Saturday, February 25, 2017

Dominic Zwerger leads Everett charge in 4-1 win over Portland

Philadelphia Flyers' prospect and Everett Silvertips' goalie Carter Hart had a poor outing the last time he faced the Portland Winterhawks back on February third. He was yanked from the net after giving up three goals on just 11 shots. In his first game against Portland since, he was the key reason his team was able to hold onto a lead while facing 32 second and third period shots. he turned all of them away as he led Everett to a 4-1 win Friday night at Xfinity Arena. The win was Everett's sixth in a row and seventh over their last eight. It is fair to say that since those eight games were all played since the last meeting with Portland that 6-5 loss to the Winterhawks may have been a turning point in Hart and Everett's season. Dominic Zwerger was in on all four goals as he scored one and assisted on the other three. Patrick Bajkov also contributed three points, while Matt Fonteyne added two. Joachim Blichfeld scored the lone goal for the Winterhawks in the loss.

Everett's top line got things going just 1:17 into the game. Matt Fonteyne's entry dump-in deflected off Keoni Texeira right to Dominic Zwerger who fed it right back to Fonteyne rushing into the zone. Fonteyne found Bajkov and the 19-year-old sniper bet Cole Kehler blocker-side for his 24th goal of the year. Portland answered that goal with one of their own while there was just one second remaining on a power play. Caleb Jones's pass to Joachim Blichfeld at the Everett blue line split Silvertips' defenders Aaron Irving and Jake Christiansen and Blichfeld beat Hart low glove side. The goal was Blichfeld's 26th of the year. Zwerger then capitalized on a five-on-three power play with about two minutes left in the first. Bajkov and Riley Sutter had chances on Kehler in tight but they couldn't get it through. However, the puck slipped to Kehler's left and Zwerger was the first to it. He tied Bajkov for the team-lead in goals with 24.

Jake Christiansen gave Everett some insurance after Portland had heavy pressure on them. Zwerger fired a cross-ice pass that Christiansen hauled in and beat Kehler far side on. Kehler slid way too far over in anticipation and was not ready for the rather soft wrist shot. Carter Hart stopped all 17 shots he faced including a couple world-class saves while his team was killing off a lengthy five-on-three penalty kill.

Noah Juulsen netted the game's only third period goal as he poked home a deflection on a back door pass from Zwerger on the rush. Juulsen's return to the Everett lineup as helped inspire this recent run of hot play by the Silvertips. Portland would get plenty of opportunities but a combination of desperate Everett defense and stalwart goaltending by Hart kept them from getting any closer.

Carter Hart stopped 42 of 43 shots, while Cole Kehler turned away 28 of 32.

Game Notes:
-Blichfeld has 26 of his 54 points now since January 14th. He is third in the WHL along rookie goal-scorers.
-Cody Glass has 82 points now and is tied for seventh in the WHL in points with Tri-City's Morgan Geekie.
-Caleb Jones added an assist and now has 42 in 53 games. That is good for third among WHL d-men 
 -Portland's road power play converted on one of six chances but that is well below their now 30.1 percent season average.
-Everett is now 21-1-2-1 when leading after one period. There are not many teams out there that are as good as them at nursing a lead.
-Portland fans will be keeping an eye on both the Spokane Chiefs and Victoria Royals this weekend as the Hawks do not have another game until Wednesday in Vancouver. Spokane heads to Kennewick to take on Tri-City Saturday while Victoria hosts Vancouver. Then on Sunday the Royals host the Giants, while the Chiefs take on the visiting Kelowna Rockets. Portland trails Victoria by three points for the first wild card spot with the Royals having one game in hand. The Winterhawks lead the Chiefs by nine points with the latter squad having three games in hand. If the Chiefs cannot get all four points, it starts to get really difficult for them to overtake the Hawks for the west's last playoff spot.
-Matt Revel played his first game for Portland after being picked up off of waivers. He has been out with an injury since December 10th. He played between Ryan Hughes and Evan Weinger. Once those three get some chemistry going they could give Portland a very dynamic second-line. They had some flashes of brilliance in game-one together. Their best moment was in the first period when a long pass towards the net from Hughes was expertly deflected by Revel. Unfortunately the puck hit the post. It would have given Portland a 2-1 lead.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Topping's hat-trick leads Americans over Winterhawks 6-4

Jordan Topping was a big thorn in Portland's side last year. He scored six goals in the season series and always seemed to be the one raising his stick when Portland had just given up a pivotal goal to Tri-City. This year, though Topping had been noticeably absent form the scoresheet in the first two match ups he had been healthy for. That changed Wednesday night in Kennewick. Topping scored three of his team's first four goals for his second hat-trick of the season and his WHL career. He also added an assist for a four point night. The Winterhawks again were victimized by taking too many penalties as they fell behind 3-0 in the first behind two power play goals. The Hawks' opponents are 6/22 on the man advantage over the last four games. Tri-City has the third best power play in the WHL and it showed in the first period. Juuso Valimaki and Kyle Olson also provided two points apiece for the Americans. Evan Weinger scored twice and Caleb Jones had two assists in the loss for Portland.

Two of Portland's more defensively responsible players took penalties within the first 10 minutes of the game. Caleb Jones and Colton Veloso are also both key members of the team's top penalty killing unit. Tri-City cashed in on both opportunities. First, Morgan Geekie drove wide behind the net and dished off to Jordan Topping in the slot. Topping beat Portland starting goalie Cole Kehler 5:38 into the game. Then on the Colton Veloso penalty, Geekie's attempt at feeding Topping between the face off dots was intercepted by Caleb Jones but he was unable to clear. Topping corralled the puck and beat Kehler from just inside the blue line. The only goal scored in the first that was not on a power play was netted by Tri-City's all-time leading scorer among defensemen. Parker Wotherspoon caught the puck on the rush and put a quick move on Portland forward Bronson Sharp, freezing him. He then beat Kehler through the five-hole, ending his night. Kehler made eight saves on 11 shots. Rookie Shane Farkas came on in relief.

Portland came out of the first intermission on a tear and cut the Tri-City lead to one with goals 1:23 apart. On a power play of their own, Caleb Jones had his shot from the point expertly tipped home by Keegan Iverson in front of the net. Then on a three-on-two rush, Evan Weinger blew past Dakota Krebs on the right wing and beat Tri-City goalie Evan Sarthou on the short-side. Portland's comeback was made harder though as Tri-City got two goals of their own in quick succession; just 56 seconds apart. Jordan Topping secured the hat-trick and got the first puck past Farkas on the night by firing a long wrist shot in on the rush. Then, Tyler Sandu won a puck battle behind the net and tried to center a pass in front. The puck instead deflected in off of Farkas and it was a three-goal deficit once again at 5-2. Weinger would get some life back in the legs of the Portland comeback attempt by using his speed to jump on a loose puck off a face off that Krebs took a bad angle at. Weinger blew past Krebs again and got in alone on Sarthou, beating him with a backhand shot. Weinger's second goal came with just five seconds left in the second period.

Ryan Hughes got Portland back within one 3:08 into the third period. He forced a turnover in the Tri-City zone and then received a very nice backhand flip pass from Joachim Blichfeld before beating Sarthou. The goal was Hughes's 25th of the year. Portland would have plenty of chances to tie but were undone by a late insurance goal from Austyn Playfair off a battle in front of Farkas. The goal was Playfair's very first of the year.

Farkas and Kehler both did not play their best. Farkas came on in relief to stop 15 of 18. Sarthou faced far more rubber and turned away 41 of 45 to get wins in back-to-back starts. He has faced 39 or more shots in each of his last three games played.

