Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Americans frustrate Winterhawks in 6-2 win

The youngest team in the WHL showed their age Tuesday night in Kennewick. Portland piled up 46 penalty minutes including two game misconducts and Tri-City took full advantage. The Americans converted on three of the nine power plays they were handed en route to a big 6-2 win over their division rivals. With a regulation win, Portland could have tied up Tri-City for second in the U.S. Division standings. Instead they fall four points back. Michael Rasmussen scored his 24th and 25th goals of the year all on the power play and Dylan Coghlan added three assists in the Americans' victory. Tri-City ran their record in the season series to 5-2 with the win. The two teams play each other again Wednesday night in Portland. Skyler McKenzie had two more goals to run his season total to 24.

Portland started the scoring just 2:57 into the game on a goal off the stick of Skyler McKenzie. The Hawks' sniper was set up by Cody Glass on the goal. Portland goalie Cole Kehler made several big saves in the first and 11 total as the Hawks were out shot 11-9 overall.

One of the few WHL players with more goals than McKenzie was the Americans' forward who tied the game 3:32 into the second period on the power play. Kehler made a glove save on the initial shot from Vladislav Lukin but it popped right back out at the feet of Rasmussen. The high prospect for the 2017 NHL draft did what he does best and buried the rebound to tie the game. Tri-City amped up the pressure in the period but Kehler was able to keep them at bay until an excellent play by Dylan Coghlan helped the Americans take a late second period lead. Coghlan kept the puck in the Portland zone on the right boards and in the same motion fired a pass right onto the stick of Parker AuCoin in tight on Kehler. AuCoin moved the puck to his backhand and lifted it over the down Kehler. This goal with just 53 seconds left in the middle frame had to have the Americans feeling extremely confident. This is because Portland has struggled with coming back when trailing after two periods. Their record overall is 0-12 when faced with a second period deficit and would be 0-13 by the end of the night. They just have a really hard time coming back on teams and taking penalties in the third period is not the best route to changing this trend.

Portland took a total of seven penalties in the third and this paved the way for an easier Americans' victory. AuCoin scored his second goal of the game early in the third period. The goal was set up by a Ryan Hughes turnover at the Hawks' blue line. and a slick play from Kyle Oslon right to AuCoin in the slot. AuCoin buried a shot right between Kehler's pads for a 3-1 Tri-City lead. Skyler McKenzie made the game interesting as he scored on the rebound after an impressive Henri Jokiharju rush created traffic in front for Tri-City goalie Evan Sarthou. Portland had their chances to tie the game midway through the period, chiefly a rush to the net by Ilijah Colina, but they could not convert on their looks. The Americans got some insurance from Tyler Sandhu and then the parade to the penalty box helped the Ameircans add two more PP goals from Rasmussen and Lukin to win by a 6-2 final score.

Kehler stopped 26 of 32 shots in the loss while Sarthou  turned away 23 of 25.

Tri-City went three-for-nine on the power play, while Portland went one-for-three.

Game Notes:
-The nine power plays is not that out of the ordinary for Portland's opponents this year. Portland has had Victoria have two different games with eight power plays in recent games as well.
-Portland was missing Joachim Blichfeld and Caleb Jones and Tri-City was without Juuso Valimaki. All three were in Canada playing at the U20 World Junior Championships.
-Rasmussen's two goals take him to 25 and a tie for third in the WHL. McKenzie's duo took him to 24 and fifth in the Dub.
-Brendan De Jong has been solid in the absence of Portland top d-man. His confidence while playing in Mike Johnston's system has grown exponentially this season. De Jong was all over the ice, jumping up in the play, creating offense and darting back to make the defensive play.
-Matthew Quigley has also done well in his increased playing time. Quigley made one play in particular that stood out. Quigley appeared to get caught deep in the Portland zone, but used his speed to get back and keep the puck in the zone. He did not appear to have an angle at all but somehow got his stick between the T.C. forward and the puck.
-The two teams take each other on for the eighth time this year Wednesday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

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