Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Winterhawks jump out to huge lead and then hang on 6-4 vs. Blazers

The Portland Winterhawks attached themselves to the rising star that is Cody Glass Tuesday night at the Mode Center and he did the rest. He was all over the place early getting in on all fur first-period goals which staked the Hawks to a 4-0 lead. He added a third-period goal that helped ice the game as his team's lead had dwindled all the way down to one at 5-4. Glass's five point effort is his second this year as he had a natural first period hat trick and two assists back on November 12th vs. Calgary. That game was also at the Mode Center. Glass, who is in his draft year has been one of the more consistently rising NHL draft prospects this season. He went from getting cut from Canada's U-18 Ivan Hlinka team to being ranked number eight among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's rankings and fourth overall by Red Line Report this season. Shane Farkas earned his first career WHL win as he held up under immense pressure, stopping 39 of 43 total shots. Joachim Blichfeld and Keoni Texeira each chipped in two points for Portland while Kamloops was led by Rudolfs Balcers's two goals and Garrett Pilon's goal and assist.

Portland got things going early as they controlled play in the Kamloops zone and broke through against Connor Ingram. The Kamloops netminder was a career 6-0-1 vs. Portland coming in but would not make it out of the first period Tuesday night. Glass got things going by digging the puck out from the corner and driving the net, getting a tight shot/pass in on Ingram. The puck came right to Joachim Blichfeld who buried it past the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick. Glass was expertly playing the angle and using the Blazers' goalie to get the puck to his tightly covered teammate. Caleb Jones then drove the Kamloops zone and got a shot on that came out right to Glass over to Ingram's right. Glass waited patiently and then fired a pass across to Skyler McKenzie for the tip-in goal at the back door. The goal was McKenzie's 30th this season. 28 seconds later Portland made it 3-0. Keoni Texeira made an impressive outlet pass from behind his own goal line all the way to Evan Weinger at the Kamloops blue line. The pass caught Weinger in stride in behind the Kamloops defense. Weinger shielded off d-man Luke Zazula and the  roofed a backhand shot past a poke-checking Ingram for his 13th goal of the year. Portland finished off their first period barrage with a goal from Glass while the teams were playing four aside. Glass and Texeira broke out of the zone and Glass had everyone in the arena thinking he was going to pass to the d-man until he used his hard and quick release to drill a s hot past Ingram at the far post. Glass's goal ended Ingram's night after he gave up four goals on 13 shots.

Portland greeted back up goalie Dylan Ferguson with another goal for the 5-0 lead just 23 seconds into the second period. Colton Veloso chipped the puck past a Kamloops blue liner and broke out on a two-on-one with Ryan Hughes. The 19-year-old forward saucered a pass over to Hughes and the diminutive winger beat Ferguson. The goal was Hughes's 20th of the year. Halfway through the game, the Blazwers finally beat Portland's rookie netminder. First, with Jermaine Loewen providing a screen Nolan Kneen's shot rebounded right to Luc Smith in front. The former Regina Pat buried it past Farkas for his eighth of the 2016-17 campaign. Then, Kamloops won a battle off an offensive face off and Jackson Shepard made a nice feed to Garrett Pilon right in the slot. He fnsihed it off to make the game 5-2 after 40 minutes.

Kamloops used a strong penalty kill midway through the third period to cut into the Portland lead by one more. Pilon danced laterally away from Brett Clayton in the Hawks' zone and fired a shot towards the net that was expertly tipped past Farkas by Rudolfs Balcers. With 6:44 left, the Blazers got within striking distance of the Winterhawks with a nice backhand feed right to Balcers with Caleb Jones closing in. Balcers's quick shot got right past Farkas and it was 5-4 Portland with plenty of time left. Balcers and co. created more opportunities but Farkas and the Portland defense held just strong enough. Ryan Hughes drew a penalty on Deven Sideroff with 3:25 left in the game, giving Glass the chance to add some much needed insurance. Joachim Blichfeld picked Nolan Kneen's pocket behind the goal line and fed Glass alone in front. He dangled away from an aggressive Ferguson and slipped a backhand past him for his 23rd on the year. Kamloops pulled Ferguson for an extra attacker but with Farkas perfectly positioning himself and Portland keeping everything to the outside, they failed to get much generated towards the Portland net. The 6-4 win ended Portland's five game losing streak.

Portland's power play went 1/4 while Kamloops's went 0/3. Dylan Ferguson stopped 27 of 29 in relief.

