Sunday, November 27, 2016

Afternoon delight for the Winterhawks as they take down Prince George 6-3

A petition to move every Portland Winterhawks' home game to the afternoon might've gotten some signatures if it had been passed around the 3,164 fans at the Veteran Memorial Coliseum Sunday afternoon. Two days after they saw their Winterhawks take down the second place team in the B.C. Division 4-2, they watched them oust the first place Prince George Cougars 6-3. The win gives Portland their fifth in their last six games, with a record of 5-0-1 in those contests. These two recent wins make it hard for Mike Johnston and co. to decide what to do this year. After winning eight of their first 11, they dropped nine straight, before now getting points in six straight. Despite this being a match up of the oldest team (Prince George) and the youngest team in the WHL(Portland), the Hawks looked like the veteran team. They overcame a fluky goal in the third that tied the game; scoring twice in the span of 46 seconds to earn the big win. 10 Winterhawks found the score sheet in the win with Henri Jokiharju and Jake Gricus each earning two points.

Jake Gricius helped the Winterhawks open the scoring off a great play on an odd-man break. He drove the right wing of the zone and smartly used his big frame to protect the puck before dropping a pass to Joachim Blichfeld. The Danish forward then fired a shot in the top corner for his ninth goal of the year. While on one of three-straight power plays, the Cougars tied the game on a goal from their newest player. Colton Veloso was able to get his stick in the shooting lane of P.G. defenseman Brendan Guhle, after he received a feed from Jansen Harkins. Instead of deflecting it wide though, the shot rode Veloso's stick, beating Portland goalie Cole Kehler. This was Guhle's second goal in just his third game with his new team, after being acquired from the Prince Albert Raiders.

Portland took their second lead of the game on  bad turnover by the Cougars. After a shot on the rush, by Evan Weinger was stopped by goalie Nick McBride, 17-year-old rookie d-man Ryan Schoettler threw a pass right to Henri Jokiharju at the point. Portland's Finnish defenseman drove a shot over McBride's shoulder for the 2-1 lead. The Hawks then added to their lead on a goal that probably should not have counted. Skyler McKenzie sent a long outlet pass to Keegan Iverson, while on the power play, but the Hawks' captain appeared to be well offsides when he tipped it into the corner. He even peeled off from fore-checking, believing that he needed to clear the zone. No whistle was blown though and Portland took advantage. Iverson gathered the puck at the top of the zone and with every player looking for him to shoot, he flipped a pass to Cody Glass at the left face off dot. Glass fired a one-timer past McBride for the 3-1 Portland lead. Before the second period was over though, the Cougars crawled back within one. After an Iverson shot was blocked, Aaron Boyd smartly threw a uick outlet pass to a streaking Colby McAuley, sending him in alone. McAuley deked out Kehler and tucked the puck in past his pad.

Portland and Prince George traded chances in the third period, before the Cougars scored on an incredibly strange goal. Colton Veloso had the puck poked off of his stick, while trying to exit the zone and Kody McDonald drove the net, trying to sneak the puck in past Kehler. The rebound came out to Conor MacEachern, who tried to backhand the puck out of the zone. Colby McAuley then had MacEachern's clearing attempt ricochet off of his body and into the net. Instead of getting down after the goal, Portland took control of the play. While trying to exit his zone, P.G. d-man Joel Lakusta had the puck roll away from him. Jake Gricius, who had been fore-checking on the play snagged the puck and took advantage of the mini to-on-one, feeding a pass to 16-year-old rookie Brad Ginnell. The rookie then beat McBride, before he could slide over in time. 46 seconds later, the Ryan Hughes, Evan Weinger and Bronson Sharp controlled possession deep in the P.G. zone. This led to Weinger finding Brendan De Jong at the point. The defenseman settled the puck and then blasted a slap shot past McBride for the 5-3 lead. Keoni Texeira then added an empty netter from deep in his own zone to ice the game for the home squad.

Kehler stopped 39 of 42 and was his most impressive in the first, stopping 17 of 18. Nick McBride turned away 27 of the 32 shots he saw.

Portland was 1/3 on the power play, while Prince George was 1/5. The Hawks PP is now seventh in the WHL at 23.9 percent.

-Portland takes advantage of another turnover s Joel Lacusta loses the puck to Jake Gricius, setting up a two-on-one. Gricius slid the puck over to Brad Ginnell, who buried it (4-3)
-Evan Weinger great pass right onto the stick of Brendan De Jong. The big d-man settled it down and then powered a shot past McBride's blocker. (5-3)
-Keoni Texeira corralled a bouncing puck in his own zone, airmailing a shot all the way down into the empty net (6-3)EN

Game Notes:
-This was Jake Gricius' first WHL game with an assist and he ended up with two. He saw a whole lot of ice time as Lane Gilliss appeared to be absent for most of the third period. He was tasked with centering both his line and Gilliss'. I did not see how or even if Gilliss got injured.
-Gricius had his best game of his WHL career so far, showing great vision on both of his assists.
-Prince George had a whole lot of power play time in the mid-part of the first period as Keegan Iverson took a double-minor for high sticking 16 seconds after Lane Gilliss was whistled for tripping. They did end up scoring once, but nearly had another as a Jesse Gabrielle goal from the slot was disallowed after his linemate, Aaron Boyd made contact with Cole Kehler.
-Keegan Iverson also had a power play goal disallowed in the third period, after it was decided that he had directed the puck in with a high stick.
-Sam Ruopp was out of the lineup for Prince George, as he served the last game of his eight-game suspension for a "one-man fight," back on November second, vs. Medicine Hat.
-Keegan Iverson extended his point streak to six games, which is a new career high. He had a five-game streak back in the 2014-14 season.
-Brad Ginnell was in prime position to score countless times. He struck the post on one of these chances before eventually scoring the game-winner. His recent play should help him continue to see the ice ahead of Ty Kolle and (the injured?) Ilijah Colina.
-Portland has a busy week coming with a road trip for games in Spokane and Kennewick, followed by home games vs. Kootenay and Medicine Hat.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Winterhawks edge Royals 4-2 in Daylight Classic

The second period was again the strength for the Portland Winterhawks. Two nights after pumping 17 shots in the middle frame on Edmonton, they fired 19 on the the visiting Victoria Royals. Just like the game before, Portland scored the eventual game-winning-goal in the second. This gives Portland four wins in their last five games with points in each of them. Portland has been using the game's middle session to give themselves multi-goal leads and this is a major difference for them from their recent nine-game losing streak. During that streak, the Hawks could not seem to get more than a one-goal lead, which allowed their opponents the opportunity to come back and win. The Hawks were led by two goals from Skyler McKenzie and two assists from Keegan Iverson in the win.

