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.

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