Game Notes:
-Cole Kehler has struggled vs. Tri-City this year. He has been pulled in the first period twice and has not had a save percentage over .900 in any of his seven starts against the Americans.
-Keegan Iverson has now scored a goal in four of his last five games. He has a point in 10 of his last 11 games dating back to December 17th.
-Caleb Jones now has 41 assists and is fifth in the league among d-men. Wotherspoon is first with 47 but has played seven more games.
-Joachim Blichfeld had an assist and now has 53 points in 52 games. He is fourth among all rookie scorers. It is doubtful that he will catch Swift Current's Aleksi Heponiemi who is first 70 points.
-Portland's road power play continues to click. The Hawks went 1/3 and is now 30.8 percent on the season. This is just 0.5 percent behind the Regina Pats for best in the league.
-Tri-City meanwhile has the second best home power play in the WHL at 30.4 percent.
-Portland has won just three of the nine meetings with Tri-City so far. They have just one game left vs. Tri-City and it's on March 14th in Portland.
-This was an opportunity for Portland to close within three points of Tri-City for the third seed in the U.S. Division bracket. Instead they slip to seven points back with one game in hand. The Hawks have 11 games left. It looks like they will be locked into one of the two wild card spots at this point unless Tri-City goes on a lengthy losing streak.
-They sit just one point back of Victoria for the first wild card spot and the Royals have one game in hand. The Royals play three straight games over three days against Vancouver this weekend.
-Portland has just one more game this week and it is on Friday in Everett. The Silvertips have won six of their last seven games.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Portland lets Seattle squirm away with the two points: 5-4 in the shootout

Sometimes you have to take what the Hockey gods give you. On a very busy weekend, the Seattle Thunderbirds, who were already battling the injury bug in their forward group lost a key contributor before Sunday evening's tilt in Portland. Keegan Kolesar was not scratched but never showed up on the Seattle bench. Kolesar had his knee rolled up on in Saturday's 5-3 win over Portland in Kent and speculation is that he could be suffering from the after effects of that play. It should be noted that he did play the rest of the game for Seattle Saturday.Portland looked to be taking advantage of the depleted Thunderbirds, but a late two-goal surge in the third period powered by 21 shots on net, led Seattle to a 5-4 shootout win. Both Mathew Barzal converted in the shootout, while only Keegan Iverson was able to score for the Winterhawks. Jarret Tyszka led the way for Seattle with two assists, while Skyler McKenzie and Keoni Texeiora each had a goal and an assist.

You would not think the two teams were both playing their third game in three nights as the first period was of the energetic variety. Seattle and Portland traded plenty of body-checks in the opening session and a goal apiece as well. Tyler Adams scored on the power play to open the scoring and it will go down as one of the easiest goals he will ever score. Portland goalie Cole Kehler misjudged where the puck was behind the net, while trying to play it and looked down while getting a handle of it and passing it. The pass went right off a fore-checking Adams and down to his stick right in front of the vacant net. He chipped it in for his fourth of the year and his third as a Thunderbird. All three of those goals have come against Portland. Portland answered with a power play marker of their own as Henri Jokiharju looked to shoot and then snapped a hard pass right onto the tape of Evan Weinger diagonally, across the zone. Weinger went down to one knee to one-time the puck past Seattle goalie Matt Berlin.

The Thunderbirds retook their one-goal lead on a great individual effort from Danish forward Alexander True. On the half-boards in the Portland zone, he picked Joachim Blichfeld's pocket and then walked in on Kehler. True roofed a shot inside the near post on the Winterhawk goalie and it was 2-1 Seattle. Portland rebounded and tied the game up four minutes later. Caleb Jones was the goal-scorer and how he netted it will be replayed many times on the WHL's plays of the week. While on the penalty kill in his own zone, he scooped the puck up, completely undressed Ryan Gropp and got Berlin going the other way, before tucking the puck in on his backhand. The short-handed goal had a noticeable effect on Seattle and Portland took advantage. With 6:18 left in the second, Cody Glass made a strong defensive play in his own zone and chipped the puck up the boards and out of his zone. Skyler McKenzie skated onto the puck and went on a two-on-one with Glass. With the d-man going down to block the pass, McKenzie wired a shot far post past Berlin's right shoulder. The goal gave Portland their first lead of the game at 3-2.

Keoni Texeira staked Portland to a 4-2 lead against the flow of play 8:50 into the third period. Skyler McKenzie missed on a pass to Cody Glass driving the net and the puck ricocheted off the boards out to Keoni Texeira. The d-man powered a one-timer through Berlin's pads for his 11th goal of the year. Seattle kept the pressure on and finally got one past a stellar Cole Kehler with 8:27 left in the game.Mathew Barzal hit Donovan Neuls with a pass in stride at the Portland blue line and Neuls pushed the puck ahead one way past Henri Jokiharju, while going around him the other way. He corralled the puck and fired a shot past Kehler. Seattle then tied the game with Berlin pulled for an extra-attacker and only 46 seconds left. Tyszka's shot hit Kehler and bounced out to Sami Moilanen. The Finnish rookie batted at the puck and slipped it past Kehler.

Both squads had some great opportunities in the shootout, but could not beat either Matt Berlin or Cole Kehler. In the shootout, Mathew Barzal and Sami Moilanen used similar tactics to beat Kehler. They waited for the goalie to commit and then fired a shot past him. Keegan Iverson converted by just firing a quick shot that Berlin was not expecting. Skyler McKenzie had the chance to send the shootout to a fourth round but was turned away by Berlin.

Matt Berlin stopped 29 of 33 to get the win, while Cole Kehler turned away 45 of 49 shots.

Portland's power play went 1/2, while Seattle got six chances and converted on two of them.
Game Notes:
-While nursing a one-goal lead, Evan Weinger was hauled down on a breakaway. He was given a penalty shot, but could not get the puck past Berlin. That would have been a prime opportunity to have a two-minute power play as there was only 3:16 left in the game. You have to think the Hawks would have preferred the man advantage.
-Entering hockey games in Portland continues to be an issue as the line to get through security looked to be about 200-deep at puck drop, reportedly.
-Portland gets the one-point and now has a nine-point lead on Spokane for the last playoff spot out west. The Chiefs have 13 games left, while Portland has 12. Unless the Hawks go on a prolonged losing streak, it will be nearly impossible for the Chiefs to overtake them at this point. The two teams have two games left against each other.
-Meanwhile Portland is jus tone point back of Victoria for the first wild card spot and five points behind Tri-City for the third seed in the U.S. Division bracket. Portland has one game in hand on Tri-City. If the Hawks win in regulation on Wednesday in Kennewick, they could narrow that gap to just three points.

Seattle comes back to edge Portland 5-3

Not enough people outside of the U.S. Division know about Seattle defenseman Ethan Bear. The signed Edmonton Oilers' prospect was left off the Canadian U-20 team two years in a row despite being among the league's leading scoring d-men. Bear scored twice and added two assists en route to a come-from-behind 5-3 Seattle in over Portland Saturday night in Kent. The Thunderbirds scored three straight goals in the game's last period as they took a game that Portland appeared to be holding tight and won it in regulation, earning an important two points. Ryan Gropp, Mathew Barzal, Donovan Neuls and Keegan Kolesar each added two points in the Seattle win. Portland was led by three points from Keegan Iverson and two from Caleb Jones.