Game Notes:
-Brett Clayton returned to the Portland lineup after missing the last seven games with an injury.
-Overage d-man Shaun Dosanjh played most of the game at forward.
-Conor MacEachern and Jackson Shepard drop gloves in the first period. This was the d-man's first fight since December ninth vs. Victoria.
-The Winterhawks defense as a group are getting really good at closing and attacking puck instead of the player. This keeps odd-man rushes from turning into prime scoring chances. They still have a long way to go, but it's a good thing to see for the Hawks.
-Glass hit the under side of the cross bar in the first period. This was his second cross bar in two games.
-Too many men on the ice penalty negated 1:03 of PP time for Kamloops and opened the door for the third Portland goal.
-Nic Holowko made an incredible play as the puck rolled behind Ingram. He cleared the shot off the line just in time.
-Ferguson made a highlight reel save in the game as he got turned around facing into his goal and still kicked out his right pad, stoning a wide open Hughes. Ferguson's recent play has created the whisperings of a goaltending controversy.
-Glass's five points get him up to 64 in 46 games. He is tied for seventh in the league in scoring with Moose Jaw's Brayden Burke. Glass is the highest 1999-born scoring player in the league by three points over Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi.
-Portland next plays in Everett on Friday.
-Spokane just missed beating Seattle in overtime as Rylan Toth's desperate poke check sent the T-birds the other way on a three-on-one that was finished off by Austin Strand for the 3-2 OT win. The Chiefs get one point in the loss meaning they are now one point behind Portland for the last playoff spot out west with the Hawks having one game in hand.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lind takes out frustration on Portland in a 4-1 Kelowna win

Kole Lind was frustrated coming into Saturday night in Kelowna. The Rockets' leading scorer had yet to find twine in the 2017 calendar year. He had 20 goals through December, 27th but had yet to score in 10 games since. That by itself would not be too worrisome, but Lind ran into similar difficulty this time of year last season. He scored 14 times by January 2nd, but failed to score in his final 30 games. He also failed to register a point in 16 playoff games. So with that history, he had to be gripping his stick a little harder as January wore on. He can breathe easy now though as he broke through in a big way, registering two goals and two assists for four points. He was in on every Kelowna goal as the Rockets took down the Winterhawks in a tighter affair than the final score will tell. Portland falls to 0-2-0-2 on their four game B.C. trip and have dropped five contests in a row.

Lind got things started for the Rockets as a turnover led to Lind coming off the corner boards and backhanding a shot to Portland goalie Cole Kehler's glove. Kehler failed to catch the puck with it deflecting into the air and behind him. Tomas Soustal was first to the puck as he poked it just inside the post for the 1-0 lead. Portland has not gone away the whole B.C. trip and they didn't on Saturday either. On the power play, Joachim Blichfeld spun away from Lind and found some room in the low slot. He then wired a shot over Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer's glove and into the top corner. Alex Overhardt provided a screen in front on the tying goal.

Kelowna scored the eventual game winner on another strange play. Overhardt failed to corral a loose puck to the side of Portland's net and Lind took a whack at the puck with his backhand. The puck rolled up on Kehler's shoulder and fell behind him into the net.

The Rockets extended their lead to 3-1 on a brilliant skating play by Lind and an even better finish. On the power play, Lind faked going outside on Keoni Texeira and then blew by him to the inside, beating Kehler on the near post for his second of the night. Portland had their chances as they tried to cut into the lead. Texeira found Cody Glass on a rush up the ice and the Hawks' leading scorer fired one off the cross bar. Later Brad Ginnell had a gaping net and the puck lying right in front of him, but he had his stick tied up. He smartly kicked at the loose puck and Herringer had to dive over to make a save with his stick just in time. As the puck was outside the crease it would have counted. Kelowna put the game away as Braydyn Chizen's slap shot from the point deflected off of a blocking Brad Ginnell and between Kehler's legs.

Kehler has not been himself since 2017 began. The stats may not totally reflect this but he has been allowing a lot of goals that we have become accustomed to him making easy saves on. There's an argument to be made that he shoudl have stopped very goal he gave up on this night. He stopped a total of 33 of 37 shots in the loss. Michael Herringer has also had an up and down season but this night was a definite incline. He turned away 34 of 35 shots to get his first win since January 13th.

Portland was one-for-five on the power play while Kelowna was two-for-six.

