Thursday, March 2, 2017

Portland fires 56 shots on Vancouver and wins 5-1

Portland snapped a four-game losing streak at the Langley Event Centre Wednesday night. They jumped on the hapless Vancouver Giants and never looked back. In the first of three-straight games between the two squads, Portland had period shot totals of 15, 21 and 20 and dominated possession en route to their 33rd win of the year. Despite the stats, Vancouver did not go away and were only put out of it with some very late goals. Keegan Iverson and Jake Gricius both had two goals and Matt Revel notched his first as a Winterhawk in the 5-1 Portland win. Caleb Jones added an assist for the Hawks. The Giants now are on a four-game losing streak of their own, which they will look to end Friday night in Portland.

After former Winterhawk Jack Flaman took a penalty, Keegan Iverson opened the scoring. Caleb Jones skated into space at the blue line and fired a shot towards the net. Iverson, who was providing the screen, deflected the puck down and past Vancouver goalie Ryan Kubic. Vancouver did a good job of, despite getting out-possessed, keeping Portland's shots wide and out of danger. This is not something they would be abel to keep up.

Rookie center, Ilijah Colina doubled the Portland lead off an excellent effort of keeping the puck in the Vancouver zone. He gloved it down to himself and then rifled a pass down low to Jake Gricius, who had yet to exit the zone. The big forward pulled it to his forehand and beat Kubic on the blocker side. Portland then got their second power play goal of the night off the stick of their captain to make it a 3-0 game. Iverson corralled the puck and walked off the half-boards before firing a shot into the corner and past Kubic for his 20th of the season.

Vancouver cut into the Portland lead with a power play goal of their own in the third period. Iverson got to a puck behind his own net and his clearance attempt was knocked down right to the side of the goal. Johnny Wesley out-muscled some Hawks to the loose puck and worked it over to the far post where d-man Matt Barberis was waiting. He potted it past Portland goalie Cole Kehler for his 10th of the season. The Barberis goal seemed to inspire the Giants and they put some pressure on the Hawks. Unfortunately for them, they were turned away by he post or Kehler, giving Portland the opportunity to put the game away. That is just what Matt Revel and Jake Gricius did with back-to-back late goals. First, Revel utilized some strong play on the puck by Colton Veloso and filled the vacant net. Then, Gricius added to the goal total on the power play. Brendan De Jong sprung him in behind the defense and he went forehand-backhand, notching his ninth of the season.

Cole Kehler had one of his easiest outings as he stopped 17 of just 18 shots. Ryan Kubic, meanwhile was extremely busy, stopping 51 of 55.

Game Notes:
-Easily the biggest shot differential of the year for Portland at 36.
-The season series is now 1-1 as the Giants took down the Winterhawks 6-3 back in December.
-Keegan Iverson has six goals over his last seven games and now has 20 goals on the season.
-Portland's power play went 3/5 and that drives their road power play up to 31.2 percent. This is just 0.1 percent back of Regina for best in the WHL.
-Caleb Jones's two assists gave him his third two-point game over the last five games. He now has 44 assists and that puts him fifth among all WHL d-men.
-Jake Gricius had just one goal over his first 18 WHL games and has had eight in his 46 games. This is all while playing in the bottom six forward group. His coach is trusting him more and more as the season goes and look for him to eventually get into a shutdown center role with the Hawks. This was his first multi-point game in the WHL.
-Portland kept nine points ahead of Spokane for the last wild card bid in the Western Conference playoff race. The Chiefs are just about done as they have just ten games left to play. 11 total points lost by Spokane or won by Portland will do it. The Chiefs have two against Victoria this weekend, while the Hawks have two with the Giants.
-The fourth line of Colina, Gricius and Gilliss was very solid. They created chances on every shift and they were rewarded with some late power play time which they cashed in on.

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