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.

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