Game Notes:
-Reid Gardiner was out for his second straight game. His collision with teammate Calvin Thurkauf near the Rocket bench in Everett on Monday appeared to give him a concussion. Dillon Dube was also out for Kelowna with an illness.
-Cole Kehler got his second assist of the season on Blichfeld's goal.
-With Shane Farkas still out with an illness, Ethan Middendorf was called up to back up Kehler. Middendorf had been playing Junior B hockey with the Vancouver Rangers in Vancouver, Washington. He sported a 2.90 GAA and 0.930 save percentage with the 14-17-5 Rangers. He is coming off of three straight starts with 40 or more saves, including a 40-save shut out.
-The modus operandi for the Winterhawks recently has involved skating hard at the opponent's net. Twice on Saturday night they made hard contact with Michael Herringer. The second time, Herringer took exception and threw a blow with his blocker at Cody Glass. This earned him a two-minute minor. Herringer also was on the rough end of another collision but it was from Rockets' captain Rodney Southam who was back checking.
-Spokane took down Kootenay 5-2 Saturday meaning that they are just two points behind Portland now for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Chiefs have a chance to move into a tie with a win Sunday afternoon in Everett.
-Kelowna has taken all three games so far of the four game set with Portland. They will play their last game next Saturday.
-Caleb Jones had an assist and it was his first point since January 13th. He was pointless in the three games since.
-Portland next plays on Tuesday vs. Everett at the VMC as they make up the game that was snowed out a few weeks ago.

Winterhawks lose a heart-breaker in the shootout to Blazers 4-3

Portland gutted out a point on Wednesday night in a shootout loss to the Prince George Cougars. Despite losing again in the shootout Friday night in Kamloops, the Hawks likely felt like the extra point had been stolen from them. The guy who stole that point wears number 39 and was in net for the Blazers. Portland fell behind 2-0 after the first period but the ice tilted the other way for most of the rest of the game. After tying the game in the third period, the Winterhawks put immense pressure on Ingram and the Blazers but the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick was impressive. His play at times was a little unorthodox, but he made the plays necessary to get his team into a skills competition for the win. Ingram's best saves were a sliding toe save on an Evan Weinger breakaway and a nice positional save on Skyler McKenzie in overtime. Both players broke free and had prime chances to score the winning goal if not for Ingram. The best save of the night thought did not belong to Ingram but rather to Anaheim Ducks' prospect Deven Sideroff. The forward laid down at the buzzer and turned away Hughes who had a wide open net to shoot at. Kamloops was led by two points from Garrett Pilon and Dallas Valentine. Cody Glass came back to the lineup and notched two assists in the loss.

Portland's opponent once again scored early into a period in the first on Friday. Just 1:21 into the game Cole Kehler gave up a super juicy rebound on a Luke Zazula shot and Pilon buried it. The halfway through the period Valentine drove right past Portland defender Henri Jokiharju, getting a shot in on Kehler that created a rebound for Nic Holowko. The former Seattle Thunderbird backhanded a shot into the vacant net for the 2-0 lead.

Portland came out inspired in the second period and 6:48 in cut into the lead. Skyler McKenzie used his speed to get around Valentine and get a pass back door for Evan Weinger. The forward could not get a shot through but in the ensuing melee Keoni Texeira lifted a shot past a screened Ingram for his ninth goal of the year. The Winterhawks tied the game just 1:34 later as McKenzie pulled back a turnover in full stride on the power play and the puck ended up working its way over to Cody Glass. Portland's leading scorer then fed a cross-ice pass to Joachim Blichfeld and the Danish import buried it. The tie was short-lived though as Kamloops immediately burst down the ice on a three-on-three and Pilon fed Rudolfs Balcers back door for the goal. Portland's Jake Gricius was getting back for the back check.

The Blazers entered the third period with a one-goal lead confident in the fact that Portland had yet to win a game this year after trailing following the second period. That confidence was shaken though as Alex Overhardt won aboard battle at center ice and Colton Veloso busted in on a two-on-one with Ryan Hughes. Veloso fired a wrist shot past Ingram's glove for the all-important tying goal. The Hawks sustained pressure on Kamloops later in the period but had to dodge a few bullets of their own as both teams kept a fast pace going.

After both teams failed to convert on some prime chances in the overtime session including the one by Hughes as time expired, the squads got set to face off in the shootout. It went all the way to the fourth round before Lane Bauer buried his chance to win it. Cody Glass, Caleb Jone, Ryan Hughes and Skyler McKenzie were al turned away by Ingram.

Ingram stopped 33 of 36 shots while Kehler turned away 30 of 33.

Kamloops was 0/5 on the power play while Portland was 1/5.

