard pass in for his first of the season. Seattle really went out of their way imposing their will on Portland, but were finding that it sometimes had a negative impact.

Any hope of a quick comeback in the second period for Seattle was quickly fading as Cody Glass smartly read the play and set up another goal. He did this by waiting for an activated Texeira to create an odd-man rush in Seattle’s zone. Iverson was the recipient of a slam-dunk pass to an out-of-position Toth’s’ right and it was 3-0 Portland. Seattle continued to sustain heavy pressure on Portland, but the Winterhawks’ defense and goalie Cole Kehler bent but did not break. Kehler’s best save of the night and period was in a series of stops during this time, where he deftly flicked out his left pad, turning away a wide-open Nolan Volcan shot. The momentum seemed to be swinging Seattle’s way anyways, until 16-year-old rookie Ty Kolle drew a tripping call on Seattle defenseman Bryan Allbee and Portland’s power play cashed in again. This time it was a strong slapshot from the point by Texeira that came right to Evan Weinger, who was nearly on top of Toth. Instead of trying to just jam the puck in on the down Toth, he cleverly flipped a backhand pass out to a wide open Ryan Hughes in the right slot. Hughes powered home the puck for a 4-0 Portland lead on his third goal of the season. This was the end of the night for Seattle’s overage net-minder as rookie 16-year-old Carl Stankowski came into the game in relief. Toth has given up ten goals to Portland in just around a game and a half.

The goalie change did inspire the Thunderbiurds though as rookie Elijah Brown caught Portland napping and got behind their defense. His try was turned aside by Kehler, but Donovan Neuls found Alexander True alone in the slot as a result and Seattle was on the board.

Instead of this being the start of some great comeback though, Portland put some salt in the wound in the third period, to the tune of yet another power play goal. Cody Glass made a quick drive to the net and drew a high-sticking call on Seattle’s Scott Eansor. Then on the man-advantage, Ryan Hughes made a beauty of a drop pass to Alex Overhardt and the 19-year-old center buried it past Stankowski. Portland would add a late penalty shot goal with Keegan Iverson sending a nifty backhand past Stankowski. Iverson had earned the penalty shot while on the penalty kill off a nice breakaway.

Portland’s power play is now a very impressive 7/14, after going four-for-five on the night. Seattle could not convert on any of the seven chances they had on the man-advantage.

The Winterhawks could be leaning Cole Kehler’s way in the battle of 19-year-old goalies, after he was very impressive, stopping 25 of the 26 shots he faced. Stankowski turned away eight of the ten shots he saw in relief.

Game Notes:
-This was the first of eight straight on the road for Portland, as they now head to the province of Saskatchewan to take on Swift Current on Tuesday night. They will face all six teams in the east division, before returning to the United States to take on Spokane on October 15th.
-Joachim Blichfeld made a good case for Portland to choose him over Rodrigo Abols with some quality play on Portland’s top power play. While he didn’t factor into the scoring, he made several key passes that helped lead to goals.
-Henri Jokiharju is an interesting player to watch for both good and bad reasons. At times, he flashes all-world talent and at times he gives the puck over right in the slot in his own zone. Mike Johnston and company will be working with him to limit these mistakes, while trying to make sure, he continues to take chances.
-Besides Abols, scratched for Portland were Lane Gilliss, Brett Clayton, Brad Ginnell, Conor MacEachern, Jake Hobson. The Winterhawks continue to rotate games around the peripherie of their lineup.
-Cody Glass, Keegan Iverson and Skyler McKenzie are really clicking for Portland. They combined for six points tonight.
-Elijah Brown and Matthew Wedman were lined up with Alexander True and it was a line that I really liked for Seattle. The two younger forwards flash all kinds of skill and True was often able to use his size to create more room for them. I would look for this line to start picking up the scoring as Wedman and Brown gain WHL experience.
-Seattle is definitely a team that needs to find some chemistry in a hurry. They have a lot of talent and if this trend continues, I would not be surprised if deals start being made.
-Keegan Iverson and Cavin Leth were both getting under the opponent’s skin tonight, so it was only fitting the two of them got into a dust up. This one was a little different in that there were two officials actively trying to break them up as they were throwing blows. Both were given ten-minute misconducts and roughing minors.

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