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.

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