Monday, February 13, 2017

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.

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