Game Notes:
-Portland had no back up goalie as Shane Farkas became the latest Hawk to get sick sick. They used BCMML Thompson Blazer goalie Ethan Langenegger as their emergency back up.
-Caleb Jones was destroyed in the first period by a hit from Joe Gatenby at the Kamloops blue line. Colton Veloso took exception to the hit and instigated a fight. Surprisingly he was called for an extra two minutes but it was not an instigator call. Instead he received an "unsportsmanlike conduct" call.
-Kamloops has not received a whole lot of offensive help from their new arrivals so they likely were overjoyed that Lane Bauer got the shootout winner. Bauer has yet to score a goal with Kamloops while Luc Smith has just one goal.
-Smith received the odd penalty for an equipment issue as he was playing without a chin strap on.
-Glass is tied for eighth in WHL scoring with 59 points in 44 games. He was recently ranked eighth among North American skaters for the NHL draft by NHL Central Scouting.
-Five game point streak for Overhardt and Skyler McKenzie.
-Portland is now up four points on Spokane for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They both have 27 games to play.
-Next up for Portland is a tilt in Kelowna vs. the Rockets on Saturday night.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Portland falls in shootout to Prince George 6-5

The Portland Winterhawks were without Keegan Iverson (injury), Brett Clayton (injury), Cody Glass (illness) and Caleb Jones (illness) on Wednesday  night in Prince George. For that reason, one could expect the even more youthful Winterhawks to really struggle with the number 10 team in the entire CHL. Instead they came from five separate one-goal deficits and gutted out a point in a shootout loss. Ryan Hughes led the way for Portland with two goals and Brad Ginnell and Colton Veloso also had two points. Brad Morrison was in on the first three Cougars' goals while Colby McAuley, Radovan Bondra and Brogan O'Brien each had two points.

 The Cougars opened the scoring just 10 seconds into the game. Icing was not called on a Prince George dump in and the puck ricocheted out to Brogan O'Brien in front. His shot was stopped but the rebound came right out to Brad Morrison who put it away. The young Winterhawks stormed back and scored less than three minutes later to tie it up. Keoni Texeira fired a shot from the slot that caused Cougars' goalie Nick McBride issues. Ryan Hughes collected the puck and from a sharp angle to the left of McBride was able to sneak the puck in just enough to get it past the goal line. Just 43 seconds later the Cougars retook their lead. Kody McDonald slid a pass down low to Brad Morrison who had an open lane at the net and got a tight shot in on Brad Morrison. Portland goalie Cole Kehler turned Morrison away but was not prepared for the rebound which went to Jansen Harkins. The 19-year-old forward put home the second chance for his 14th goal of the year. Portland rookie Brad Ginnell tied the game again for Portland from near the same angle Hughes scored his goal. Skyler McKenzie and Colton Veloso created traffic in front and Ginnell smartly reeled in the puck and banked it off of McBride's back and in.

Prince George took their third lead of the game just 35 seconds into the third period. Over the last three periods the two teams have played, the Cougars had scored in the opening minute of each. O'Brien scored when Morrison found him on a three-on-two rush and he beat Kehler. Ilijah Colina then helped Portland tie the game when he banked a pass off the boards that caught Ryan Hughes in stride. Hughes then cut inside and slipped the puck to himself under the stick of Shane Collins. He beat McBride for his second goal of the year. Before the third was over though the Cougars took yet another lead. Colby McAuley picked Keoni Texeira's pocket right by the Portland net and got a shot on net, gathered his own rebound and fed Radovan Bondra in front. Bondra backhanded  shot past an out of position Kehler for the 4-3 lead. The cougars out shot the Winterhawks 17-9 in the period.

Alex Overhardt tied the game again and again it was on a tip-in while on the power play. Brendan De Jong worked himself into space and his shot was expertly tipped in by Portland's 19-year-old center. Overhardt has scored in three straight games and all three have been tip-ins on the man advantage. The Cougars took their fifth and final lead of the game later in the third. McAuley found a lane past Texeira and drove the net, tucking a shot inside the near post as Kehler was leaning the wrong way. Portland tied the game and forced an extra session on a greasy goal from Jake Gricius. The big center poked home the rebound after a Henri Jokiharju shot was stopped. Skyler McKenzie had a prime chance to score late in the period but was expertly turned away by McBride.

In the shootout both Harkins and Bondra beat Kehler, while Henri Jokiharju and Joachim Blichfeld failed to convert. Portland earned one point in the loss and moves to three points ahead of Spokane for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They have one game in hand.

Kehler had another subpar game for him stopping 48 of 53 shots. Meanwhile McBride stopped 36 of 41.