It looked to be a scoreless first period, until Ethan Bear powered home a one-timer off a feed from Ryan Gropp with just 40 seconds remaining in the period. Gropp drew Caleb Jones over to him at the blue line and fed a nice pass right to an onrushing Ethan Bear. Bear quickly fired the puck past Portland goalie Shane Farkas for the 1-0 lead.

Keegan Iverson helped the Hawks get even in the second period with a blind backhand pass from the corner right into the slot for  Henri Jokiharju to beat Seattle goalie Rylan Toth with a wrist shot. The goal was Jokijarju's eighth this season and came on the power play. Bear helped Seattle retake the lead as he worked to an open area and waited for Keegan Kolesar to knife through the defense and drop a pass across to him in space. Jones got that one back around five minutes later on a great individual effort. He flew up the ice while both teams were skating four aside and stomped on the brakes just inside the blue line. He then powered a slap shot past Toth to make it 2-2.

The game was a tight one entering the third period. The teams were tied and Seattle had just one more shot on net than the Hawks. Possession was also likely near 50:50. Portland took the early third period lead behind a goal from team captain Keegan Iverson. On a three-on-three rush up the ice, Iverson looked off both Toth and the defense before cutting to the middle and wiring a shot past Toth's blocker. The goal was Iverson's 17th of the year. Bear helped Seattle tie the game for the third time on the power play with 10:10 left. Bear's slap shot from the point was tipped in by Donovan Neuls at the net-front. The goal was initially given to Bear, leading Seattle fans to throw hats on the ice, thinking he had netted a hat trick. Eventually the goal was granted to Neuls. Then the "teenager line" put home the game-winner with 6:47 left. Sami Moilanen skated hard around the net and got a pass to the other side of the net where Neuls backhanded a pass to the far post. Tyler Adams was there to direct home the rebound and it was 4-3. Seattle put the game away with a goal as Portland was pressing. A long outlet pass from Bear to Keegan Kolesar sent him in on a two-on-one with Ryan Gropp. Kolesar dished to Gropp and the N.Y. Rangers' prospect put it away.

Shane Farkas stopped 25 of 28, while Farkas turned away 27 of 32.

Winterhawks continue Rebels' slide with 4-3 win

Despite being a really young team, Portland can play with anyone when they are on their game. That was certainly the case during Friday night's first period against the visiting Red Deer Rebels. Portland out shot Red Deer 17-8 and got just one goal. The play was not even that close and the Rebels have their goalie Lasse Petersen to thank for the game not getting out of hand early. That one goal would end up being the difference as the teams traded goals over the last two periods and Portland held on for a 4-3 win.

Joachim Blichfeld got things going just 59 seconds in as he took advantage of a turnover and skated out of the corner before firing a shot across the body and beating Petersen. The goal extended Blichfeld's goal streak to four games. He has six goals in that span.

Blichfeld hleped put the Hawks up 2-0 as he intercepted a Jared Freadrich pass in the Rebels' zone and fired a pass that was tipped in by Ryan Hughes. Blichfeld paid the price as he took a high stick as he made the pass. 1:33 later, the Rebels cut the lead to one with a power play goal. Colton Bobyk fired a point shot off the post and Adam Musil was "Johnny on the spot" for the rebound sliding it past Cole Kehler. Keegan Iverson put Portland up two once more as he made a great play in his own zone, tipping the puck off the boards and to himself as he flew out of the zone. Overson then fired a shot past Petersen and Portland was up 3-1. 39 seconds later the Rebels took advantage of a fortunate bounce to make it 3-2. Carson Sass's shot bounced around and came out to Michael Spacek in tight on the net. Spacek deftly flicked the puck in without much room to do so. In the back-and-forth second, Portland got the next goal off the stick of rookie Jake Gricius. On the rush, Gricius utilized a Lane Gilliss screen and wired a shot in past Petersen for the 4-2 lead.

Portland and Red Deer kept the flow going but nobody could find twine until there was just 5:48 left in the game. On the power play Freadrich got away a quick shot from the point that was deflected in off a Winterhawk defender. Portland's defense helped their goalie out the rest of the way by reading passing lanes and keeping many great scoring chances from getting in on Kehler. They held on for their 32nd win of the season.

Kehler got the win as he stopped 30 of 33. Meanwhile Petersen took the "L" as he turned away 40 of 44.

Red Deer went 2/6 on the power play while Portland went 0/5.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Cole Kehler earns first shutout in 4-0 Portland win over Kamloops

Playing in his 76th career WHL game Monday afternoon in Kamloops, Cole Kehler picked a pivotal time to accomplish the first shutout of his WHL career. For one thing, he was less than two days removed from allowing seven goals to Seattle. For another he was taking on the team that traded him to Portland in the offseason for a seventh round bantam draft pick. His Winterhawks built a 3-0 lead going into the third period and Kehler stopped 41 total shots including 18 in the third period alone to backstop his team to a big 4-0 win. It was truly a tale of opposites as Kehler followed up the worst statistical start of his season with the best of his career. Joachim Blichfeld had a goal and an assist and Henri Jokiharju and Cody Glass both had two assists in the win. Team captain Keegan Iverson also had a goal in his return to the lineup after a one month absence due to injury.

Portland got things going with the lone goal of the first period 12:07 into the game. Cody Glass won a corner battle easily against Kamloops d-man Luke Zazula by lifting his stick. He then fed a pass right into the slot and to Keoni Texeira. The native of Fontana, California waited and picked his spot, beating Kamloops goalie Connor Ingram. The goal was Texeira's first since January 20th and 10th on the season.

The second period was Portland's best as they scored twice and sustained pressure throughout to the tune of 19 total shots. First, Cody Glass started the play by entering the Blazers' zone and dropping a pass to Blichfeld. The Danish sniper fired a pass across to Keegan Iverson and the Portland captain settled it before wiring it past Ingram. Then, after Ryan Hughes had his shot blocked, Blichfeld banked a backhand shot off of Ingram and in. The goal was Blichfeld's fifth in the last three games.

Portland then weathered the storm in the third period as Kehler stopped everything sent his way and his d-men did a great job of removing any rebounds from danger. The rebound goal has been Portland's bane this season and the improvement at clearing the puck was a big key in the shutout. Evan Weinger notched his 17th on the year into the empty net after Ingram was pulled for an extra attacker.

Connor Ingram lost for the first time in regulation to Portland over three seasons. He is now 5-1-0-1 against the Winterhawks all time. He stopped 34 of the 37 shots he faced.

Portland went 1/1 on the power play while Kamloops went 0/2. The Hawks are now third in the league on the power play at 25.4 percent. They trail just Regina and Medicine Hat who both lead their divisions. Interestingly enough, the Hawks are far better on the power play when playing away form home. They convert 30.6 percent of their chances while on the road. This is just one percent behind Regina for best in the WHL.

