Almost halfway through the season, the Portland Winterhawks have been strong believers in their youth movement. The belief is that if you give your 16 and 17-year-old players plenty of ice time now, by the time they are 18 or 19, they will have developed even more. If you are one of those believers, you had to be excited about what Ilijah Colina did Wednesday night in Victoria. The 16-year-old was vaulted into some major ice time this year, often centering the Hawks' second line with Evan Weinger and Ryan Hughes on his wings. While he's had his share of mistakes over the first half of the season, his heroics Wednesday helped give Portland's coaches some early justification for their decision. Colina scored his very first WHL goal, 8:33 into the third period and it ended up being the game winner in a 4-3 victory in Victoria.The game at a glance from tonight's bounce back win is presented by @Toyota: pic.twitter.com/j5A2haZ8LI— Portland Winterhawks (@pdxwinterhawks) December 15, 2016
Portland opened the scoring on Conor MacEachern's first goal of the year. Evan Weinger set up the play initially by coming off the bench and driving the play at the Royals' net. He then corralled a loose puck in the left corner and dripped a pass to the blue line for Conor MacEachern. The defenseman fired a shot past Royals' goalie Griffen Outhouse before the net minder could get set. Portland's lead would go to two on a four-on-three power play. Cody Glass got everyone thinking his pass from the left corner would go to the point, before firing one through to Skyler McKenzie at the back door. McKenzie hammered it home for his 21st of the year. Ryan Peckford cut into the Hawks' lead on a five-on-three power play. He was trying a cross-ice feed in front of Portland goalie Michael Bullion and the puck appeared to ricochet off of defenseman Brendan De Jong and in. Cody Glass would complete his three-point first period with a goal off the rush. Keegan Iverson drove the right wing and dumped off a pass in the slot to Glass. The 17-year-old wired one past Outhouse to help his Hawks take a 3-1 lead in the first intermission.
That two-goal lead would be gone before we would reach the third period. While on the power play, Jack Walker got a point shot through and Matthew Phillips lifted the rebound over Bullion's right pad. The Royals then tied it on their third power play goal on the night. Jack Walker got the puck towards the net and after Bullion turned away Phillips, Dante Hannoun backhanded the rebound home. This was the Royals fifth power play goal in two nights vs. Portland.
The game would be decided on one simple rush up the ice by Evan Weinger. Caleb Jones hit him in stride through the neutral zone with the puck. Weinger then drove wide on Ryan Gagnon, who knocked him to the ice. Weinger still managed to get the puck into the crease. Colina found it first and punched it in. Michael Bullion made several big stops late nailing down his fourth win of the year.
Bullion stopped 32 of 35 shots in the win. He has now been victorious in his last two starts, after losing in three straight. Griffen Outhouse turned away 23 of 27 in the loss.
Portland's power play was 1-6, while Victoria's was 3-8. The Winterhawks are fourth in the WHL in power play percentage with 25.5 percent.
-Joachim Blichfeld was scratched as he left to join Team Denmark as they prepare for the World Junior Championships.
-Caleb Jones likely left the team after the game to join Team USA for their training camp, which begins Friday.
-With Ryan Hughes (injury) and Blichfeld out, more playing time was handed out to the likes of Ilijah Colina, Bronson Sharp and Brad Ginnell.
-Portland won the season series with Victoria 3-1. The two will not face each other for the rest of the year, after taking each other on three times over the last six days.
-Portland will be glad not to see Matthew Phillips, Dante Hannoun and Jack Walker anymore this year. Phillips had eight points in the four games, while Hannoun and Walker each had six.
-Portland's leading scorer in the season series were Caleb Jones and Cody Glass, who each had six points.
-Six different Royals scored in the season series while ten different Hawks lit the lamp.
-The Royals had an astounding 27 power plays in the four games, scoring on seven of them. Conversely, Portland had 17 and scored on four of them.
-Cody Glass's three point night vaults him into three-way tie for third in WHL scoring with 48. He is just two points back of the current league leaders Chad Butcher and Jayden Halbgewachs, who have 50.
-Skyler McKenzie is tied for seventh in the league in goals with 21.
-Next up for Portland are games in Vancouver and Everett on Friday and Saturday before the Christmas break.