Portland opened the scoring just 2:18 in the game with a goal from a depth forward. After defenseman Jake Hobson's shot was turned away by Victoria goalie Griffen Oouthouse, Lane Gilliss got two cracks at the rebound on Outhouse's left post, finally poking it through. The goal was his first since October 12th. Victoria got that goal back on a slick passing play. Spencer Gerth corralled the puck in the corner, quickly passing the puck near goalie Cole Kehler's right post, where Dante Hannoun one-touched a pass to Matthew Phillips in front. Phillips quickly put it away before Kehler could set himself. With just over a minute left in the period, the Hawks retook their one-goal lead after Cody Glass flipped a backhand pass from right at the side of the net to Skyler McKenzie. The winger slammed his shot past Outhouse to give Portland a 2-1 lead after one.

Portland again took the play to their opponent in the second, earning two power plays and using one to give themselves an insurance goal they would need. Just under a minute into the period, Colton Veloso tipped a point shot from Henri Jokiharju past Outhouse. This was the second straight game that Portland scored on a tipped shot from Jokiharju.

With Portland having the better of play, Victoria was given new life after Keoni Texeira delivered a high hit. Texeira was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct. On the ensuing, long man-advantage, the Royals had several quality chances, but Kehler was in position to turn away all of them. The Royals finally cut the Portland lead to one on a later power play. Reagan Nagy cut to the middle, losing the puck and regaining it, before firing a shot over Kehler's blocker. Quality shot blocks kept the Royals from getting anymore great chances the rest of the way. The Hawks got a very late empty-net-goal on some extra effort from Skyler McKenzie. Keegan Iverson's shot went just wide of the net form his own zone, but McKenzie raced down to beat out the hybrid icing call and potted the empty-netter.

Kehler put together his second straight quality start, stopping 33 of the 35 shots he faced. The best of these was on a breakaway for Royals' sniper Jack Walker, that he flashed his glove on. Victoria's Griffen Outhouse stopped 39 of 42 shots at the other end.

The Wnterhawks had one goal on seven power play chances, while the Royals had one on six chances.

Game Notes:
-McKenzie has 10 points in his last five games and five in his last three. This recent run has launched him all the way up to ninth in the WHL scoring race with 31 points.
-Keegan Iverson has found his home as a set up guy on the top line. He has a recent run of three games with at least two assists. He also has a six-game point streak, during which he has 13 points.
-Brett Clayton got his first point of the season, in his second game back with the team. He assisted on Gilliss' first period goal.
-With Ilijah Colina and Alex Overhardt out, the Hawks have called up 15-year-old rookie Connor Bowie. He did not dress in the game, but is sure to use some of the five-games he can play in this year, during this call up.
-Cody Glass had one assist in the game but perhaps his biggest impact for me was with how much he frustrated Matthew Phillips. The Calgary Flames' prospect took two penalties in the neutral zone on Glass, trying to slow down the Hawks' center. Not only does this speak to how well Glass' line did at controlling play in the neutral zone, it kept the Royals' most dangerous player off of the ice four four minutes.
-Evan Weinger has become a great 200-foot player. When he first came to Portland, he was more of one-dimensional player. This has definitely changed as Weinger flies back on defense, using his speed to take away scoring looks at his own net. This was the case when he tied up the stick of Dante Hannoun, taking away a sure goal. His two-way play has earned him more time on the penalty kill.
-Victoria was missing their top center as Tyler Soy was out with a shoulder injury he suffered last weekend.
-Portland plays another day game on Sunday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum vs. the Prince George Cougars. Not only do they face the tough task of taking on the top team in the B.C. Division, they face the very real threat of being without one of their top d-men  due to suspension.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Winterhawks double up Oil Kings 4-2

The Edmonton Oil Kings came into Portland for their third game in five nights, while on their U.S. Division road trip. They were done in by Portland's potent combo of 17-year-old centers. Cody Glass scored twice and Ryan Hughes added another as Portland took down the visiting Oil Kings. Keegan Iverson added three assists in the win.

The Winterhawks opened the scoring in the first period on a lucky bounce. Skyler McKenzie made a nice drop pass in traffic, to free up Cody Glass on the left wing. The Winnipeg native swung a backhand shot that deflected off of the skate of Oil Kings' d-man Wyat McLeod and past goalie Patrick Dea. The Oil Kings showed a lot of jump in response to the goal, taking the play right at Portland and drawing five power plays in the first period. They converted on one of those when Lane Bauer pounced on the rebound of a Tyler Robertson shot, putting the puck past Portland goalie Cole Kehler. Despite being short handed so much, the Hawks got there chances in the opening session. The best one was converted as Glass put an impressive deflection on the point shot from Henri Jokiharju, beating Dea. Glass smartly used his body to shield Dea from the puck, before getting a backhand deflection on the shot and moving out of the way, all in one motion. This is probably one of the nice deflection goals you'll see in the WHL this year.

The second period was mostly owned by Portland as they were given three power plays of their own, including a five-on-three advantage. Although they didn't convert on those opportunities, they controlled play for much of the period, out shooting Edmonton 17-3. They finally were able to beat Dea and give themselves a two-goal lead late in the second. The goal was a little non-traditional as Ryan Hughes guided the rebound of a Bronson Sharp shot with his skate, past Dea and in. This play is legal this year, as long as it does not take place in the crease. 

Portland looked to put the game away early in the third period, as Keegan Iverson fired a perfect cross-ice pass to Keoni Texeira and the 19-year-old d-man punched it home. Instead of folding up and giving up, down 4-1, the Oil Kings played their best hockey of the night through the rest of the third period challenging Kehler often. They finally broke through when rookie Trey Fix-Wolansky sniped a shot upstairs with Portland's defense scrambling to cover. Kehler stood tall the rest of the way, giving the Hawks points in four straight games, with three of those games being wins.

Kehler turned aside 22 of 24 shots, earning his ninth win of the year. Patrick Dea was a lot busier, stopping 36 of 40 Portland shots. 

Portland went 0/5 on the power play, while Edmonton was 1/6. Portland's power play drops to sixth in the WHL at 24.3 percent.

