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.

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