Monday, December 12, 2016

Skyler McKenzie makes it rain bears and hats in 5-2 Portland win

Skyler McKenzie had so much fun with making over 11,000 teddy bars rain down on the ice, he decided to add some hats as well. The 18-year-old from Edmonton scored the official teddy bear toss goal just 2:31 into the game, but would add two more goals, to give him his first career hat trick. His three goals and one assist, along with Keegan Iverson's four points led the Hawks to a big 5-2 win over division rival Everett. The Winterhawks are now 10-1-1 over their past 12 games and have retaken third place in the U.S. Division from Seattle.

It should not surprise anyone who made a wager on the teddy bear toss scorer that McKenzie and his line were the ones that broke the seal holding back the mountain of fur. Keegan Iverson made a nice play behind the net, feeding Cody Glass in tight. Everett goalie Mario Petit made a nice save on Glass, but the rebound came out to a waiting McKenzie. He put it away giving another early lead. Just like the previous night, the Hawks could not keep it through the period. Parick Bajkov started the scoring for the 'Tips and was the engine that started the play as well. He surveyed the scene from the Portland blue line and fed linemate Dominic Zwerger down to Portland goalie Cole Kehler's right. The Austrian play maker drove the front of the net and tried to tuck a backhand shot past Kehler's left pad. Kehler made the save, but Bajkov pounced on the rebound tying the game at one.

The Hawks again fell behind in the second period. While on the power play, defenseman Kevin Davis's slap shot went wide and off the end-boards. The ricochet went right to Matt Fontyne's backhand and the center quickly lifted it past Kehler. It was an unfortunate bounce for Portland and it came just 30 seconds into the middle frame. Portland responded on a three-on-two rush up the ice. Caleb Jones drew the attention of the defense and found Keegan Iverson with a quick pass. Cody Glass drove the net and provided a screen just in time to keep Petit from seeing the Iverson shot. Under two minutes later, Portland got the eventual game-winning-goal from Danish center Joachim Blichfeld. The Dane was able to exit the zone and get the puck up to Colton Veloso. He then got a pass back in stride and cut to the right wing, looking for a shooting lane. He found one and picked a top corner on Petit for his 11th goal of the year. Later in the period, while Everett was putting pressure on the Hawks, while on the power play, McKenzie delivered a gut punch level short handed goal. Keegan Iverson gained possession and sprung Skyler McKenzie for a breakaway. McKenzie slipped a backhand past Petit for the two-goal Portland lead. The SH goal was just Portland's fourth of the year and two of those have been against Everett.

Portland got some more insurance on a power play goal just 50 seconds into the third period. Keegan Iverson's shot was turned away by Petit, but the rebound came right to Joachim Blichfeld in tight. Instead of just trying to jam the puck in under Petit, he brilliantly passed over to a wide open McKenzie. The winger buried it, giving him his first career hat trick. He had three career two-goal games, but had yet to breach the three-goal mark until this night.

Game Notes:
-McKenzie has 20 goals and 20 assists for 40 points. This puts his 11th overall in the WHL. He has 19 of those points over Portland's 10-1-1, 12-game stretch.
-Glass is out of the top-five in WHL scoring now with 45 points in 32 games. In that same 12-game stretch, he has 20 points.
-Leading the trio over the past dozen games though, is Keegan Iverson. He has 21 points in that span and now has 39 this year. He had his very second four-point night of the year in the win.
-Everett was missing both Noah Juulsen and Carter Hart, who were off at Hockey Canada's U20 World Junior camp.The 'Tips' power play looked a lot different with Kevin Davis running the point, as opposed to Montreal's signed first round pick.
-Hart's replacement: Mario Petit struggled with containing rebounds, something he has been incredibly stellar at against Portland in previous games.
-Portland got their first win over Everett this year and now trail in the season series 3-1. Going back to last season, the Hawks had dropped nine straight to the 'Tips.
-Joachim Blichfeld has a five-game point streak going. He has seven points over that span. He has climbed up to sixth overall in WHL rookie scoring with 27 points. The move to the middle seems to be agreeing with him. Head coach Mike Johnston must have notice his superb vision and put him in a spot to create. He has done just that.
-Caleb Jones has a six-game point streak going. Over that span he has nine points. He has slowly climbed the charts for d-men and now sits tied for seventh in the Dub with 29 points. If I were pressed as to how the Hawks have made this current run, I would start with the improvement Jones has shown. He has settled into his roll on the team and has gotten away from trying to hit a home run every time up the ice.
-Portland added 17-year-old d-man Darren Gisti to the roster. They expect to be without Jones, who heads off to the U.S.A.'s World Junior camp. The camp starts on Friday, December 16th. Gisti is a list player, who was signed after an impressive Neely Cup.
-The Hawks now head to Victoria for games on Tuesday and Wednesday, completing their four-game season series. The Hawks have four games away from home this coming week, before taking nine-days off for Christmas break.

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