Saturday, October 22, 2016

Seattle's Toth finally solves Portland with a 3-1 victory

When you are the overage goalie acquired by a team hoping to contend for the Ed Chynoweth cup, you want to prove yourself early on. No more so than against your team's hated rival. So when Portland scored 10 goals on Rylan Toth in just over a game and a half, he had to be entering Friday's match up with the Winterhawks with something to prove. He did just that, earning first-star honors by stopping 32 of 33 shots and earning his first win over Portland in three starts this season. Toth was not the only Thunderbird with something to prove as Ethan Bear was snubbed once again by Hockey Canda after being left off Team WHL for November's Canada Russia series. Bear also made his point by scoring the eventual game winner on a brilliant one-timer in the first period.

While Bear's goal was the winner, Seattle got their first goal of the game earlier in the first period, though it took a video review to prove it. Off a mad scramble in and around Portland goalie, Seattle's Nolan Volcan one-timed a bouncing puck off the upper part of the net and back out. Play kept going, but it was eventually whistled down and video was reviewed. Not only was it clear the puck went it after seeing the replay, it also became clear that Portland d-man Henri Jokiharju did his goalie no favors by accidentally interfering with his ability to get back into the play. Seattle doubled their lead later in the period on a power play goal from Bear. After Seattle won the opening draw of the man-advantage a pass form point to point intended for Bear went off the side boards. Instead of giving up on the opportunity, Bear wired a one-timer right over Kehler's glove. The Thunderbirds were given the power play after an ill-advised interference penalty taken by rookie Ty Kolle. Seattle took a 2-0 lead into the second period.

Portland would cut their lead in half in a familiar way in the second frame. After an interference penalty by Turner Ottenbreit, Skyler McKenzie capitalized on a tic-tac-toe passing play for his eighth goal of the young season. Caleb Jones started the play by passing across to the left wing, leaving McKenzie all kinds of room for a one-timer off a cross-ice pass back from Joachim Blichfeld. This was Portland's seventh power play goal on Seattle by Portland in three games.

The Third period was where Toth shined the most as he made two different brilliant right pad saves to preserve the 2-1 lead. His first save was off a one-timer by Blichfeld, where he looked to be well out of position. His second not only saved the game, it set up a push the other way by Seattle leading to an empty net goal for Matthew Wedman. This iced the game. He second, right pad save was a little different in that it came off the skate of a tied-up Keegan Iverson. If he were to score off the kick, it would have counted as he was outside the crease when he made contact.

Kehler also played well in his ninth start for Portland, but fell short, by stopping only 26 of the 28 shots he saw.

Portland's power play was 1/3, while Seattle's was 1/2. On the season, Portland is now 18/53 for 34 percent. Due to Tri-City failing on five opportunities tonight in Kelowna, Portland PP is once gain first in the league.

Game Notes:
-Ryan Gropp was a scratch for the match up with a yet-to-be-determined injury.
-Cody Glass took an awkward tumble into the end boards in the first period but played the rest of the game. It was eerily reminiscent to the one he took that led to him being held out of the preseason. His lack of scoring opened the door for a new WHL scoring leader, but it wasn't who I thought it would be, that took advantage. Medicine Hat's Mason Shaw followed up a five assist night on Wednesday, with a three assist night on Friday for 21 total points. This is two more than Glass' 19.
-Henri Jokiharju seems to do one thing each game that impresses me. This time it was a slick backhand pass out of the zone, when everyone in attendance was expecting him to go the other way. His tangle up with Kehler was unfortunate, but the Finnish rookie is slowly and surely impressing in his first season playing in North America.
-McKenzie's eight goals matches his career high from last season. But instead of 68 games, he only took 13 to score eight goals this time around.
-Joachim Blichfeld played up with Evan Weinger and Ryan Hughes as the game grew long in the tooth. He was Portland's best offensive player on the night, continuously driving the play towards the Seattle net. I think that this could be a go-to move for Mike Johnston late in the game, but it won't be a regular lineup option.
-Brad Ginnell seems to have adjusted the most to playing in the WHL so far, of the 16-year-old rookie forwards Portland has on the roster. Even when he made mistakes, he quickly responded and kept them from multiplying.
-Portland has the odd weekend off as they do not play again until Tuesday night when they host Tri-City.

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