Monday, January 16, 2017

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. 

No comments:

Post a Comment