Game Notes:
-The lines were all mixed up with Glass, Iverson and Clayton out. Evan Weinger played with Joachim Blichfeld and Skyler McKenzie while Ilijah Colina played between Brad Ginnell and Bronson Sharp, Ryan Hughes played with Alex Overhardt and Colton Veloso and Lane Gilliss slotted in with Ty Westgard and Jake Gricius.
-Colina and Ginnell playing together was a nice little glimpse of Portland's future and the future looks bright. Colina should have been given an assist on Hughes's second goal as his pass off the boards set him up. Meanwhile Ginnell showed incredible vision and created chances for himself and his linemates.
-With Jones out and his stock rising for Portland, Matt Quigley was given some penalty killing time and did not disappoint.
-Jokiharju has a five-game point streak, during which he has eight assists. He leads all rookie d-men in the WHL in scoring and is seventh along all rookie skaters. He is starting make himself an argument for rookie of the year in the WHL.
-Hughes also has a five-game streak during which he has seven points.
-Portland heads to Kamloops where they will take on the Blazers. They now trail their season series with the Cougars 1-1-0-1 with one game remaining.

Sloppy third ruins Farkas' debut as Portland falls 4-3 to Prince George

Through the first 40 minutes of his first WHL start, rookie goalie Shane Farkas had the Portland Winterhawks sitting pretty. Powered behind two special teams goals and the superb play of Farkas, the Hawks were leading 3-1 over the team with the best record in the WHL. Then in the third period the wheels fell off for Portland as a very talented Prince George squad came out flying. The Cougars scored three third period goals to take the game 4-3. The game winner was netted after Portland's Matt Quigley fanned on an outlet pass right in front of Farkas, letting Kody McDonald jump on the puck and bury it past the unprepared Portland goalie. Bad turnovers right by their own net has been a bad habit for Portland lately as they've had one on each of their last three games that have come back to bite them. This one more so than the others. Kody McDonald and Jansen Harkins led the way for Prince George with two points apiece, while Henri Jokiharju with two assists.

Prince George got things going in the first period as they outworked the Winterhawks in front after a Brendan Guhle point shot created a rebound. After Colby McAuley got a whack at it, Jansen Harkins got two; putting the second past Farkas. Portland answered with a goal off an incredibly coordinated play by Ryan Hughes. Henri Jokiharju made a great play to get away from a P.G. attacker, keep the puck in and fire a shot on net through traffic. The rebound came out high in the air and it was batted in by Hughes for his 17th of the year.

The second period was one of the best Portland has played recently. First, they took advantage of a P.G. miscue to score a shorthanded marker. Tate Olson's pass across the blue line went through the legs of his power play blue line partner Radovan Bondra and off the boards. Skyler McKenzie jumped on the puck and skate down for a breakaway. He went forehand-backhand, before sliding it between Ty Edmonds' wickets. Just a couple of minutes later Portland added to their lead with another goal from their number two power play unit. A Keoni Texeira shot was deflected in by Alex Overhardt providing Portland with a 3-1 lead.

Just 22 seconds into the third period that two-goal lead would be cut into. The pairing of Brendan De Jong and Caleb Jones had a lot to do with the goal against. First, De Jong could not quite get to a Josh Anderson clear and Jones tried a quick one-time clear near his own blue line. Jansen Harkins blocked the clear and went the other way with the puck. Both De Jong and Jones went to cover Harkins, leaving Radovan Bondra in front. Bondra received a slick pass from Harkins and backhanded it past Farkas. Later in the period, Matt Quigley fanned on an outlet pass right in front of the Portland goal. This allowed Kody McDonald to grab the puck right in front of an unprepared Farkas. McDonald waited out Farkas and lifted it over him. The Cougars did not stop there in their third period push as a Shane Collins shot from the point created a juicy rebound for Brad Morrison to backhand in. This would stand as the game-winning-goal as despite a strong effort from Portland to tie the game, Ty Edmonds stopped everything and the Cougars held on. Interestingly enough though Edmonds employed a veteran trick to help seal the victory. With seconds left and his team scrambling after Alex Overhardt tipped a shot just wide, Edmonds stood up and then pushed his net off of the moorings. It did not appear to be off at all and Portland plead for a delay-of-game penalty but could not get one called.

Edmonds turned away 33 of 36 to get the win while Farkas ended up with 34 saves on 38 shots.