Game Notes:
-Portland took the four-game season series from Kamloops with a 3-0-0-1 record.
-10 of the 15 remaining games Portland has to play are within the U.S. Division. Of the five non-divisional games, three are against the last-place team in the Western Conference, the Vancouver Giants.
-With Spokane edging Prince George elsewhere Monday, the Winterhawks stayed eight points ahead for the last seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The Chiefs use their game in hand Tuesday night back in Prince George. They can cut the Portland lead down to six points with a win.
-With the win Monday though, the Hawks now trail Victoria by just one point for the seventh seed. They are also just two points behind Tri-City for the third seed in the U.S. with a game in hand.
-Keegan Iverson was back in the lineup and was noticeably breathing heavy. When he gets back into game shape, the impact he will have on the playoff run cannot be undersold.
-After months of playing with Evan Weinger, Ryan Hughes appears to have found some chemistry with Joachim Blichfeld. While playing on Alex Overhardt's wings the duo has been impressive. Blichfeld is now on a six-game point streak, during which he has 10 points.
-Kamloops was missing defenseman Ondrej Vala to a suspension and forward Deven Sideroff to an injury.
-While being forced into a lot of minutes by Vala's absence, Dallas Valentine had a strong game. His best moment came when he tied up Cody Glass on sure goal off play by Iverson and Jones that got the puck to the back door.
-With Michael Bullion getting his first WHL shutout Saturday night in a 5-0 Medicine Hat win over Lethbridge, both 19-year-old goalies who started the year with Portland earned their first shutouts two days apart.
-Next up for Portland is a game Friday night vs. Red Deer. They then play a home-and-home series with Seattle during the weekend.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Goaltending optional in Portland's throwback 8-5 loss in Seattle

The Portland Winterhawks and Seattle Thunderbirds have a pair of potent offenses. They put on a show in front of the fans in Kent on Saturday night. They combined for five first period goals and a total of 13 on just 62 combined shots. Seattle's Matt Barzal had one goal and five assists for his first career six-point night. He had 15 assists in one week of WHL hockey. The Thunderbirds battled through a rash of injuries that had them down to 16 healthy skaters and still they found a way to rack up eight goals in an 8-5 win over Portland. Ethan Bear and Ryan Gropp also had four points in the game for Seattle while Cody Glass led the way for the Hawks with three points.

Just 1:39 into the game Seattle got things going offensively. After Portland turned the puck over at the blue line, Barzal fed Tyler Adams and he drove into space, got Portland goalie Cole Kehler to go down and then backhanded a shot past him. The goal was Adams' first with the Thunderbirds and second of the year. The Winterhawks tied things up on a rebound in tight on Seattle goalie Rylan Toth. Keoni Texeira's slap shot created the second chance opportunity and Jake Gricius got two chances at the loose puck. The goal was Gricius's sixth this season. Just over a minute later Portland took the lead on a next-level play by their leading scorer. Brendan De Jong sent a nice pass down the left wing for Glass to skate onto and he roofed a backhand shot under the bar in tight on Toth. Seattle quickly knotted things back up though as Skyler McKenzie fanned on a great chance in the slot, leading to a breakout the other way. Ryan Gropp's shot on the rush was expertly tipped in by Mathew Barzal. It was one of the nicer tip-ins you will see at this level of hockey as Barzal put his stick between his legs to get the blade on it. In this track meet of a hockey game continued late in the first period as a pad save on an Evan Weinger breakaway by Toth at one end sparked a goal by Reese Harsch at the other. A rebound came right out to the d-man and he powered a shot past Kehler for the 3-2 Seattle lead.

The T-birds extended their lead with a short-handed marker to start the second. Caleb Jones tried to adjust and get a shot through, but tripped over himself, leaving Alexander True to skate onto the puck for a breakaway. He finished it off with a low shot through Kehler's five-hole. Seattle made it 5-2 on a five-on-three power play. After some great penalty-killing a worn down Portland unit could not get over in time to block an Keegan Kolesar one-timer of an Ethan Bear pass. The Hawks would not go quietly though as they erupted for two more goals in the period to cut the Seattle lead back to one. Ryan Hughes won a battle over Aaron Hyman for a 50-50 puck behind the Seattle net and smartly left the biscuit for Joachim Blichfeld who was skating the other way. A confused Toth thought Hughes still had it and he never even got to the other post to contest the Blichfeld wrap around chance. Then on the power play Glass fed a slick cross-ice pass to Blichfeld for a one-timer and the game was 5-4 entering the final frame.

After Portland had several great opportunities to tie the game up, Seattle scored a gut-wrenching goal to make it 6-4.  After Ryan Hughes took a hooking penalty, Seattle converted once more on the power play. The goal was of a familiar variety as Matt Barzal slid a saucer pass across to Ethan Bear for the one-timer. Kehler had no chance to get over in time. Portland once again cut the lead to one but you got the feeling they just could not stop Seattle enough on Saturday night to come all the way back. Cody Glass won a face off to Rylan Toth's left and Skyler McKenzie wired a shot past a screened Toth to make it 6-5. The goal was McKenzie's team-leading 35th of the year. Seattle got some insurance just 33 seconds later as they stretched out Portland's defense and Kolesar slid a shot/pass right onto the tape of Ryan Gropp at the back door. The N.Y. rangers' prospect buried it. He has now scored in six straight games. After Kehler was pulled for an extra-attacker Gropp netted another into the vacant twine to give its final score of 8-5.

Kehler had one of his worst statistical games as he stopped just 20 of the 27 shots he faced. Toth at the other end was a little better as he turned away 29 of 34.

Game Notes:
-Portland had quite a few defensive lapses in the game and really never limited Seattle's puck movement on the rush with back-checking.
-Glass is all the way up to 77 points in 54 games. He sits in seventh place, just one point back of Lethbridge overage forward Tyler Wong.
-Skyler McKenzie is seventh in goals with 35, just one back of Lethbridge's Zak Zborosky.
-Blichfeld has four goals in his last two games. With 48 total points he is now fifth in rookie scoring just one behind Medicine hat's John Dahlstrom.
-With Spokane beating Tri-City 4-3, they cut Portland's lead for the last playoff spot down to eight points. The Chiefs have one game in hand.

Imports power Winterhawks to 5-4 comeback win in the shootout

There have definitely been some strong signs that the Portland Winterhawks have a strong import duo in Danish forward Joachim Blichfeld and Finnish defenseman Henri Jokiharju. As the season has progressed and the two have gotten more comfortable they have become key contributors. That was certainly the case Friday night at the Moda Center in Portland. Blichfeld scored twice in a row, tying the game and forcing the shootout. Then in the circus, he was the only player to convert, giving the Hawks a pivotal win over the Chiefs. Meanwhile, Jokiharju scored once and assisted twice, including on both of Bichfeld's big goals. He had his third three-point night of the season in the game. Spokane was led by Hudson Elynuik, who returned to the lineup and provided two points. The Yamamoto brothers each had two points as well. The shootout was the 12th one-goal game between the two squads over their last 13 match ups.

Spokane started things 5:12 into the game. Elynuik, who had not played since January 28th celebrated his return with an early goal. Hayden Ostir sprung him up the left wing with a nice pass and the Carolina Hurricanes' prospect fired a shot that beat Portland goalie Shane Farkas on the near side. The goal was 19th of the year. Portland tied things up a little over 10 minutes of game time later on a short-handed goal. Skyler McKenzie forced a turnover at his own blue line and sent the puck out into space for Cody Glass. The Hawks' center beat both Spokane d-men to the puck, split them and beat Spokane goalie Dawson Weatherill. He had to hold off Spokane blue liner Tyson Helgesen the whole time and was still able to get a strong shot off. Just 44 seconds later, the Chiefs retook their one-goal lead. After some strong possession in the Portland zone, Alex Mowbray skated into space and fired a shot toward the Portland net. Farkas did not see the shot coming and it beat him on his blocker side.

