Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Kehler finally solves Tri-City and Portland picks up a big 6-1 win

Tuesday night was about conquering demons for Portland Winterhawks' goalie Cole Kehler and his team. Kehler had struggled mightily in his first seven outings against the Tri-City Americans. Twice he was yanked from the net and he had not won a game since his first start as a Winterhawk back on September 25th. Over those seven games he sported a 4.83 GAA, well below his season average of 3.14. His team had also struggled, only beating the Americans three times in nine opportunities and only one of those three wins had been in Kennewick. Tuesday night, the Hawks stormed the Americans early, jumping out to a 3-0 first period, en route to a convincing 6-1 victory. Kehler turned away 35 of 36 shots and came close to his third career shutout. It just so happens that the win held extra meaning in terms of the standings as the Winterhawks extended their lead over the Americans to three points for the third seed in the U.S. Division. The Ams hold one game in hand on the Hawks. Offensively, Portland was led by two goals from Keegan Iverson and two assists from each of Ilijah Colina and Caleb Jones. Skyler McKenzie also added a goal and an assist. Iverson extended his point streak to 10 games.

Skyler McKenzie opened the scoring in the game with a move you usually see from a forward much larger than him. With Tri-City d-man Dylan Coghlan draped all over him down the left wing, McKenzie got the lower center of gravity and sniped a shot past T.C. goalie Rylan Parenteau with a quick release. Then after 17-year-old forward Landon Fuller took a run at Jake Gricius and buried him near the boards, he was handed a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct. This opened the door for the always effective road power play Portland touts and they took advantage. Caleb Jones fired a shot into traffic from straight on at the blue line and Keegan Iverson deflected the puck past Parenteau. The Hawks added a goal just over two minutes later as a shot from Brendan De Jong was blocked down and the puck went right to Lane Gilliss. Prior to Sunday, the forward had not scored since the day after Thanksgiving, but now he has goals in consecutive game. His marker gave Portland a 3-0 lead after one period of play.

After a 19-8 shot advantage in the first period, the second saw a more even 14-12 T.C. advantage. Kelher made several athletic saves to turn away the desperate Americans and opened the door for Portland to make it a 4-0 game. Keoni Texeira, on the rush, fired a shot to Parenteau's far pad, creating a rebound for Jake Gricius. The overage goalie made a brilliant save on Gricius's first goal, but the big center found the rebound and his second shot, while he was sitting on the ice, beat Parenteau.

Tri-City finally got things going and got one past Kehler with 7:01 left in the game. Parker AuCoin made a dandy of a move around a defender behind Kehler's net and fed Kyle Olson all alone in front. The 1999-born forward quickly beat Kehler and made it a three-goal game. Portland's captain scored his second of the night with 2:27 left just so there was no more doubt who would win the night. Tyler Sandhu's clearance attempt was deflected and then collected by Alex Overhardt and the center quickly fed Iverson in the slot. The overage power forward beat Parenteau blocker-side and made the game 5-1. It was Iverson's seventh goal of the year against Tri-City. The Hawks added one more later as Ilijah Colina collected the puck near his own faceoff dot and smartly aired it out to Brett Clayton. The big forward broke in alone and beat Parenteau with a backhand. Tri-City coach Mike Williamson was adamant that the puck was played with a high stick and there did appear to be an official calling just that before Clayton collected the puck for his breakaway. But the call was waved off and play was allowed to resume resulting in the big forward's second goal of the year.

Rylan Parenteau dropped to 4-3 against Portland (4-2 as an American) by stopping 31 of 37 shots.

Portland's road power play kept its claim on first in the WHL by going 1/2 on the night. Tri-City went 0/6. Portland's percentage increased up to 30.9 percent.

Game Notes:
-Portland has just two games left in the regular season and they are on Saturday in Seattle and on Sunday home vs. Spokane. Their record of 39-27-1-3 puts them third in the U.S. Division, three points ahead of Tri-City. The Ams have one game in hand. They play a home-and-home with Spokane on Friday and saturday, before hosting Everett on Sunday.
-Getting third in the division would ensure that Portland play in the U.S. bracket and keep their travel at a minimum. Their first-round opponent would either be Everett or Seattle.
-Tri-City has dropped five-in-a-row now and is spiraling down at the last time of year you would want to do that. Injuries have played a key role and their defensemen and goaltenders have not played up to what is expected of them.
-The emotional win on Sunday in Portland over Everett definitely played a role in the start Portland got out to on Tuesday night. You have to wonder, if it brought the team closer together and inspired them to play above themselves. They have won seven of their last eight games and are playing some of their best team-hockey of the year.
-If the Hawks can get just one more win, they would reach 40 wins for the 20th time in franchise history. It would also mean that Mike Johnston had reach at least 40 wins in all six full seasons he's been behind the Portland bench.

No comments:

Post a Comment