Game Notes:
-Cody Glass nearly had the hat trick as he struck iron on a full-ice shot with Dea pulled and the net vacant.  With his two goals though he now has 35 points on the year. This is still good enough for third in the WHL and six points behind Regina's Sam Steel.
-Keegan Iverson quietly has 28 points this year. This has him tied for 16th in league scoring and just one behind Skyler McKenzie for second on the team.
-Caleb Jones had an assist and now has eight points in his last four games. This has him finally up in the top-ten in scoring among d-men.
-The lone remaining members of the teams that played in the 2014 WHL final are Portland's Keegan Iverson and Keoni Texeira and Edmonton's Tyler Robertson, Aaron Irving and Lane Bauer. 
-With Colton Veloso and Alex Overhardt and Colina all out (likely to injury), the Hawks brought Brett Clayton back up. He skated a regular shift and played pretty well.
-The player with the most notable increase in playing time was Bronson Sharp. He netted his first career WHL point on the Hughes goal and got to see some time on the penalty kill.
-Jake Gricius was in the lineup and so only ended up missing most of one game, due to the hit he received from Lethbridge's Tyler Wong. 
-The next game for Portland is the Daylight Classic, Friday vs. Victoria. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Visiting 'Canes storm through Portland for a 6-5 overtime win

One night after getting treated to a back-and-forth U.S. Division overtime game, the Portland faithful got one involving teams that only see each other once a year. Lethbridge has struggled in the early going this year, leading to the trading of their top scorer. They were badly in need of an emotional win and their captain, Tyler Wong delivered just that Sunday night. He buried a shot just 18 seconds into overtime, sending the Hawks to their first extra-time loss this year. Wong was a catalyst all night for the Canes, scoring twice, drawing a power play and throwing a high, first period hit on Portland forward Jake Gricius that knocked him out of the game. Despite the hit, seemingly making contact with Gricius' head, Wong was given just a two-minute penalty for charging, instead of a five-minute major that would've seen him exit the game.

Portland and Lethbridge traded a total of five goals in the first period, with both teams capitalizing on their chances. The Hurricanes drew first blood when import forward Egor Babenko got right around Keoni Texeira on some slick stick handling and he got a shot on Portland goalie Michael Bullion. Ryley Lindgren was first to the rebound and he poked it home. Portland responded just 50 seconds later as defenseman Caleb Jones drove the right wing and dropped a pass to Ryan Hughes at the blue line. Hughes then fired a shot on Lethbridge goalie Stuart Skinner and Evan Weinger buried the rebound. The Hawks then grabbed their first lead of the night when Skyler McKenzie in a one-on-one, drove straight at Brenndan Menell, using him as a screen as he fired a deceptive shot through Skinner's five-hole. The goal was McKenzie's 13 of the year. The Hurricanes tied the game at two when Lindgren drove around the Portland net and snuck a pass by Conor MacEachern and right to Zane Franklin. The 17-year-old forward buried the chance for his second goal of the year.

After receiving a late power play, the Hawks took a 3-2 lead on some amazing puck movement. Joachim Blichfeld received a cross-ice pass from Keegan Iverson, sniping a shot past Skinner, ending the goalie's night. Skinner stopped four of seven shots in only 14:34 of game action. Former Seattle Thunderbird Ryan Gilchrist came on in relief.

Portland took a two-goal lead in the second period, while the teams were skating four aside. After Keegan Iverson failed to convert on both a breakaway and a back door play, he found an onrushing Caleb Jones with a deft backhand pass. The blue liner buried his shot past Gilchrist. The goal was Jones' second in three games, after going 10 games without one. The Hurricanes would not go away as Colton Kroeker drove the left wing and centered a pass in front of the net. Tyler Wong out-muscled Ty Kolle for the puck, deflecting it up high over Bullion's left pad. Then Portland got what appeared to be an insurance goal as Ryan Hughes cut to the middle, drove to the net and flipped a backhand pass to Evan Weinger at the right post. Weinger finished off what appeared to be a designed play for his second goal of the game. This was Weinger's first multi-goal game of the year.

The Hurricanes were expected to be the more tired team, as this was their third game in as many nights. However, they looked to be the team with more energy. Colton Kroeker helped cut the lead to one, as he slipped past Henri Jokiharju and drove the net. He was not able to score, but Ryley Lindgren got to the rebound, sliding it through Bullion's right pad. This only inspired the 'Canes more and the ice was heavily tilted in their favor the rest of the period. After Bronson Sharp took a penalty after the whistle, Lethbridge pulled Gilchrist for a six-on-four advantage. Bullion made several big saves, but could not get over in time for a Giorgio Estephan one-timer from the left face off dot with 2:15 left in the game.

Lethbridge then finished off the comeback as Jordy Bellerive drove past Skyler McKenzie along the right wing and slid a perfect pass to Wong. The overage forward sniped it past Bullion, giving the 'Canes the extra point.

Bullion struggled in covering rebounds, but did well in battling through adversity after taking an inadvertent stick to the neck from Bellerive in the third period. He saved a total of 25 of the 31 shots he faced. Gilchrist was impressive in relief, turning away 28 of 30 shots.

Portland had seven power plays for the second night in a row, converting on just one of them. Lethbridge went 2/5 on their man-advantage opportunities.

Game Notes:
-With an assist in the game, Glass has 33 points, good for third overall in the WHL.
-Iverson had three assists and has eight points in his last four games. He could be in the running for WHL player of the week.
-As hot as Iverson is, Hughes is right behind him with six points in his last three games.
-McKenzie had a goal and an assist and is now tied for ninth overall in WHL-scoring with 28 points.
-Jones had three points and has seven points in his last three games. He is now up to 10th in WHL scoring with 18 points.
-Portland seemed to over think their two different, lengthy five-on-three power plays in the game. Instead of having Joachim Blichfeld run one of the point positions, like normal, they used defenseman Henri Jokiharju. The puck movement was not as smooth without Blichfeld and both d-men seemed too content to just set each other up for one-timers, rather than drive at the defense and make them over-commit. I'm never a fan of a team using a different two-man advantage unit and Portland's inability to convert on these two chances, seems to back up my belief.
-Bronson Sharp got more penalty killing time with Alex Overhardt scratched and did well with this opportunity. The late penalty, will not do him any favors with the coaching staff.
-Hughes was moved to center for the first time this year to start the game. This was a decision, likely made after his great puck-possession play the previous night out.
-While it remains to be seen if Wong will get a suspension for his hit on Gricius, the hit is something the league has been cracking down on. Gricius not returning to the game will likely have an impact on the league's decision, as will Wong's history. He has been suspended five games over three incidents in his career.  The injury is really unfortunate for Gricius, as he was playing his best hockey and had gained some time on the penalty kill with improved play in his own zone.
-Next game for the Hawks is Wednesday night vs. the Edmonton Oil Kings.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Ryan Hughes plays OT here in Portland's 5-4 win over Seattle

Two rivals played a splendid game at Veternams Memoiral Coliseum Saturday night in Portland. The visiting Seattle thunderbirds peppered 46 shots on net, but were done in by stellar goal tending and a star-making night from 17-year-old Ryan Hughes. The Hawks have watched one of their 17-year-old forwards in Cody Glass vault to the top of league scoring and start to get first round NHL-draft buzz. Hughes has been in the shadows though, quietly chipping points in, but not to the extent that the league took notice. Saturday night though, Hughes showcased some incredible skills that are sure to lead to the WHL and NHL taking notice. He scored twice for the Hawks, including the overtime winner and added an assist for a three-point night. The three-point night alone, was not what captured the audience though, but how they were done. He showcased some elite offensive ability, leaving solid defensive players grasping at air.