The Chiefs got another goal off a long shot 3:34 into the second period to extend their lead to 3-1. With Kailer Yamamoto providing the screen, Keanu Yamamoto powered a slap shot past Farkas. The goal came on the power play and was set up by a nifty one-touch pass from Hudson Elynuik. Henri Jokiharju proved that the basketball saying: "follow your own shot" can work in hockey as well in cutting the Spokane lead to one. Jokiharju's first slap shot was stopped by Weatherill but a huge rebound popped out into the slot. The speedy defenseman skated right to where the puck came out and powered another slap shot towards the net. This time he beat the Spokane goalie for his seventh goal of the year. The Chiefs would get that one right back too and would chase Shane Farkas from the net in the process. On a broken play, Jaret Anderson-Dolan found a loose puck in the slot and beat Farkas down low. Farkas played just over 32 minutes and gave up four goals on 17 shots. Cole Kehler replaced him in the Portland net.

Portland coach Mike Johnston's pulling of Farkas did not have an immediate effect on his team but they did come out flying in the third period. They out shot Spokane 20-5 in the period and scored twice to force overtime. First, Jokiharju got enough past the Chiefs' defense to get a shot in low on Weatherill from the right wing. Alex Overhardt drove hard to the net, occupying two defenders and freeing up Blichfeld to put away the rebound. Then, with 4:29 left in the game the trio combined again. Jokiharju got another shot on that caused issues for the Spokane net minder. Alex Overhardt got to the puck at the near post and backhanded a pass right into the backhand of Blichfeld at the back post. The Danish forward lifted it quickly in before Weatherill could recover. Portland nearly kept Spokane from getting any points as Ryan Hughes was sprung on a breakaway and Weatherill made a stellar pad save on him with eight seconds left in regulation.

The Chiefs had the edge in overtime possession, but Portland still had tow golden chances on a Caleb Jones end-to-end rush and another Hughes breakaway. Neither team could convert on their seven combined shots and a shootout commenced.

Blichfeld was the first shooter in the circus and he beat Weatherill blocker-side. None of the five other shooters could convert and Portland pulled out the come-from-behind win.

Cole Kehler came in and stopped all 17 shots he faced to get the win. Dawson Weatherill faced 50 total shots and stopped 46 of them.

Game Notes:
-Portland pulled out two points but gave Spokane one by going to extra time. The Chiefs are now behind Portland by 10 points for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
-Portland now leads the season series 4-2 with two of those wins coming in the shootout. All six games this year have been decided by one goal.  The two teams do not play again until March 10th.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Chiefs outlast Winterhawks 6-5

The Portland Winterhawks and Spokane Chiefs play each other tight. That much is abundantly clear over the last two seasons. Six of their eight games last year were decided by one goal and three of those went into extra-time. All five games this year have been decided by one goal as well. Spokane now leads the season series three wins to two but any of those five games could've easily swung the other way. The Chiefs and Winterhawks played another barn burner Wednesday night in Spokane with the home squad surviving 6-5 behind two points apiece from Kailer Yamamoto, Hayden Ostir and Eli Zummack. Portland was led by the suddenly hot Alex Overhardt's two goals and two points from each member of the Brendan De Jong-Caleb Jones defensive pairing. Dawson Weatherill turned away 38 of 43 shots with may of those of the highlight reel variety. Cole Kehler was not at the top of his game, stopping 34 of 40.

Portland opened the scoring on a crazy bounce off the end-boards. Colton Veloso was trying to dump the puck in just outside the blue line and had it carom right back out to him. Unfortunately for Weatherill he had vacated the net in order to play the puck. Veloso buried the easy goal for his 16th of the season. He will not get a more fortunate bounce this year. Spokane's Eli Zummack helped his team tie the game by harassing Portland's Keoni Texeira at center ice. He forced a turnover and his linemate Ethan McIndoe swooped in to take the puck in stride into the Hawks' zone. He chose to shoot and had his shot bounce off of Kehler's right shoulder and into the net. The Winterhawks retook the lead on a power play goal from Alex Overhardt. Jaret Anderon-Dolan's backhand clear did not get past Ryan Hughes and diminutive play-maker slide a pass off the left wing into the slot for the open Overhardt. The Portland center beat Weatherill down low for his 13th goal on the season. The Hawks then had a goal go the other way on another power play later in the first. Taylor Ross cleared the puck into space from inside his own blue line and the speedy Alex Mowbray was first to it. He got in alone on Kehler and waited out the goalie, before patiently lifting it over him. The overage forward, who was picked up after being released by Medicine Hat now has two goals since arriving in late December.

Spokane took their first lead of the contest off an error by Portland d-man Brendan De Jong in the second period. He tried to keep the puck in at the Spokane blue lien with his backhand, not anticipating that Eli Zummack was there. Zummack chipped the puck past him and broke in on a two-on-one with Hayden Ostir. Zummack's shot didn't get through but Ostir was on the loose puck in front and beat Kehler easily for the 3-2 lead. De Jong didn't let his miscue hold him mack though and he charged up the left wing a few minutes later. Hughes received a pass form the big d-man and fired a quick pass down low to Weatherill's right. De Jong chipped a redirection past the Chiefs' goalie to tie the game up again. The goal was De Jong's eighth so far this year.

The Winterhawks looked to be sitting pretty 3:21 into the game's final frame. Skyler McKenzie gave them a 4-3 lead after Cody Glass could not quite beat Weatherill off a great cross-ice feed from De Jong. McKenzie was first to the rebound and put home yet another goal. After that, the wheels fell off for Portland. After the Hawks iced the puck and could not change out their tired players, Anderson-Dolan tied it up off the face off. Ty Smith received the puck off the draw and expertly slid a pass right over to the ready young forward. His one-timer blew past Kehler to make the game 4-4. Just under three minutes later it was the Chiefs who would seize the upper hand in this back and forth game. Spokane won a board battle and the puck came out to defenseman Jeff Faith. He smartly waited instead of shooting and got a pass down low to Ostir. The forward could not get a good stick on the puck but Eli Zummack did. The small forward slammed it past a confused Kehler for the all-important one0goal lead with under 10 minutes to go. Tyson Helgesen provided his team with much needed insurance. Keanu Yamamoto lulled the Winterhawks to sleep and his expert backdoor pass to Helgesen went undeterred. The big blue-liner was quick to pinch down and convert. The two pivotal Spokane goals that gave them a 6-4 lead were exactly one minute apart. After Ethan McIndoe took a kneeing penalty, Portland pulled Kehler to give themselves a six-on-four skater advantage. Glass jumped on a rebound in the corner and slid a behind the back pass right to Joachim Blichfeld. The Dane then quickly got a pass over the wide open Overhardt and Portland cut the lead to one with 1:53 left. Luckily for the Hawks they scored on a delayed penalty to Alex Mowbray and they were able to roll out yet another six-on-four advantage. Despite heroic efforts in puck retrieval from Overhardt, Portland was unable to get another quality chance on Weatherill and the Chiefs escaped with the 6-5 win.

