Thursday, December 1, 2016

Portland holds off Spokane 2-1

It's been a season of streaks for the Portland Winterhawks so far in 2016. After dropping nine straight close games, they won their fourth straight and six of their last seven, Wednesday night in Spokane. Portland jumped on the Chiefs early, scoring twice on the power play before the game was seven minutes old. They then exchanged chances and shots off posts the rest of the way, before holding on for yet another tight contest with Spokane.

Portland got the first goal of the game off some great PP puck movement. Cody Glass got to a rebound to the right of Spokane goalie Jayden Sittler's net. He cycled it around the net to the other side to Skyler McKenzie. Portland's left wing then moved it back to Caleb Jones who fired a quick shot towards the net. Glass, who had moved to the high slot, got a stick on the shot, deflecting the puck past Sittler for his 14th goal of the year. Then after Brett Clayton drew a penalty by driving the net, Portland found twine on the man advantage again. Alex Overhardt, in his first game back from injury, after receiving the puck along the right boards at the blue line, used his body to shield the puck away. This allowed him to send Evan Weinger in with speed. Weinger then fed Ryan Hughes in front of the net. Hughes had out-muscled Spokane defenseman Evan Fiala to get positioning in front of the net. Hughes roofed his shot, without much room to maneuver.

In the second period neither team could find the net, but both came very close. Both teams struck multiple posts in the period on some high quality chances.

In the third, Spokane began to put more pressure on the Hawks, but Cole Kehler was stalwart between the pipes, making many saves in tight on loose pucks right in front of him. Spokane could not beat Portland's 19-year-old goalie until they pulled Sittler for an extra attacker with just over two minutes left in the game. They scored after Kehler made several saves over to his right on one of those loose pucks. The puck was worked around to Keanu Yamamoto in the high slot over to Kehler's left. Yamamoto's slap shot got through a heavily screened Kehler. Spokane was unable to get anymore quality chances in their quest to tie the game, as Portland clamped down defensively.

Cole Kehler turned away 36 34 of 35 shots in getting the win. Spokane's overage goalie Jayden Sittler stopped 38 of the 40 Portland shots he saw.

Portland's power play was 2/3, while Spokane's was 0/2. After having a lot of games with 5-7 penalties, Portland cleaned things up and kept the game at five players aside for a majority of the game.

Game Notes:
-Keegan Iverson had his career-high six-game point streak snapped.
-Cody Glass extended his point streak to seven games with his goal. During that span he has 13 points. He is now fourth in WHL scoring with 38 points.
-Skyler McKenzie, with an assist in the game, is just outside the top-10 scorers in the league. He is tied for 11th with 32 points.
-Alex Overhardt had an assist in his return to the lineup from injury. He hadn't seen any game action for 11 days.
-There aren't many goalies in the WHL playing better than Cole Kehler right now. Over his last six games, he has a save percentage of 0.913 or higher in each game. He likely will start two of the three games this weekend, with Michael Bullion getting the other. Kehler has crawled all the way up to sixth in the league in save percentage (among goalies who've played seven games or more).
-Joachim Blichfeld played his first game at center in the WHL and did a solid job, while learning the role on the fly. He centered a line with Ryan Hughes and Evan Weinger on his wings.
-Brett Clayton had one of his better games this year as showed good speed in bursting by a Spokane defender and drawing the penalty that set up the eventual game-winning-goal.
-Brad Ginnell put home his own rebound for what would've been his third WHL goal. However, Colton Veloso and a Chiefs' d-man collided into the post, knocking the net off before he scored.
-Portland's defensemen did a great job of driving into the Spokane zone and at least getting puck deep. They did not allow a lot of odd-man chances the other way by doing this.
-17-year-old d-man Matthew Quigley looked way more comfortable. Up until this game, he often exhibited signs of being nervous and always making the absolute safest play possible. He made several solid defensive plays in the game, by keeping Spokane forwards from getting good looks in prime scoring chances.
-Caleb Jones has definitely turned his season around and was Portland's best skater in this game. It seemed like every single time Spokane tried to get a pass to a player camped in front, he had their body or stick (or both) tied up.
-Next up for the Hawks is Friday night in Tri-City.
-Ty Kolle was reportedly reassigned, but there has yet to any announcement on where he was sent to.

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