He helped open the scoring for Portland on one such play. He gained the puck in the Seattle zone and with an incredible spin move along the side boards, left Seattle center Alexander True in the dust. He then slipped a pass to Colton Veloso at the right post. The 19-year-old slammed it home for his fifth goal of the year. The Hawks doubled their lead with only 10 seconds left in the first on a bad turnover by Donovan Neuls. Jake Gricius hopped on the soft pass to exit the zone and cycled the puck deep to Veloso. The winger slung a pass to the point for Keoni Texeira and with the T-birds thinking shot, he fired a pass down low to Ryan Hughes. The Edmonton native buried the puck into the open net for his eighth goal of the season.

After a first period where goalie Cole Kehler and the Hawks were able to nullify a potent Seattle offense, the Thunderbirds broke through three times in the second. Turner Ottenbreit did a little bit of everything in the middle frame, helping his team on each of the three goals. First, he threw a hit on Texeira after the whistle, driving him into the Seattle post. Texeira then lost his cool, putting his team short-handed. On the ensuing power play, Mathew Barzal drew the Hawks in tight on him, before dropping a pass to Sami Moilanen. The Finnish forward's shot from the slot was then deflected in by Scott Eansor. Seven minutes later, Ottenbreit activated into the zone as Moilanen pulled the puck out of the right corner. He received the pass and buried a shot over Kehler. Lastly, the D-man's shot on a power play later in the period went wide, but was deftly deflected home by Nolan Volcan. Seattle's defenseman is often overlooked in the WHL and even on his own team, but he had one of the better periods by a blue liner I've seen this year, helping his team to a 3-2 lead. Portland would add another late period goal though on a power play of their own, putting the two rivals even at three. They scored when Keegan Iverson won a board-battle in the corner and found Cody Glass behind the net. Portland's leading scorer then found Joachim Blichfeld alone in front and the Dane went bar-down.

Seattle would take their second lead of the game in the third period, when, after controlling play and getting countless good looks at the net, a shot from Jarret Tyszka was deflected in front by the stick of Matthew Wedman through Kehler. Alexander True fought through a Winterhawks' d-man to poke home the puck in the crease. Portland's response would again be on the man-advantage. This time Cody Glass got the Thunderbirds following him to the left, before dropping a pass to Joachim Blihfeld. The winger had his choice of Keegan Iverson and Skyler McKenzie driving the right wing. He chose Iverson, who fired a shot over the right shoulder of Toth. The best chance to win in regulation for Seattle came on a one-timer by Keegan Kolesar that Kehler got over in time to deflect away with his glove. Overhardt had a good look to get the go-ahead goal with 40 seconds left for Portland but hit the post.

In over time, the Winterhawks controlled play and pinned Seattle deep, not allowing them to make changes as much as they would like. Evan Weinger just missed on a back door pass from Ryan Hughes, but Portland still was able to pin Seattle deep. This set up, Hughes, on his second shift in the extra session. He cut past a tired Sami Moilanen and got in alone on Toth, slipping a shot through his five-hole for the game-winner.

Cole Kehler turned away 42 of 46 shots and now has a 2.96 GAA and 0.909 save percentage. His GAA is 10th in the WHL, among goalies with 10 or more appearances. Rylan Toth turned away 23 of 28 shots.

Both teams got a lot of power play opportunities and cashed in. Seattle went 2/5, while Portland was 2/7. Portland's PP is now fourth in the league at 26.3 percent.

Game Notes:
-Portland now leads the 12-game season series, three games to one.
-Two assists by Cody Glass send him up to 32 points on the season. However, in Portland's absence from action, he fell six points behind Regina's Sam Steel for the WHL lead in points. He sits tied for fourth overall with Tri-Cities Michael Rasmussen.
-Hughes is now a point-a-game with 22 in 22 games. His nine goals triples last year's total already.
-Colton Veloso had his first two point night since November 20th, 2015. More notable for him though, was the admirable job Alex Overhardt, Joachim Blichfeld and him did on the Mathew Barzal line. They drew the match up often during the game and held their own.
-Blichfeld had two points and is sixth in rookie scoring with 18 points.
-Ottenbreit has six points in his last four games for Seattle.
-The fourth line of Brad Ginnell, Ty Kolle and Bronson Sharp was solid. They helped turn an early wave of Seattle momentum by putting together Portland's first puck-possession shift of the game. Ginnell drew an early penalty as well and Sharp had three shots on net in the game.
-Barzal took a nasty spill into the board on a big hit from Brendan De Jong in the second period. While De Jong was given a  boarding penalty on the play, it's good to see the tall d-man get physical and instigate contact in his own zone. For most of his Junior career, he has let the opponent make the first contact and just pushed back. He is now starting to lean on the opponent's forwards and make life more difficult for them.
-Evan Weinger's speed continues to be a major weapon for Portland. He drew a pivotal power play on Seattle's Brandon Schuldhaus by pulling away from him twice in one shift and forcing the d-man to take a desperate penalty.
-The Hawks get right back at it Sunday night with a game vs. the visiting Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Portland lets out frustration on Hitmen, demolishing them 9-2

It became obvious just how frustrated a group the Portland Winterhawks were, when defenseman Caleb Jones took to social media to declare that there was no way his team was going to lose Saturday night vs. Calgary. This took some guts as his team had dropped nine straight games and was in every single one of them. He must've thought there was another gear the Hawks could hit and they definitely did so in a big way. Portland fired 17 first period shots in on Calgary's goalie, but there was only one Winterhawks' player who could beat. Fortunately for Portland, that player notched a natural hat trick. Cody Glass had his first career hat trick in the first and his five point on the first five goals for Portland, helped set the pace in his team's blow out win.

