Sunday, March 12, 2017

Winterhawks add to Chiefs' misery with 4-2 win

It has not been a good week for the Spokane Chiefs. On Tuesday they dropped a big game to Seattle 5-2 that put their season on life support. Then on Wednesday they had the plug pulled in a miserable 4-0 loss to the visiting Everett Silvertips. In between they had to fight through the Snoqualmie Pass closure just to get home. On Friday night they hosted the Portland Winterhawks and hung right with them until they were undone by Cody Glass, Caleb Jones and a couple of poor penalties late 4-2. They were the latest team to be victimized by the red-hot Cody Glass as the Winnipeg native followed up his two-goal, two-assist night in Wednesday night's win over Prince George with two more goals. He has now strung together a five-game point streak after not getting any points in two-straight games for the first time since December. Glass's linemates Keegan Iverson and Skyler McKenzie each added two points in the Portland win. After getting broke up for a game against Vancouver, the top line was brought back together and has been scalding hot ever since. Iverson now has five-straight two-point games and McKenzie has seven points over his last five games. Taylor Ross and Kailer Yamamoto each scored for Spokane in the loss.

Cody Glass got things going for Portland 4:38 into the game. Skyler McKenzie used his speed to get to a loose puck first in the Spokane zone and threw the puck in front where a group of players were. Cody Glass got to it and after his first shot was turned away, he followed it up with a lob over the down and out Spokane goalie Jayden Sittler.  Sittler was otherwise stellar as he turned away 14 first-period shots to keep the game close.

Kailer Yamamoto tied the game on a strong individual effort. He looped around the Portland net and waited out Cole Kehler before beating him up high. The goal was Yamamoto's 38th of the year.

Portland again turned on the pressure in the third period and finally broke through 11:34 in. Joachim Blichfeld and Alex Overhardt won a battle in the corner and Overhardt threw a pass into the high slot where Caleb Jones was waiting. He fired it high glove side on Sittler, beating him for his eighth goal of the season. Then after Tyson Helgesen and Hudson Elynuik took consecutive penalties, Portland's road power play finally did what it does best: score goals. Just after the five-on-three turned into a five-on-four advantage, Iverson found Glass in the low slot from behind the net and the Hawks' center netted his 31st goal of the year. This gave Portland a 3-1 lead with 5:56 left. Spokane made it interesting as Alex Mowbray and Taylor Ross broke out short-handed and converted on the penalty kill. It wasn't pretty as Mowbray's pass just sneaked through Keoni Texeira and Ross's shot surprised Kehler. The Chiefs pulled Sittler for the extra-attacker in an attempt to tie the game up. McKenzie's speed again was a factor though as he forced a turnover in the Chiefs' zone and quickly fired the puck into the open net. This goal put the game away at 4-2 and puts McKenzie just one goal away from 40 at 39 on the season.

Kehler stopped 23 of 25 to get the win and Sittler was good for 45 saves on 48 shots.

Portland's road power play gave up a short-handed marker but did convert on one of their six opportunities. Spokane failed to score on two chances.

Game Notes:
-Evan Weinger missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury and was listed as out day-to-day.
-Cody Glass's two points get him up to 91 in 65 games. That slots him in at sixth in the WHL. He has six games to get nine points in order to hit the century mark.
-McKenzie meanwhile is eighth in goals at 39. Every Portland team Mike Johnston has coached has had a player hit at least 40 goals since the 2009-10 season.
-Caleb Jones has 55 points in 58 games and that puts him tied for eighth in scoring among WHL blue liners.
-Portland's road power play is now tops in the WHL at a 30.6 percent clip. They are just fifth overall though as their home power play operates at just 19.6 percent. This is the biggest difference I can remember ever seeing in this category.
-Portland now leads the season series five game to two with one remaining on March 19th.
-Seattle visits Portland Saturday night and suddenly not just one of the teams has their playoff seed in question. It appeared that Tri-City was pretty much locked into the third seed in the U.S. Division, but five straight wins, coupled with three straight losses by Tri-City cut the Americans lead down drastically. Portland is now just one point back.

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