Game Notes:
-The wheels really fell off for Portland in the third period as they were out shot 14-10 with most of their shots coming in the final few minutes.
-Shaun Dosanjh was a healthy scratch for Portland. This meant that with Keegan Iverson out with an injury (indefinitely) the Hawks were without an overage in the lineup for the third time this year.
-Keoni Texeira was all over the place in this game. He has been pretty reliable this year but has been the d-partner more comfortable with staying back while the other jumps into the play. Then he strings together a couple of nice rushes and you are reminded about how great of a skater he is.
-Farks had some very good moments in the game. Of the four goals only two could really be blamed on him. His best series of moments was on a few saves in a row on Radovan Bondra and Jackson Leppard in the first period. With Portland really swimming upstream in the third, Farkas kept things from getting out hand.
-Quigley shot redirected by Glass and McKenzie is stoned by Edmonds as the loose puck came to him.
-Ty Westgard was in for just his second game with the Hawks. He played with Jake Gricius and Lane Gilliss.
-Matt Quigley had a great game outside of the one really bad turnover. His speed was on display a couple of times as he recovered quickly to keep the Cougars from getting an odd-man rush the other way.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Chiefs get revenge in crazy 6-5 win over the Winterhawks

On Friday night, Portland stormed out to a 5-1 lead, before holding on for a 5-4 win. On Saturday night it was the Chiefs who go the big league before holding on. They were up 4-1 in the second period and ended up with a big 6-5 win. Just like the previous night, a team took advantage of an older goalie struggling to obtain that lead. Keanu Yamamoto and Jaret Anderson-Dolan each had two goals for the Chiefs, while Portland was led by two points each from Joachim Blichfeld, Skyler McKenzie, Alex Overhardt and Cody Glass. Keegan Iverson was missing from the lineup as he left Friday's game vs. Spokane with an unknown injury.

On Spokane's first shot of the game, Kehler appeared to not be ready and it fluttered past his blocker softly. It was Woods's second goal of the game and paved the way for a three-point night for the former Regina Pat. Portland responded just 31 seconds later as Blichfeld filled in well for Iverson on the top line with McKenzie and Glass. McKenzie set himself up in the slot and Glass find him with a nice pass. Spokane would again score a soft goal on Kehler though and Portland would play catch up until midway through the second period. The Chiefs scored two goals in 54 seconds midway through the first to end Kehlers night early. First on a two-on-two rush, Jaret Anderson-Dolan fired a shot past Kehler from the right wing. This was Spokane's second goal on only their second shot. Then after Eli Zummack won a face off in the Portland zone, Keanu Yamamoto blew a shot past Kehler for the 3-1 lead. Shane Farkas made his WHL debut in relief of Kehler as Portland's starter stopped two of the five shots he faced.

Spokane then extended their lead to four as a Hudson Eynuik fired a shot that Eli Zummack tipped past Farkas on the power play. The Hawks responded with a power play goal of their own just 1:25 later. The second power play unit again paid dividends as a Henri Jokiharju point shot was deflected past Spokane goalie Dawson Weatherhill by Alex Overhardt. While they were still announcing the first Portland goal, the Hawks scored another. Ryan Hughes broke through the Chiefs' defense and dropped a pass off to Evan Weinger on the left wing. The puck worked it's way to Ryan Hughes who banked a shot off of Weatherhill's back and in. Weatherhill had been expecting a pass to Brendan De Jong in front, not a bad angle shot from Hughes. The Portland goals closed the game to 4-3 and were only 37 seconds apart. Portland tied the game 2:13 later on a goal that symbolized what kind of player Colton Veloso is. He was tripped up by a Spokane d-man and went face-first into the boards. The puck then got around the right half-boards, where Skyler McKenzie forced a turnover, got into the slot and backhanded a shot past Weatherhill. Veloso often sacrifices his body for the team and his team obviously appreciates it. Instead of celebrating the goal, McKenzie went straight to Veloso's aide. The 19-year-old winger did not miss a shift in the game. Spokane retook the lead on another miscommunication between Henri Jokiharju and Caleb Jones. The latter d-man backhanded a pass that hit the net and sat there for Keanu Yamamoto to poke past Farkas.

The Chiefs extended their lead to two in the third period off a great shot from Jaret Anderson-Dolan. Blichfeld mistimed an interception of a pass through the neutral zone and Anderson-Dolan broke in on a two-on-one rush. He wired a shot past Farkas and gave Spokane a 6-4 lead. Portland had many great chances in the third period, especially Skyler McKenzie, who hit a past, the side of the net and was stoned by Weatehrhill on three great looks in the period. Portland cut the lead to one as Jokiharju made a great play to keep the puck in the zone, while Farkas was pulled for an extra-attacker and Glass completed a give-and-go with Alex Overhardt for his 21st goal of the year. Portland continued to put pressure on in the remaining 1:24, but Weatherhill made all the stops he needed to.