Chief among Portland's issues during their nine-game losing streak was their lack of special teams success. That was not the case Saturday night, as the Hawks scored twice on the power play and twice on the penalty kill.

Calgary actually started the scoring in the first period when Jakob Stukel picked Ilijah Colina's pocket and drove the net, feeding Tyler Mrkonjic. The overage winger waited for Portland goalie Cole Kehler to go down, before lifting the puck over him. Portland tied it up just over four minutes later as they responded to the Calgary with determined play, controlling possession and finding a way to get a shot past Calgary's Cody Porter. Cody Glass helped set up his own goal in a way as he tied up the Hitmen and didn't allow them to clear the zone. Caleb Jones fired a pass down low that hit Skyler McKenzie in stride as he went across the net from left to right. This got Porter drifting to his left and allowed McKenzie to slip a backhand pass to an all-alone Glass for a slam-dunk at the left post. Glass got his second marker in the period when Jones kept the puck in at the blue line. McKenzie corralled the pass and with Keegan Iverson driving the net he slipped a pass in the slot to Glass. The 17-year-old center wired his shot past Porter for the 2-1 lead. He would make it 3-1 with his natural hat-trick goal, 2:40 later in the period. After winning the face off, Glass came out of the left corner with the puck, driving the net and wristing a shot up over Porter's left pad. After notching the first two goals, Glass appeared to have gained the confidence to try something like that.

Glass is known more for setting up goals than scoring them, so it was only fair that he set up a couple goals in the second period to help, nearly even things out. While on the power play, thanks to some aggressive fore checking from Colton Veloso, Cody Glass won the face off right back to Caleb Jones. The d-man swiftly ripped a shot past Porter, giving the Hawks a goal just four seconds into the man advantage. Then on another power play, Ryan Hughes helped get a little redemption for teammate Skyler McKenzie. Cody Glass had set up McKenzie at the right face off circle seconds earlier, but Porter had come across the rob him. So when Ryan Hughes found himself shooting from the exact same area on an eerily similar pass from Glass, he had a huge smile on his face. That ended Porter's night as he was pulled in favor of back up goalie (and former Winterhawks' d-man Mathew Dumba's younger brother) Kyle Dumba. Porter stopped 16 of the 21 shots he faced.

 The struggling Calgary power play left their new goalie out to dry several times and the Hawks broke through with short handed goals 19 seconds apart. First, after blocking a Mizhel Zipp point shot, Keegan Iverson lobbed a brilliant pass right to Skyler McKenzie in stride. McKenzie finished off the breakaway with a deke that got Dumba to go down, so he could tuck in the puck past Dumba's right pad. Then, Jones led a four-on-two rush the other way, after breaking up a play in his own zone. He passed to Colton Veloso who found Brendan De Jong trailing and the lanky blue liner beat Dumba blocker side. That was the first short handed goal of De Jong's career. Unfortunately for Dumba, the Hawks weren't done in the period. Ilijah Colina put an excellent stick in on a Jones point shot, striking the post behind Dumba. Evan Weinger was right there though and he slammed it home. That meant the Hawks were taking an 8-1 lead into the game's final frame.

Joachim Blichfeld closed out the scoring for Portland with a highlight reel goal. He caught Zipp going the wrong way and left him in the dust, before sniping a shot over Dumba's shoulder. Calgary would add another goal as Mark Kastelic's shot went right off Weinger's skate and came right back to him in the slot. He shot a quick backhand that Kehler was not ready for.

Kyle Dumba made 18 saves on 22 shots in relief of Porter. Kehler got his first win since October 15th, stopping 34 of 36 shots.

The Hawks power play was 2/5 on the night, but did not have their regular group out there for the last PP. The Hitmen went 0/5 on their power plays with two goals against.

Game Notes:
-A goal was disallowed for each team in the game. Cody Glass would have had four goals if not for the mask falling off Cody Porter in the first, due to a shot from Caleb Jones. For Calgary, Aaron Hyman scored in the second, but it was immediately waved off as Alexei Grishakov went right through Cole Kehler, knocking him down and making room for Hyman's shot.
-Personal record setting night for Cody Glass. He netted his first hat trick and first five point night. He now vaults back up into the scoring race with 30 points, just one behind current leader Mason Shaw. Glass took full advantage of getting back together with Keegan Iverson and Skyler McKenzie. They were not split up over lack of chances created, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that they picked up where they left off.
-Caleb Jones backed up his statement, with his first four-point night. He had just one point in his previous five games coming in.
-It was also the first four point night for Skyler McKenzie. He is now all the way up to 26 points, which is good for seventh in the league. Glass and McKenzie both reach career highs in points in the game, just 21 games into the season.
-Joachim Blichfeld had a goal and two assists and now has 16 points. This is good for sixth in the WHL in rookie scoring. He is doing a great job of running he left point, while on the power play. His shot is so dangerous, that teams overextend themselves to stop it allowing him to set up teammates, like he did tonight.
-Evan Weinger was all over the ice for Portland. He finally got his goal late in the second period, but had many great chances before that. He did a good job of utilizing his speed to close in on Calgary d-men on the fore check, creating turnovers.
-It's pretty obvious how much Calgary misses carolina Hurricanes' first round pick, defenseman Jake Bean. They have, former Everett Silvertips' d-man Michael Zipp as the power play quarterback and Zipp is nowhere near the creative player that Bean is. He really struggled all game, but nowhere was it more obvious then on the PP.
-Colton Veloso drew a penalty for the third time in two games. His tenacious play is rubbing opponents the wrong way and getting them to lose their cool.
-Next game for Portland is in one week, as they clash with rival Seattle

Portland still can't solve Everett's goalies, fall 2-1

When mired in an eight-game losing streak mostly due to the inability to score, there's few things a team would want to do less than face the best defensive team in the league. That's what happened Friday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum as Portland hosted the Everett Silvertips. Despite strong puck movement and the best defensive effort they've had in awhile, Portland still fell to Everett 2-1. This sends their losing streak all the way to nine games. Not since the 2009 calendar year has Portland been mired in such a streak. In late January through part of February that year, Portland fell short 12 straight times. Twice that season, they had losing streaks of nine games or more. That year was the first for head coach general manager Mike Johnston as he took over earlier in the season.

Everett opened the scoring in the first period after Portland failed to convert on a couple of great scoring chances of their own. After Ryan Hughes lost his cool and took an after-the-whistle penalty, Patrick Bajkov cashed in. He did so off a great series of passes by Matt Fonteyne and Noah Juulsen. They entered the zone, moved the puck into a scoring area and watched as their sniper ripped one past Portland goalie Cole Kehler's blocker. Caleb Jones had a couple of great chances to end the period, but could not slip one past Everett goalie Carter Hart.

