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.

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