Game Notes:
-Portland's seven-game win streak came to an end with the loss.
-Portland was handed plenty of chances with seven power plays in the game. They converted on two of those chances but gave up a short-handed goal as well.
-Weatherill made several big saves and two of those were in the early going. Spokane may have outshot Portland 18-13 in the first period but the Hawks had the better chances. They had a couple chances to take a comfortable lead on prime chances from Skyler McKenzie and Ryan Hughes but the Spokane goalie was heroic with some impressive saves.
-Spokane has Anderosn-Dolan now playing with the Yamamoto brothers and that is an extremely effective unit. They forced countless turnovers with their speed and they have the creativity to set up Grade A opportunities. All three of them also play well in their own zone.
-Overhardt has seven of his 13 goals over his past 13 games. He had just six over his previous 37 games.
-Cody Glass went to the locker room with 13 seconds left in the second period. He was entering the Spokane zone with the puck when Spokane defensemen Nolan Reid and Tyson Helgesen both connected with hits into his midsection. Reid appeared to strike him in the left arm and elbow area right before Helgesen hit him in the chest. He did end up coming back into the game and had an assist on Portland's fourth goal.
-Winning the game in regulation was key for the Chiefs as they cut Portland's lead for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference down to nine points. Spokane has one game in hand. The two teams go at it again Friday night in Portland. It is safe to say at this point that it will certainly be a one-goal game.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Winterhawks edge Thunderbirds in seven-round shootout 4-3

It was a battle of mascots and a battle of win streaks on Saturday night at the Moda Center in Portland. Seattle came into Portland carrying a seven-game win streak while Portland's was at six. Both teams played late into the night Friday night with Portland's 6-5 win in Everett delayed due to traffic and Seattle playing a nine-game shootout in Kent. Both teams apparently enjoyed playing hockey so much that they wanted to keep it going as long as possible. Portland twice came back from a one-goal deficit and got a shootout goal from Alex Overhardt to seal their seventh straight win 4-3. Overhardt was the only one to score of the 14 total shooters given the opportunity. Joachim Blichfeld and Overahrdt both had a goal and an assist to lead the way for Portland while Nolan Volcan led Seattle with two assists.

Portland once again scored a goal early on in a period with a marker 1:53 into the game. Alex Overhardt protected the puck with his frame and fired a shot from the blue line towards the net. Joachim Blichfeld expertly got his stick on the shot and tipped it past Seattle goalie Rylan Toth. Seatle tied things up a few minutes later on a rebound. Donovan Neuls's shot on the rush created trouble for a scrambling Cole Kehler. The Portland goalie let the rebound drift in behind him and Sami Moilanen was first on it. He poked the puck in for his 16th goal of the year. With just 16 seconds left in the first, Seattle d-man Austin Strand gave Seattle their first lead. Just five seconds after a power play ended, Strand sneaked down low and got hit with an alert back door pass by Nolan Volcan.

Portland tied the game up again with Colton Veloso's 15th of the year. The gritty forward, who seems to love going into the tough areas on the ice yet is somehow sixth on the team in goals. Veloso has seized the opportunity to play on the team's top power play while Keegan Iverson has been out with an injury. Veloso scored this time though on a two-on-one break created by speedy left wing Brad Ginnell. The rookie chipped the puck around Seattle d-man Aaron Hyman at his own blue line and broke out on the odd man break. Ginnell was able to get the puck over to Veloso, who put it in. Seattle took the lead back though with 11:09 left in the period. Keoni Texeira, while right in front of his own bench tried to pass over to his partner Caleb Jones while Ryan Gropp was fore-checking. Texeira's pass went right to Gropp's stick. The N.Y. Rangers' prospect walked in on Kehler and beat the surprised goalie easily.

Portland tied up the game yet again in the third period just over three minutes into the final frame. Ryan Hughes sent a nice pass to Blichfeld so that he could enter the Seattle zone in stride and the Danish forward fired a cross-ice pass over to Alex Overhardt. The 19-year-old center wired it past Toth for the game-tying goal. Both teams had chances to score in the final 10 minutes of the third and the five-minute OT but could not beat the veteran goalies. Chief among these chances was a Cody Glass chance off a turnover that went through Toth's legs but banked off his inner pad and went just wide.

Each side threw seven shooters in the circus but only Alex Overhardt was successful. Portland was able to escape with a 4-3 win and extend their win streak out to seven games.

Cole Kehler was solid for the Hawks with 51 saves on 54 shots. That is a career high in saves for Kehler. His previous high was 48 a few weeks back vs. Prince George. Rylan Toth turned away 36 of 39 at the other end.

Portland and Seattle both went 0/4 on the power play.

Game Notes:
-Apparently just two minutes into over time local TV coverage (CW in Portland) cut away to air regularly scheduled programming.
-I guess they did not really have you covered. The game suffered a series of delays starting with a glass issue and continuing on with an extended intermission for the mascot game. What unique and world-changing event did they cut away to air? The 10pm news.
-Portland next takes on Spokane for two straight Wednesday and Friday night. The home-and-home series looked to be deciding whom would be holding the eighth seed. Now it looks like it will determine whether Portland will have any where from a seven to a 15 point lead. Suddenly the Hawks are within striking range of Tri-City for the three seed in the U.S. They have two games in hand and are just four points back of the Americans.
-Portland now leads the season series with Seattle 5-1-1 with five games left. One of the games went to overtime and two of the games went to the shootout. All but one of the games were decided by one goal.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Portland braves traffic for big 6-5 win over Everett

"Desperation is a stinky cologne." That was a line uttered by Police Chief Grady in the 2001 comedy Super Troopers. The Everett Silvertips were a desperate team on Friday night at Xfinity arena and they and the visiting Portland Winterhawks played a game that was about as far from their playing style as you can get. Sure they notched their first power ply goal in 23 chances and sure they got four assists from overage defenseman Aaron Irving. But the Portland Winterhawks flew past an unusually loose defense and scored six goals in the first two periods en route to a 6-5 win. Carter Hart was yanked from the Everett net after giving up three goals on just 10 shots but the move had the appearance of one fueled by, yes desperation. Mario Petit came in and gave up two more goals on just 3 shots and Everett was forced to play catch up. The Hawks were led by four points from Skyler McKenzie and Cody Glass while Tuulola added his three assists to Irving's total to lead the way for the Tips.

Portland got things going in what we thought was a crazy first period at the time (the second would show us what crazy really was). Two of the youngest players were the first to connect on a goal. With Everett's defense expecting Ilijah Colina to dump in the puck, he instead caught fellow 16-year-old Brad Ginnell in stride and sent him in on a mini-breakaway. Ginnell picked the blocker, short side on Everett goaie Carter Hart for his fifth goal of the year. Everett tied things up 2:24 later and it was a desperately needed power play goal for them as well. Eetu Tuulola fired a shot on Portland goalie Cole Kehler that he could not absorb. The rebound  dropped at the feet of Bryce Kindopp and the Everett forward out it away. This was Everett's first power play goal on their last 23 opportunities. The Silvertips then took their first lead of the game on another rebound. A shot from overage d-man Aaron Irving caught Kelher on the shoulder and Eetu Tuulola slid the puck over to a wide open Riley Sutter for the easy goal.  Portland then struck on the power play to tie things up after the first at two. Colton Veloso provided the screen and Skyler McKenzie walked in tight enough to pick a corner on Carter Hart who was already down in the butterfly.

Portland retook the lead just 30 seconds into the second period. Keoni Texeira and Skyler McKenzie combined to get a shot in on Hart and Glass out-muscled Aaron Irving to the puck at the far post to poke it in. Everett came right back at the Hawks and tied the game at three. On a delayed penalty Aaron Irving fired a shot/pass at the net from a bad angle. Devon Skoleski cut off the shot and tipped it past Kehler who was down expecting a different angle. Ryan Hughes put the Winterhawks back in front as he cashed in the back door courtesy of a Cody Glass shot and Alex Overhardt redirect. Portland then took their first two-goal lead of the game as Glass found McKenzie alone in front and the diminutive forward scored his second of the game and 34th of the year. The Silvertips got back to within one as they took advantage of a really bad Portland change to go in on a breakaway and simultaneous three-on-one break. After Kehler turned Tuulola away, Sean Richards cashed in on the rebound to make it 5-4. The Hawks got a back-breaker of a goal with just 2.8 seconds left in the period though to retake a two-goal lead at 6-4. McKenzie and Joachim Blichfeld burst in on a late two-on-one break and McKenzie got a pass over to Blichfeld for the slam dunk goal.