Everett doubled their lead in the second, on some fantastic hand-eye coordination from overage, import forward Dominic Zwerger. A shot from Noah Juulsen was stopped by Kehler's right pad and popped into the air. Zwerger was lucky to be in prime position and looking the right way. He batted it home before it fell back to the ice. After getting out shot 10-5 to start the period, Portland was able to turn the momentum, oddly enough, when Brendan De Jong put them on a penalty kill. The Winterhawks had two different short-handed rushes by Caelb Jones and Keegan Iverson respectively and were able to create a man-advantage of their own. They got the last five shots in the period and had another five blocked by Everett's penalty killers.

So since the Hawks had the play going in their favor, it should not have been a surprise that Portland was able to finally net twine behind Carter Hart. After an icing that did not allow Everett to put out their whole top line, Keegan Iverson shielded the puck from d-man McKenzie Dwyer and ripped a wrist shot top self on Carter Hart. The goal cashed in on a third period decision by coach Mike Johnston to put the line of Cody Glass, Keegan Iverson and Skyler McKenzie back together after nearly six games apart. Any further come back hopes, though were partially dulled by a late penalty to Evan Weinger that put the Hawks down a man.

Portland's power play went 0/4 and is now 25.3 percent. Strangely enough, it is still in fourth place, despite the recent struggles. Everett's PP went 1/5 and is now 21.2 percent. That is good for eighth place in the 'Dub.

Cole Kehler was solid in net, giving Portland every chance to tie it with several highlight reel saves in the third period. He totaled 27 saves on 28 shots. Carter Hart was even better for Everett with 23 saves on 24 shots.

Game Notes:
-Carter Czaikowski left the team earlier this week to pursue different opportunities. This was a bit of a surprise as he was having his best season and had just notched his first career WHL goal.
-Czaikowski's departure leaves Portland with seven d-men. That means that if both Henri Jokiharju and Caleb Jones make their U20 World Junior teams, call ups could be necessary.
-As for now, the rotation in the bottom three will be Matthew Quigley, Conor MacEachern and Jake Hobson.
-Keegan Iverson now has three goals in his last four games. He is averaging a point-a-game with 18 points overall.
-Keoni Texeira has an assist in each of the last two games and 10 overall. He is ninth in WHL defensemen scoring with 15 points.
-Colina is playing at the same pace as Skyler McKenzie and Joachim Blichfeld. As a 16-year-old, you kind of expect him to slow the other two down, but he is reading, reacting and creating chances.
-Blichfeld is getting the looks he wants on the power play. He just needs to adjust the aim a bit. Several times he fired shots high and wide from the slot.
-Everett is 3-0 this year vs. Portland and has won nine straight vs. the Winterhawks.
-Patrick Bajkov, with two points in the game has five points in three games, this year vs. Portland.
-Noah Juulsen had two assists and was Everett's best skater on both sides of the ice. He now has three points in two games vs. Portland this year.
-Riley Sutter got the embarrassing standalone embellishment call on a play in front of the Portland net. This does not happen too often but it seemed fairly obvious Sutter initiated the contact with Caleb Jones before flopping to the ice.
-Jones played his best game in awhile. He was very active jumping into the play and creating looks for other or himself, but when in his own end, he didn't try to make an immaculate full-ice outlet pass, instead just taking the play that was there for him. The points will start coming in bunches if he keeps this up. He already diminished his team-low minus 14 by one with a  plus one in this game.
-Henri Jokiharju had his best offensive game as a Winterhawk, despite not reaching the score sheet. He went on his first end-to-end rush while the teams were skating four aside and nearly beat Hart. He also made a superb, spinning backhand pass, that almost connected in front of Hart. While those two plays were great, his best of the night was a poke check in his own zone that sprung an odd-man chance the other way. Jokiharju read that the 'Tips were about to pass to an area and he gambled correctly, tilting the ice sheet,
-Brendan De Jong and Ryan Hughes both took two minor penalties.
-Colton Veloso drew two penalties for the Hawks. He continues to give his best effort every night and play in whatever role MJ and crew decide to put him in.
-Portland hosts the Calgary Hitmen Saturday night. Calgary is coming off a 3-1 win in Seattle behind a great night from goalie Cody Porter.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Parenteau turns in a gem with 44 saves and Tri-City beats Portland 3-2

Overage goalie Rylan Parenteau can claim credit for half of the Portland losses on their current losing skid. He seems to have a little extra to prove every time he takes the ice vs. Portland. The Winterhawks are the team that he gave up four goals in 33:17 of game time, while still with the Prince Albert Raiders. This outing helped signify that he would be the overage getting traded out of town. Just like that, Parenteau was removed from the only WHL team he'd ever played for and a team he played parts of five seasons with.

So if he saw those Winterhawks' sweaters across the way from him and felt a little bitter about it, he could be forgiven. Instead of just feeling upset though, he has taken sweet vengeance on the Hawks four straight times. Over those four games, he has stopped a total of 143 of the 154 shots he's faced for a 0.929 save percentage. In his other five outings against other WHL teams, while with Tri-City, he gave up four or more goals all but one time and has earned only a single win.

More than just stopping so many shots vs. Portland though, he's made countless big saves in the late stages of the game, while his team clung to a one-goal lead. That was the case again Sunday night in Portland. Parenteau stopped 44 of 46 shots, including two in  desperate scramble in the final seconds. It doesn't get any closer than that for Portland and it doesn't get any more clutch than that for Parenteau.

This loss hurt more than most for Portland on the streak, as they had a two-goal lead early. The Americans scored three straight and got points from eight different players in coming back to win.

Portland jumped out to their lead just 5:45 into the game. Kenoi Texeira fed a great saucer pass to Jake Gricius on the rush and Portland's rookie center beat Parenteau up high for his second of the season. The rush was set up by a nifty pass off the boards by Lane Gilliss. Portland added a goal later in the first when a pass went behind Evan Weinger near the blue line and he spun around, one-timing it towards the net. Ryan Hughes never hesitated, driving the net and getting a stick on the shot, deftly deflecting the puck past Parenteau and giving Portland the 2-0 lead.

Tri-City started their comeback in the second period after Parenteau kicked out a huge rebound on a point shot from Conor MacEachern, starting a rush the other way. Morgan Geekie drove wide past rookie d-man Matthew Quigley and flipped a pass back door for Kyle Olson. The 17-year-old winger buried it for his sixth goal this season. Portland had a golden chance to retake their two-goal lead, when Parker AuCoin turned the puck over right in front of the Americans' net, but despite getting two "grade A" looks, Portland came up empty.

