Wednesday, February 1, 2017

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.

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