Everett got within one and made it a tight game as Dominic Zwerger put home a back door pass from Patrick Bajkov but Cole Kehler and the Winterhawks would hold on for the big 6-5  win. Kehler's biggest save came on a two-on-one where he laid out to turn away the Tips.

Game Notes:
-The game had an 8pm start due to Portland not even getting to the rink until around 6pm. Traffic was down to one lane at one point during rush hour just north of Seattle.
-Ilijah Colina is starting to  look really comfortable. He is hanging onto the puck for longer and looking to make plays. That is precisely what allowed him to make the pass that set up the first goal of the game. He also had a pretty nifty stick lift to win  a board battle in the first as well.
-Portland scored their first power play goal thanks to a Patrick Bajkov hit from behind on Keoni Texeira. Three Winterhawks come in on him and Dominic Zwerger got involved. Brett Clayton put him in a head lock until he got out of it and reigned  blows on the back of his head. Zwerger was given a 10-minute misconduct for his actions.
-Cody Glass is up to 68 points now with 24 goals and 46 assists. That is good for  sixth in the WHL.
-The win streak hits six games now for Portland as they head back to host Seattle Saturday night. Seattle's win streak is at seven so one of theirs must end.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Portland outlasts Kamloops 4-2

It has been a good week for the Portland Winterhawks. They have played four games over the past six days, winning all of them. Coupled with another win last week over Kamloops, they have won five straight. NHL draft eligible prospects Cody Glass and Henri Jokiharju also combined for four assists in Sherwin-Williams Top Prospects Game on Monday night. In a 4-2 win over Kamloops on Wednesday night at the Moda Center Jokiharju and Glass did not look like they were playing their fifth game in six nights. Glass notched two assists for the Hawks and Jokiharju was a driving force from the blue line in the win. Skyler McKenzie also chipped in with a goal and an assist while rookie goalie Shane Farkas turned away 25 of the 27 shots he faced.

Portland again won the shots on goal battle in the first period but neither team could beat Farkas or Kamloops goalie Dylan Ferguson. Portland's best chance was on the power play when Colton Veloso found a rebound and tried to tuck it past his left pad. Ferguson slid out his pad and made a brilliant toe save on the Portland forward.

Kamloops opened the scoring in the second period as rookie d-man Luke Zazula hammered a shot in on Portland goalie Shane Farkas that created a rebound Collin Shirley got to over to his right and put past him. Portland tied the game on a designed play off the face off after Kamloops iced the puck. Over on the left face off dot, Cody Glass took the draw where Skyler McKenzie usually does for their line. This was set up so Glass could draw the puck back to McKenzie at the top of the circle and the winger buried a shot past Kamloops goalie Dylan Ferguson. McKenzie now has 32 goals on the season. Power forward Luc Smith gave the Blazers their second lead of the game. While on the power play he received a pass down behind Jokiharju on the goal line and made a power move to the net. Farkas could not get a stick on the puck and he was able to tuck it in on the far post. The Winterhawks again rose to the occasion and knotted up the game. This time it was their fourth line that provided the big goal. Jake Gricius smartly chipped the puck around Kamloops defender Ondrej Vala and Brett Clayton protected the puck in the corner backhanding a pass over to Gricius. The big center-man then sneaked a shot between Ferguson's pads as the goalie expected a pass to Colton Veloso at the far post. Under two minutes later a brilliant play by Evan Weinger handed the Hawks a 3-2 lead. After Kamloops won a board battle in the Portland zone Collin Shirley tried to swing out near the blue line into space. Weinger poked the puck off his stick and broke in alone on Ferguson. He slammed on the brakes and froze Ferguson before beating him down low.

The Hawks got some insurance from defenseman Caleb Jones. After Jokiharju drove a shot on net on the rush, the rebound came out to the corner. Cody Glass and Evan Weinger started a strong cycle and got the puck over to Skyler McKenzie. Glass was able to poke the puck away form Ferguson and create a wide open look for Jones.

Game Notes:
-With 32 goals McKenzie is just four away from tying the most put up by any Winterhawk last year. Dominic Turgeon had 36 goals in 2015-16.  He sits six goals back from Moose Jaw's Jayden Halbgewachs for most in the WHL and sixth overall. He is on pace for 45 goals.
-Cody Glass still sits seventh in points in the WHL. He now has 68 in 49 games. He is on pace for 100 points on the dot.
-Evan Weinger has four goals in his last five games. He has by far the most breakaways this season of any Hawk and has recently found some finish. With his unbelievable speed he will continue to get chances and he should add plenty to the 16 goals he has.
-Brendan De Jong has taken long strides in his game this year (no pun intended). He is attacking the net more and more by using his speed to get around the outside of the opponent's defense.
-Another defenseman who has improved dramatically this year is Matt Quigley. The 1999-born rookie has been prone to mistakes all year but his response to them has been what has stood out to me. He had a dangerous turnover in his own zone in the first period Wednesday but recovered, interrupted the offensive chance and then got physical, forcing a turnover which started the play the other way.
-Equipment manager Mark "Peaches" Brennan was on the bench for his 2,000th game Wednesday night. My favorite memory of him has to be during the 2013-14 season when Matt Dumba broke a stick on the power play skated to the bench and got another stick form Brennan. He immediately scored and pointed his stick towards "Peaches."
-Portland's lead over Spokane for the last wild card spot has now reached nine points. Spokane has one game in hand.
-Next up for Portland is the Everett Silvertips. The 'Tips are going in the opposite direction the Hawks are as they are in winless in their last six games.

Blichfeld again provides heroics as Winterhawks dump Silvertips in overtime 4-3

Joachim Blichfeld's blind backhand pass out to the Portland blue line led to Everett's tying goal with 10:36 left in the game. So it was only fitting the Danish import would score the overtime winner and go from goat to hero. Three nights after scoring with four seconds left, he buried the game winner with 1:02 left in the extra session. Since returning from representing Denmark at the U20 World Junior Championship, he has 12 points in 10 games. He has three game-winning-goals now over the last month and a half. January is usually the time of year that import players start to find consistency and Blichfeld is doing just that and in big spots as well. Goals at pivotal moments in games was something the Winterhawks have struggled with for much of the year. They seem to have found someone to provide that scoring if the last two games are any sign. The game Tuesday night was supposed to have been played early in January but was delayed due to in-climate weather. Portland was able to weather the Everett storm Tuesday, picking up the big two points.

Evan Weinger opened the scoring for Portland by skating hard into the Silvertips' zone and making a power move around Everett d-man Montana Onyebuchi. He then tucked it inside the far post on goalie Carter Hart. Portland fired 17 other first period shots on Hart but were unable to pad their lead.

Everett tied things up an took the lead all in a 28-second span in the second period. First, Connor Dewar corralled the puck along the side boards and dropped a pass right onto the tape of overage defenseman Aaron Irving. The former Edmonton Oil Kings blistered a slap shot past Cole Kehler to knot the game up. Then Dewar and Devon Skoleski burst in on a two-on-one rush and Dewar's saucer pass was tipped in by a diving Skoleski. Instead of fading away, the Winterhawks rose to the challenge and tied the game before 2:17 of game time had passed. While on the power play, Blichfeld backed away to the left point, drawing Everett's defenders and freeing up space for him to find Caleb Jones rushing the net. The Edmonton Oilers' prospect's shot was turned away by Hart, but the rebound came out to Colton Veloso who buried the second chance opportunity. The goal was Veloso's 13th of the year.