That would be unfortunate for the Hawks, as their lead completely disappeared 5:25 into the third period, thanks to a familiar face. While on the power play, Tyler Sandhu made a great play along the boards getting the puck to Vladislav Lukin, The Russian import, fired a pass across the crease to Michael Rasmussen and the big forward buried it. The Hawks responded to the tying goal with some of their best recent play, dominating possession through three different lien changes and getting countless good looks at the net behind Parenteau. The Americans' goalie did just enough to keep them at bay though, until the mid-period break let his team gather itself. Right off the puck-drop when play resumed, Tri-City scored the game-winning-goal. Matthew Quigley jumped up to the blue line on Nolan Yaremko, allowing a passing lane to Parker AuCoin in behind him. AuCoin finished off the two-on-one rush with a shot over goalie Cole Kehler's shoulder. Portland pulled Kehler late and got a power play, setting up a six-on-four advantage, but could not find loose pucks around the net with Parenteau out of position and yet again could not force overtime.

Cole Kehler faced 31 shots at the other end, stopping 28 of them. On four power play chances, Portland failed to score, dropping their PP percentage down to 26.6. Tri-City converted one of the three chances they got on the PP.

Game Notes:
-Tri-City leads the 10-game season series 4-1 now.
-Glass got an assist on Portland's second goal and is now tied for fourth with Medicine Hat's Chad Butcher in WHL scoring with 25 points.
-With his 16th goal this year, Michael Rasmussen now has a two-goal lead over Sam Steel for tops in the WHL. How he was left off the Team WHL roster is puzzling to me. He is a big-bodied forward, who has an unbelievable knack for knowing exactly where the puck is going and getting there first. His touch in tight around the net is one of the best in the WHL. Yes, he's only 17, but he is proving he can dominate against players up to three-years older already in the WHL this year.
-After a hot start, Keoni Texeira had only two points over his last nine games, before adding one Sunday night.
-Caleb Jones is second-to-last in WHL plus/minus this season with a minus-14. No other Winterhawk is worse than minus-eight.
-With all of the talk of Michael Rasmussen, two other draft-eligible Americans have slipped under the radar. Parker AuCoin has 17 points in 19 games, while Kyle Olson has 18 in that same span. The youth is really driving the ship offensively for Tri-City, giving them the depth needed to contend earlier than expected.
-Quigley and MacEachern were both out there together on two of the three Tri-City goals. I'm all for having a regular third-defensive pairing, but both Quigley and MacEachern have not been in the lineup together all season, so they are not used to playing together at all. If they really wanted to get them both in the game, they should have mixed and matched them with the other four d-men.
-Portland will have to wait until next Friday to put an end to this streak. They take on Everett at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The WHL in fact, will not have any games until Thursday, as Team WHL takes on Team Russia in Prince George Monday and Edmonton Tuesday.
-Portland again mixed the lines with Cody Glass leaving Skyler McKenzie and Joachim Blichfeld for Ryan Hughes and Evan Weinger. Ilijah Colina took Glass' place. Lane Gilliss, Jake Gricius and Ty Kolle played together on the fourth line and generated the most possession time from the fourth line throughout this entire skid. I would like to see them keep this unit together.

Silvertips extend Portland's losing streak to seven with 5-2 win

If the current seven-game losing streak for the Portland Winterhawks could be summed up in one word it would be "unfortunate." If you don't count late-game empty-net-goals, they've dropped all seen games by one goal. During all of those games Portland had golden chances to tie the game late, but were victimized by great saves by opposing goalies, struck posts or had pucks that would just not settle down for them. The fact that, even with all of those late pushes, they were unable to force overtime is puzzling. They have also seen their share of goals scored the other way off of their own players or set up by blocked shots that fell right onto the sticks of lucky players.

However, even when the puck-luck isn't going your way, you need to play smart and not take penalties. That is what befell Portland Saturday night in Everett. Against a team that is remarkably strong at drawing penalties, they let their emotions get away from them many times taking eight penalties, leading to seven Everett power plays. This was key as Everett scored twice in the first period on the power play, after Portland handed them a five-on-three advantage. This young Winterhawks team has never given up once during this streak and that was the case again Saturday. They peppered Everett goalie Mario Petit with 43 shots, but could not do enough to make up for their early errors, falling 5-2, after the 'Tips added two late empty-net-goals.

Portland started the night's scoring on the power play themselves, as Caleb Jones got Petit thinking shot and smoothly moved the puck to a wide open Skyler McKenzie on the right wing. McKenzie buried it for his 11th goal on the year. Then after Keegan Iverson and Brendan De Jong took consecutive penalties and Everett went on the two-man advantage. First, Kevin Davis floated a seeing-eye shot home and then Noah Juulsen blasted one through. Just like that, it was 2-1 Everett. Portland was upset about both penalty calls, but had the best case on the interference call on Iverson. He threw a hit in on a Silvertips player, while the puck was hung up in his equipment. In all fairness to the officials, they likely didn't see the puck bounce right to the player before Keegan laid his check.

Everett made it a two-goal lead in the second when a shot from Dominic Zwerger was kicked out right to Patrick Bajkov. He then slipped a backhand past an out-of-position Bullion. Both Skyler McKenzie and Ryan Hughes had great looks to cut into the Everett lead, but Petit was able to get just enough of their shots and Everett's d-men did  a great job of clearing bodies out so he could contain rebounds.

Portland would finally break through in the third period after a five-on-three power play helped turn the momentum strongly in their favor. Alex Overhardt drove the zone and dropped a pass right to Iverson. The Hawks' captain then sniped a shot from the face off circle past Petit for his eighth goal on the year. After firing 15 other third period shots on Petit and not solving him though, the Silvertips put the game away with empty-net-goals from Zwerger and Riley Sutter.

Portland controlled much of the possession in this game and out shot the 'Tips 43-29 but did not better them where it mattered.

Michael Bullion stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced, while Everett's Mario Petit was marvelous, stopping 41 of 43. He has stopped 126 of the last 132 Portland shots he's seen, counting last year's playoffs.

Portland scored one power play goal one four chances, while Everett scored on two of their seven opportunities. The Hawks PP percentage is back up to 28.0. They are still fourth overall in the league.

