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.

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