Portland built off of the momentum they gained in the second by taking their second lead of the game 42 seconds into the third period. Caleb Jones held off Everett's defense and got possession down low. He enlisted the help of Ryan Hughes to get the puck towards the net before Alex Overhardt was able to chip it over Hart for his 10th of the year. The Silvertips bounced back and were able to get the marker that forced overtime 9:24 into the third. Blichfeld's turnover onto the stick of Brian King ended up over on the left wing with Orrin Centazzo. His slap shot produced a huge rebound, as did the next shot from Jake Christiansen. King followed up the play and put away the third opportunity.

In overtime after both teams had their chances, Blichfeld's individual effort won it for the Hawks. While his two linemates were changing he drove the Everett zone getting in tight on Aaron Irving. He used his quick release to fire a shot top shelf on Hart to end the game. The goal was his first OT winner of his short WHL career.

Everett's Hart was stellar in the loss, turning away 42 of 46 shots. Kehler got the win stopping 31 of 34. Over his last two games (both wins over Everett) he has stopped 77 of the 81 shots he has seen.

Portland's power play went 1/3 while Everett went 0/3. The Silvertips have failed to score on their last 19 man advantages. The Winterhawks are fourth in the league on the PP with a 25.7 percent success rate.

Game Notes:
-The four-game win streak has taken Portland from tied for eighth place in the Western Conference to a seven-point cushion for that seed.
-On the flip side, Everett has gone winless over five straight games. They have gone from an 13-point lead for first place in the U.S., to six. Seattle is surging and has won six in a row. It certainly seems possible that they will catch Everett unless the Silvertips are able to pull out of this skid.
-One reason Everett has struggled recently is that they are missing top defensive pairing Lucas Skrumeda and Noah Juulsen. Rookies Ian Walker and Montana Onyebuchi have been forced into increased ice time. Though they have played well overall, they have suffered lapses that have cost the 'Tips big.
-Kehler's best saves were a pair of pad ones on Matt Fonteyne. His rebound control needs definite work, but he seems to have a knack for making saves while out of position. After struggling through his previous six games, Kehler has turned in two straight fantastic performances.
-Ilijah Colina has grown a lot this year. Though he is still slight in size, he does not back away from contact as much. This helped him nearly put the puck past Hart on a play that he helped create with a nice saucer pass.
-Portland's recent run has coincided with some needed offense from Alex Overhardt. He has 10 points in his last 10 games after having only 10 in his previous 36 games.
-Portland is now 3-4 in the seven game series vs. Everett with three games left to play.
-Next up for the Hawks are the visiting Kamloops Blazers Wednesday night.

Blichfeld beats the clock as Portland edges Kelowna 5-4

Kelowna was that inner demon that Portland struggled to tame. The team that played the same way they did had won seven straight regular season games going into Saturday night's game in Kelowna. Danish import Joachim Blichfeld deflected home a shot from Brendan De Jong with four seconds left to give Portland their third straight win. The Winterhawks got three point nights from Skyler McKenzie and Blichfeld  in the win. The win was not easy one as they had to come back from a 4-1 second period deficit with four straight goals.

Kelowna opened the scoring with a power play goal. Tomas Soustal drew the attention of the Portland defense before feeding Nick Merkley in the slot for a slap shot. The Arizona Coyotes' draft pick buried it past Portland goalie Shane Farkas to get things going. Portland tied the game with a power play goal of their own. Blichfeld slid a back door feed over to McKenzie and Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer overplayed it. McKenzie tried to get it over to Colton Veloso. The puck ened up bouncing to him and he put it in for his 12th of the year. The 12 goals is a career high for the Winnipeg native. Kelowna went on a roll and ended the first period with a 3-1 lead. The Rockets took the lead as Rodney Southam drove the zone and found d-man Gordie Ballhorn in space. He backhanded a shot through the wickets of Farkas. 49 seconds later the Rockets made it a two-goal lead off a bad turnover by overage blue liner Shaun Dosanjh. Merkley intercepted a pass and got Dosanjh down before slipping a pass over to Kyle Topping. The rookie forward finished it off for his 10th goal of the year.

Things seemed dire for the Winterhawks in the second period as Reid Gardiner gave the Rockets a 4-1 lead. Merkley held up at the blue line and found Reid Gardiner across the ice. Gardiner went forehand backhand before roofing it on Farkas. Just over eight minutes into the second, Portland ate into the lead on a goal from Skyler McKenzie. On the power play, Blichfeld used his backhand to get himself room and then fires a pass across to McKenzie. He settled it and then buried it for his 31st of the year. The Hawks made it a one-goal lead before the second was over. Defenseman Matt Quigley threw a  fantastic breakout pass that found Evan Weinger in alone. He faked a shot and sends it over to Ryan Hughes who buried it.

Portland tied the game in the third period with 7:09 left. Rookie Jack Cowell turned the puck over up the middle. Jake Gricius's first shot was blocked and he was able to put in the rebound. Then with just four seconds remaining on the game clock, Blichfeld scored the winner. Skyler McKenzie won an important battle and dropped a pass off to Brendan De Jong. The lanky d-man's shot from the point was tipped in by Blichfeld.

Shane Farkas got his second win of his career by stopping 31 of the 35 shots he faced. Michael Herringer went 31 of 36 in the loss.

Cole Kehler regains form in Portland's 4-1 win in Everett

1997-born goalie Cole Kehler had been one of the stories of the 2016 side of the 2016-17 season. He was acquired for a seventh-round pick during the summer and won the starting job over fellow 19-year-old Michael Bullion. Recently though Kehler has struggled with consistency and this had led to the Hawks losing nine of his previous 11 starts. Friday night in Everett though Kehler was the story, stopping 46 of 47 shots and leading his team to a big 4-1 win over the U.S. Division leading Everett Silvertips. The Hawks got a point from 10 different skaters in the win.

While on the penalty kill, Portland took the 1-0 lead, Patrick Bajkov and Kevin Davis got tangled up on the Portland blue line and Alex Overhardt skated onto the puck for a breakaway. He beat Carter Hart on the blocker side for his ninth goal of the year.

The Winterhawks doubled heir lead in the second period off the stick of another 19-year-old forward Evan Weinger. Cody Glass was by the Portland net in traffic and still somehow found a way to outlet the puck in space for the speedy Weinger. He flew in on Hart before stomping on the brakes and tucking in a backhand. The Silvertips started creating traffic in tight on Kehler and found gold by doing this. A Patrick Bajkov shot created a rebound and Dominic Zwerger was able to corral the bouncing puck and put it past Kehler.

With the game getting tight the Hawks got a pivotal goal from 16-year-old rookie Brad Ginnell. Koni Texeira got a shot on net and Colton Veloso was first to getting it over to the right side for Jake Gricius and Brad Ginnell. He poked it in for his fourth goal of the year. Ryan Hughes was able to ice the game for the Hawks with an empty net goal with seven seconds left.

Portland went 0/3 while Everett was 0/7.

Game Notes:
-Great momentum on an early shift from the Cody Glass line and timely pinches by Jones and De Jong was done in by a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty. The top line with Evan Weinger now playing in the spot for Keegan Iverson has found its stride.
-Colton Kroeker scored the eventual game-winner 9:28 into the third period and Kootenay edged Spokane in Cranbrook 3-2. Portland now has a three point cushion for the second wild card spot with one game in hand.