Friday, December 16, 2016

Vancouver shuts down Portland 6-3

The Vancouver Giants had dropped three in a row and were third worst in the league in goals against entering Friday night's Teddy Bear Toss game at Langley Events Centre. They jumped on the visiting Portland Winterhawks early and held on though for a 6-3 win. After jumping out to a two-goal lead after the first period, the Giants were content to sit back and not over-extend themselves, forcing Portland to dump the puck in instead of entering with speed. The Hawks were limited in their chances with this deployment. Portland also continued a distressing trend with another night filled with seven penalty kills. Friday night was the fifth straight game of five or more penalty kills for the Hawks. Included in those games were two straight eight PK games vs. Victoria.

The Giants were all over the Winterhawks early and ultimately got their Teddy Bear Toss goal off the stick of hometown hero James Malm. Taden Rattie and Malm put some pressure in on the Portland defense and Hunter Hortzsok put a slick backhand pass onto the tape of Malm's stick in the slot. Malm quickly released his shot and got it over Portland goalie Cole Kehler's shoulder. After the bears were cleared off the frozen surface, the Giants took advantage of a Portland miscue to go up 2-0. Cole Kehler went behind his net to retrieve the puck and turned it right over to Owen Hardy. The Giants' winger swiftly wrapped it around the net and into the vacant net for his first of the year. Evan Weinger used his speed to cut the lead in half. He burst out of the Hawks' zone and set up a two-on-one with Ryan Hughes. He passed over to Hughes who got a saucer pass right back to him, for the tap in. Hughes picked up an assist in his first game back from a two-game absence for an upper-body injury. After getting a five-on-three power play, the Giants got a little insurance from Thomas Foster. Tyler Benson walked the blue line and fired a slap shot right off of Foster's stick and in.

Things would calm down a bit in the second with the two teams only combining for 15 shots after totaling 26 in the first. Both goalies were asked to make quality saves on some of those 15 shots and did so. The Giants took their 3-1 lead into the third period.

Matt Barberis gave Vancouver a three-goal lead 2:07 into the third. After Henri Jokiharju lost the puck deep in his own zone, Ty Ronning got a pass to the charging Barberis and the defenseman got a shot through the body of Kehler and into the net. Thomas Foster later added his second as after his initial shot was blocked, his second got through d-man Conor MacEachern and Kehler. This ended Kehler's night and brought in Michael Bullion in relief. Bullion was greeted with a crazy bounce. A completely loose puck came right to d-man Jeff Rayman in the slot, who fired it over his Bullion's shoulder. Portland got some fortune of their own moments later cutting the Vancouver lead to 6-2. Alex Overhardt shot a shot on net and drive the net, while getting checked by a Giants' d-man. Overhardt was spun around knocked the puck in with his left skate and was ruled to not have intentionally kicked it in. Hughes got his second assist of the night as he found Skyler McKenzie for a one-timer on the power play with 5:15 left. Portland pulled Bullion with just over three minutes left but could not cut into the 6-3 lead any more.

Cole Kehler had a rare off night as not only did he make the big mistake on Vancouver's second goal, he looked a little out of position on their fourth and fifth goals. He stopped a total of 24 of the 29 shots he faced. Michael Bullion came in and turned away of . Ryan Kubic has had some good nights vs. Portland in his relatively short career. He stopped of 31 of 34 shots.

Game Notes:
-No Caleb Jones or Joachim Blichfeld for the Winterhawks. Both are off to their respective countries World Junior selection camps. They could be out through January fourth.
-Points in two straight games for Ilijah Colina as he had the secondary assist on Weinger's goal.
-Overhardt's goal breaks a 21-game goalless streak. His last goal came on October 11th in Brandon.
-McKenzie is now tied for fifth in WHL goals with 22. He now has a four-game point streak going.
-It was the first career WHL point by Hortzsok and first goal of the year by Hardy. Vancouver got some needed secondary scoring early, paving the way for their primary guys to come through later.
-Two five-on-three penalty kills for Portland in the game. The one goal overshadowed some fantastic PK work by Keegan Iverson and Brett Clayton. Both did great jobs of breaking up passes and blocking shots.
-Vancouver did an excellent job of not letting Portland get speed through the neutral zone. They jumped up on the blue line and used their sticks to force Portland to just dump it in.
-Alec Baer had a great opportunity at an open net in the first period but forced it wide. Baer has seen injuries help derail his draft stock and has gone undrafted for two straight years. At one point he was playing in the All American Prospects Game but was not drafted and has struggled to get back to being a top prospect. He has 14 points through 30 games this season.
-Portland's last game before the Christmas break is Saturday night in Everett vs. the division-leading Silvertips.

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