Weatherhill turned away 38 of the 43 shots he saw. Over his two appearances on the weekend, he stopped 48 of 53 total shots. Shane Farkas was solid in his first WHL action, stopping 17 of 20 shots in relief. His best stop of the game was on Anderson-Dolan who got alone in front.

Game Notes:
-It was a much needed win for the Chiefs as they puled within two points of Portland for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference. Portland has played three fewer games than Spokane though.
-Elsewhere in the U.S. Division, both Tri-City and Seattle are on win streaks and are starting to pull away from Portland.
-Keanu Yamamoto got a little too fired up over an interference call on Ondrej Najman in the first period and was handed a 10-minute misconduct.
-Caleb Jones had his point-streak end at nine games.
-Portland went just 1-for-7 on the power play. They have two power play goals from the second unit over the last two games and one on a four-on-three PP with a second unit guy there. They have none from their first unit five-on-four unit over these two games.
-Anderson-Dolan was all over the ice for Spokane and was, at times, dominant. It will be interesting to see him grow into an elite player in the WHL over the next couple of years.

Winterhawks hold off Chiefs 5-4 in return to ice

It was a unique situation for the Portland Winterhawks. The snow storm that blew through Portland delayed two games, making their first game of 2017 land on January 13th. That is two weeks without a game. They reportedly practiced with an increased pace, but it is impossible to replicate actual games and it showed at times all over the ice. Despite this, the Hawks surged out to a 5-1 lead, before holding on late for an important 5-4 victory Friday night. Henri Jokiharju led the way with three assists, while Cody Glass, Ryan Hughes and Caleb Jones each had two points.

Jokiharju gained a lot of power play experience during Jones's absence and it shone through on Portland's first goal in the opening period. While working with the second power play unit, he fired a shot towards the net from the point that was tipped by Alex Overhardt. Spokane goalie Jayden Sittler made the initial save but Ryan Hiughes dug the puck out and put home the rebound for the game's opening goal. Caleb Jones then made an out-of-character play by backhanding the puck towards d-partner Jokiharju behind the net while under pressure. The puck went off the side of the net and lay right by Portland goalie Cole Kehler's left skate. Before Kehler could react, Spokane's Ethan McIndoe pocked it home to tie the game. It was an incredible odd play from one of the better blue liners in the league. Just 13 seconds later, Brendan De Jong gave the Hawks another lead by firing a seeing-eye wrist shot through with an Evan Weinger screen that Sittler never had a good look at. 

Portland extended their lead in the second period off an incredible play by Cody Glass. Keegan Iverson fired a shot towards the net form the right slot that Glass expertly re-directed right to Skyler McKenzie to the left of the net. McKenzie was all alone and finished off the play for a 3-1 Portland lead. Then on a delayed penalty, Portland found the twine again. Caleb Jones danced around one Chief defender and passed through another right to Colton Veloso at the back door. He finished off the play that he started as he drew the penalty that gave Portland a sixth skater on the ice. Jones then extended the Portland lead to four as while on a four-on-three man advantage, he blew a one-timer past Sittler. His shot ended Sittler's night as he left after stopping 18 of 23 shots. Dawson Weatherhill came on in relief. Spokane immediately responded to the goalie-pulling with more urgent play. Before the second ended, Spokane cut Portland's lead to three. Ondrej Najman found Taylor Ross trailing and the 18-year-old winger fired a shot on Kehler. The rebound popped out to Kailer Yamamoto, who scored his 26th of the year. 

Spokane made things interesting in the third with two more goals. First, a Tyson Helgesen one-timer went off the end-boards and came right out to McIndoe. The 1999-born forward potted his second of the game and 10th of the season on the ricochet. Then, Jaret Anderson-Dolan provided a screen and new-arrival Nolan Reid wired a shot past Kehler to make it 5-4 with 6:41 left. The goal was Reid's first of the year. After only having 11 assists in 34 games with Saskatoon, he already has one goal and four assists in 13 games with Spokane. The Chiefs pulled Weatherhill and put pressure on Portland, but Cole Kehler stepped up to turn away all of their looks and secure a big win.

Cole Kehler stopped 28 of 32 to get the win, while Weatherhill turned away all 10 shots he saw in relief of Sittler. 

