Sunday, December 18, 2016

Skoleski deflection leads Everett to 4-2 win over Portland

After losing nine straight to Everett over the past couple of seasons and the playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks finally got one last week. Any hope of a streak going the other way was shut down at Xfinity arena on saturday night. After responding in the third period and tying the game, Everett's Devon Skoleski deflected in a shot from Jake Christiansen with his body as his stick was tied up. It appeared that he wasn't even aware the shot was coming at him. Those kinds of bounces have been going Everett's way through the first half of the season. To be fair though, Everett puts themselves into a spot to make plays like this, by driving the net and looking for deflections or rebounds. The 'Tips were led by two points apiece by Kevin Davis and Eetu Tuulola in the win. Cody Glass netted both Winterhawks goals in the loss.

Neither side found a way past goalies Mario Petit and Cole Kehler in the first period, but they had their chances. They combined for 25 shots and had many more scoring chances go just wide.

Portland opened the scoring against the flow of play in the second period. Davis fired a shot high and wide on one end and the puck ricocheted all the way out to the Portland blue line. Keegan Iverson went up the right wing and found Cody Glass in the slot. The Hawks' center fired a shot in tight over Petit's blocker for the 1-0 lead. Everett would not get their Teddy Bear Toss game goal until just 31 seconds remained in the second period. Kevin Davis led a rush up the ice and after a quick give-and-go at the Portland blue line with Graham Millar gave him some room, fired a shot in on Kehler. The Portland goalie made the save but Finnish forward Eetu Tuulola put the puck bar down without much room to operate. Because of the time it would take to clean all of the bears off the ice, the officials decided to just tack on the extra 31 seconds onto the start of the third period.

Everett's top line had been held in check through the first two periods, but broke through when their team needed them the most in the third period. Patrick Bajkov got the puck on the rush and smartly withdrew to the blue line, bringing the defense towards him and giving Dominic Zwerger room to drive the net. Everyone in attendance was expecting Zwerger to shoot, but instead he made a deft backhand pass right to Matt Fonteyne alone at the left side of the net. Everett's center netted his eight goal of the year and gave his squad their first lead. Portland tied the game with just 3:21 left off some great work in both ends by Portland's leading scorer. After Skyler McKenzie lifted Patrick Bajkov's stick while on the back check, Cody Glass poked it out of the zone right to McKenzie. This gave the winger room to drive the Everett zone with numbers. McKenzie fed a pinching Conor MacEachern and the d-man one-touched a pass to Glass. The Winnipeg native quickly fired a shot past Pettit with Everett's defense all around him. Then Everett was able to answer right back with Skoleski's marker and went up 3-2 with only 2:50 left. Portland pulled Kehler for an extra attacker and had it backfire as Connor Dewar notched an empty-net-goal to ice the game for Everett.

Cole Kehler responded well from a poor outing in Vancouver and stopped 41 of the 44 shots he faced. Meanwhile Mario Petit was good on 25 of the 27 shots he saw.

Portland's power play could not convert on the one chance they got, while Everett failed on the five opportunities they received.

Game Notes:
-Portland heads into the holiday break with a 19-15-1-0 record for 39 points. This is just two back of Tri-City for second in the U.S. Division.
-However, Portland has dropped two in a row now and is definitely missing Caleb Jones and Joachim Blichfeld from the lineup.
-Seattle beat Tri-City 3-0 Saturday and closes to within two points of Portland for third in the U.S. with three games in hand.
-Mario Petit had a much better outing vs. Portland this time around. One thing he struggled with last time was controlling rebounds. Saturday, he had great control over each shot coming at him and redirected them out of danger.
-Brad Ginnell showed a little spunk by getting into Dominic Zwerger's face after the Austrian threw a high hit on Lane Gilliss. It's always good to see young WHLers already sticking up for teammates.
-Ginnell also earned a power play after driving right at Everett d-man Montana Onyebuchi. There are signs all over the place pointing to Ginnell becoming an elite player in the WHL soon. He reads the play well and gets under the skin of opponents by being all over them on the fore check.
-Solid play by the bottom-three blue liners for Portland Matthew Quigley, Conor MacEachern and Jake Hobson were all solid in increased playing time. All three had moments where they broke up quality rushes by Everett to scoring chances.
-Season series is now 4-1 Everett with five more games to go. They next play January seventh in Portland.
-Portland's next game is on December 27th in Kennewick vs. Tri-City. A regulation win would be enough to take over second place in the U.S. for Portland.

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