Game Notes:
-McKenzie's 11th goal puts him in a tie for fifth in goals in the 'Dub. Michael Rasmussen leads the league with 15 markers.
-Joachim Blichfeld and Keegan Iverson both have four-game point streaks going. Blichfeld is sixth in league rookie scoring with 14 points.
-Alex Overhardt got an assist and stopped his point-less streak at eight games. He has played much better as of late and should start producing more often. He is playing a different role for Portland this year, as their checking center, but as a third-year player, is counted on to pitch in offensively as well. He will never be confused for former Winterhawks' sniper Oliver Bjorkstrand when it comes to scoring touch, but he had a couple chances in tight that just did not bounce the right way for him.
-Carter Hart sat out the game with an illness. If he does not feel better, he could end up being held out of the WHL Russia series which starts on Monday in Prince George, B.C.
-Despite the two minor penalties, Iverson had a strong game. Even more impressive then his goal and other good scoring chances, was his strong PK work. Twice, he set up short-handed chances for MnKenzie. The duo was so potent that they may end up gettign more time as the PK forwards then top-unit coming in: Colton Veloso and Alex Overhardt get.
-Three-games in three-nights concludes Sunday evening in Portland. The Hawks hope that fortune goes in their favor enough to stop this losing skid.
-Zwerger has five points in his last three games, while linemate Patrick Bajkov has six in the same span.
-Everett leads the season series vs. Portland 2-0.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Hawks comeback falls short in Kennewick as they fall to Tri-City 5-3

The first period for Portland in Kennewick Friday night was symbolic of their current six-game losing streak. They controlled large segments of play, out shot their opponent, but were undone by bad turnovers by some of their most talented players in falling behind 4-1.

After the disastrous first 20 minutes that saw goalie Cole Kehler give up three goals on five shots and his replacement: Michael Bullion give up one goal on two shots, there were signs of life. Bullion settled down and stopped the next 24 shots he faced and Portland picked up two second period goals to draw within one at 4-3. That score has not been a lucky one for Portland in match ups with Tri-City though as they fell by that same score their last two games against the Americans. This one would end with an empty netter and Portland would not get even a loser point for the sixth straight game.

It's tough to win hockey games at any level when your best players are struggling and that was definitely the case Friday. Caleb Jones is relied upon to create a lot of the team's offense by swiftly moving the puck up the ice with a brilliant stretch pass. Instead of connecting early in the first period though, Jones fanned on such a pass, leaving the puck with swarming Americans' players looming. Tyler Sandhu was first to it, forcing Jones to tie him up and giving Michael Rasmussen all the room he needed to loft a wobbling shot over Kehler's blocker. Portland would get that goal right back as a slick transition play by defenseman Henri Jokiharju helped start a rush the other way and Ryan Hughes, with Parker AuCoin all over his back fired a shot that sneaked through Tri-City goalie Rylan Parenteau's pads.

Tri-City added a power play marker to retake the lead as a point shot from defenseman Juuso Valimaki was stopped by Kehler but slipped through enough to be dug out by Rasmussen. The potential first round NHL draft pick got the puck right to Morgan Geekie, who quickly beat Kehler. The Americans added to their lead as Valimaki got to the puck first behind the net and Jones decided to play the body instead of the puck. This allowed Valimaki to slip a backhand pass right to Rasmussen, who beat Kehler and prematurely ended his night. Despite pulling the struggling netminder, Portland was still hemorrhaging scoring chances. The Americans stretched their lead to three while on the penalty kill. Caleb Jones' drop pass hit Skyler McKenzie in the skates. This allowed an active Parker AuCoin to take advantage and break in alone on new goalie Michael Bullion. He went forehand, backhand before beating Bullion. The drop pass is used so frequently on the power play, that any missed connection can be taken advantage of by an active penalty killer like AuCoin.

Portland cut into the three-goal lead in the second on a brilliant series of plays by defenseman Carter Czaikowski. He made a play in the neutral zone to gain possession and then sprinted to the net as a pass from Cody Glass near the Tri-City blue line was fired to the far post. This was deflected home by Czaikowski for his first career WHL goal. As far as first WHL goals go, they don't get much prettier. Keegan Iverson then took playing a full 200-foot game to another level by breaking up a scoring chance with a deft stick and then charging the other way one a three-on-two rush, before picking the corner on Parenteau. This made the game 4-3 Tri-City with 22:24 of game time left.

Portland had their chances to tie the game early in the third and were given an opportunity to tie it late as well, due to a superb penalty killing effort. Bullion made several quality stops in a row and Alex Overhardt clogged up the shooting area, despite not having a stick. Their best chance to tie late came on a shot between the face off dots by Jochim Blichfeld. Both Skyler McKenzie and Keegan Iverson were right there for any rebounds, but alas there were none to be had. Morgan Geekie added an empty-net-goal for his second of the night and a 5-3 final.

Rylan Parenteau got his third straight win over Portland, stopping 31 of the 34 shots he faced.

Portland's power play came up empty on five opportunities, while Tri-City went one-for-seven. The Winterhawks PP fell to fourth in the wHL with a 27.8 percent success rate. Tri-City vaulted ahead of them with their goal for third overall with a 28.2 percent success rate.

Game Notes:
-Glass's assist gives him 24 points in 17 games. He is in a three-way tie for third in WHL scoring with Spokane's Kailer Yamamoto and Moose Jaw's Nikita Popugaev.
-Jokiharju's assist ties him for first in the WHL in rookie defenseman scoring. He has one goal and eight assists for nine points, just like Medicine Hat's Kristians Rubins.
-Rasmussen is tied for first in the WHL with Regina's Sam Steel in goals. Both of them have 14.
-Juuso Valimaki has seven assists in his last four games.
-Alex Overhardt's pointless skids hits eight games. He has just one point in his last 13 games.
-Iverson loves playing against Tri-City this year. He has scored in every game he's played vs. the Americans and has four markers overall.
-Brad Ginnell replaced Colton Veloso on the wing with Overhardt and Iverson. The hope, I believe was to place a creative young player with two bigger forwards. However, Ginnell has also played so well defensively this season, that this could just be another effort at a shutdown line. Iverson and Overhardt have not scored as much as fans have wanted this season, but they have been the team's best back-checkers. In an up-tempo system like Portland's back-checking is key to stopping any goals off the many rushes that you inevitably give up.
-Portland's top-line continues to create a lot of great scoring chances, but was not quite able to finish a lot of them. Blichfeld seems to be a great fit with McKenzie and Glass as the three of them play at such a quick pace. Any loose pucks are swiftly gobbled up and turned into shots or passes towards the net.
-Portland gets another chance to break the losing skid Saturday night in Everett. The Silvertips have won four straight and are 12-2-2-0 this season.