Game Notes:
-Both Joachim Blichfeld and Caleb Jones looked great in their return from the World Junior Championships. Blichfeld played between Hughes and Weinger as the Hawks continue to try and make that line work. Blichfeld's growth as a 200-foot player is impressive, but he is still not quite there.
-There seems to be a strong effort to pair Jokiharju and Jones consistently together as the team's top pairing. Jokiharju's growth in Jones's absence is likely what inspired them to want this. They had some issues with chemistry as evidenced by the first Spokane goal, but they should be abel to work through this and be one of the better pairings in the league. 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Thunderbirds spoil Winterhawks' party 3-2

The Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds are locked in a duel for playoff spots within the U.S. Division. One night after the Winterhawks took advantage of two Seattle turnovers to get a big road win, the Thunderbirds did the same. In front of a very large 10,947 person crowd, the Hawks had a chippy affair that saw one player from each side get ejected and several players leave to seek repairs in the locker room at different points. Seattle won the war of attrition by scoring twice in the third period en route to a come-from-behind 3-2 win. Luke Ormsby, who has just five points in 31 games this year, set up one goal and scored the game-winner for Seattle. Zack Andrusiak also had two points for the T-birds.

The game opened with a strange sequence just 5:10 in. During a small scrum in the Hawks' corner, Tyler Adams bum rushed Ryan Hughes and took him straight into a linesman and down to the ice. Brett Clayton thus wanted to stick up for his teammate just over two minutes later and staged a fight with Adams. This is against the rules and earned both of them a five-minute major for fighting and a game misconduct. With Seattle only starting 11 forwards, this brought them down to 10 for the entirety of the game. Ryan Hughes opened the scoring for Portland off an incredible breakout feed from Henri Jokiharju. The Finnish d-man caught Seattle sleeping and fired a pass from deep in his own zone to Hughes at the Seattle blue line, springing him. Hughes went forehand, backhand and roofed a shot past Toth.

Seattle tied the game in the second period on the penalty kill. Brendan De Jong got tied up by Ryan Gropp in the neutral zone, allowing Scott Eansor to skate onto the puck in space. Eansor was assisted by Portland d-man Keoni Texeira stumbling and falling. This gave Eansor a breakaway and Seattle's captain deked out Portland goalie Cole Kehler, backhanding a shot past him. Portland broke the tie five minutes later on Cody Glass's 20th goal of the year. Seattle's recent acquisition d-man Austin Strand tried to clear the puck up the half-boards, but had it blocked down by Keegan Iverson. Cody Glass scooped up the loose puck and beat Toth on the short side.

Down 2-1 going into the third, Seattle came out inspired in the third. They out shot Portland 17-6 and got two goals from their fourth line for the come-from-behind victory. First, Brendan De Jong's breakout pass into the slot was gathered in by Jarret Tyszka and the Thunderbirds' defenseman got a shot towards the net that ping-ponged around in front. Zack Andrusiak got to the puck in a pile of bodies and poked it home for his fourth of the year. Midway through the third, Ormsby got the winner. Donovan Neuls picked Portland's Matt Quigley's pocket behind the Portland net and another shot from Tyszka ended up on Ormsby's stick. Both of his goals this year have been scored against Portland. Portland was given a power play with 3:12 left but even with Kehler pulled for another attacker, they could not get much going towards the Seattle net.

Toth turned away 20 of the 22 Portland shots he faced while Kehler stopped 30 of 33.

Portland failed to convert on five power play chances, while Seattle failed to convert on four.

Game Notes:
-Portland clings to a one point lead for third in the division over Seattle. The Thunderbirds do have three games in hand. With Tri-City winning again over Spokane, the Hawks fall four points back of them for second in the division.
-Seattle had a goal disallowed as Ryan Gropp deflected the rebound of a Keegan Kolesar shot into the net but his stick was above the net.
-Keegan Iverson has struggled with staying out of the penalty box recently. He took three minor penalties in this game and has 20 penalty minutes over his last three games.
-Iverson also has a five-game point streak now with an assist in this game.
-Glass's goal gives him 53 points in 40 games. This makes him sixth in the WHL in points, 10 back of league leader Adam Brooks.
-Jokiharju's assist gives him 24 points in 40 games. He is first in rookie d-men scoring and ninth among all skaters. He has definitely found another level recently and has helped diminish the impact of Caleb Jones's absence.
-Skyler McKenzie, Cody Glass and Colton Veloso left the bench at different points to seek repairs of some sort. All three returned to the ice.
-Next up for Portland is Everett on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.