On Sunday evening in Portland netminders Mads Sogaard and Shane Farkas were the main focus as they battled in a goaltenders dual.
The Medicine Hat Tigers (31-18-3-2) completed their trip through the U.S. Division, including three games in three nights, when they visited the Portland Winterhawks (33-16-3-3) in the Moda Center.
Mads Sogaard showed why he is the third ranked North American goalie prospect for the upcoming NHL Entry Draft as he stopped 32-of-33 Portland shots in regulation and overtime. The import goalie from Denmark also stopped all five Portland shooters in the shootout to help the Tigers win 2-1.
Winterhawks goalie Shane Farkas matched Sogaard save-for-save throughout the 65 minutes and first rounds of the shootout before forward Ryan Chyzowski scored the shootout winner. Farkas stopped 38 of 39 shots sent his direction.
The 19-year-old from Penticton, BC stopped two grade-A chances by the Tigers in the final seconds to preserve the point for the Winterhawks.
Portland’s associate coach Kyle Gustafson said, “That point blank save in the slot was crucial there in the last seconds of the game. Some really big saves tonight. We are real happy with his play. He has put together a nice stretch for us. We did everything but give him support.”
In the teams’ only matchup of the season, Portland’s speed caught Medicine Hat off guard. Tigers head coach Shaun Clouston said, “I thought Portland was all over us in the first period. Portland has a really skilled team, maybe we were a little bit overwhelmed or a little bit in awe; we just weren’t jumping or on our toes.”
Gustafson liked his team’s first period, “It was good to see our energy right out of the gate, thought our first period was real, real strong. I thought our push in the first put them back. I think we intimidated them a little bit with our speed through the neutral zone.”
Joachim Blichfeld opened the scoring in the first period after a net-front scramble where 19-year-old forward Josh Paterson backhanded a pass to the Winterhawks assistant captain. The goal was Blichfeld’s WHL-leading 45th of the season.
The first period belonged to Portland, but Medicine Hat responded in the second controlling the majority of play.
“I saw great resilience” Clouston commented after the game. “We really seemed to be able to regroup in the second. We just simplified it a little bit. In the second period we were a lot closer together with our forecheck. They had picked us a part a little bit, but it was just a matter of us simplifying our game. We were getting a little more aggressive together. Our confidence together grew throughout the second.”
The Tigers controlled the offensive zone including sending 17 shots onto Farkas.
Winterhawks forward Reece Newkirk said, “It was a close game including every period. Our first period was great, we had a good start. In the second period though we let off the gas a little bit.”
Gustafson spoke in greater detail about the middle frame, “I think there was a little fatigue with the three-in-three. Obviously you have to give them a lot of credit as they were playing three-in-three and they looked fresh. They just put us back on our heels with the the territorial play. I think their offensive zone time was greater than ours. Any time you are doing that with the long change in the second period you are constantly defending. Looking at our second period we would like to have spurts of it back. However, we did get in alone a couple of times which could have changed the game.”
Two Winterhawks rookies, Seth Jarvis and Cross Hanas, had breakaways which either went high over the net or went wide.
Jarvis talked after the game saying, “Obviously the breakaway, Reece [Newkirk] and Jaydon [Dureau] made a good pass. I just missed in front of the net. There were definately chances.”
Portland’s line of Newkirk, Jarvis, and Dureau was the best trio on the ice. “We played together for a good part of the season so a little break was alright.” Jarvis said. “The coming back together, I mean, I guess was awesome. Our speed was there, our chances like you said were there. Next time we just have to capitalize better.”
Newkirk agreed with his linemate, “We were comfortable tonight and were dominating them in their end. Both Jaydon and Seth are great players and we have good chemistry together.”
Despite the chances at both ends Sogaard and Farkas were perfect in the second period. The Winterhawks took a 1-0 lead into the final 20 minutes.
In the first five minutes of the third period Portland received a power play opportunity to extend their lead. However, for the second game in a row, they surrendered a shorthanded goal.
The Tigers broke up a play at the blue line creating a two-on-one shorthanded with Ryan Chyzowski and Ryan Jevne.
Chyzowski cut to the middle and forced Farkas to make a save.
The rebound went towards the slot where Jevne deposited the puck for his 25th goal of the season.
As the puck was up in the air, Jevne made contact with Farkas causing a disagreement between the teams and referees whether the goal should count.
Clouston felt the play “turned into a two-on-one and kind of a bouncing puck that kind of rattled around. There was some incidental contact for sure. There were two things we thought looking at the replay. Looked like probably the puck was across [the goal line] as there was contact and we got a little bit of a shove from behind. I do think they made the right call even though the fans didn’t like that one.”
Gustafson described the goal, “It was a little bit of a bad break in my opinion. You look at the Cross Hanas penalty in the first period where their guy shoves him into their goaltender, little bit of the same thing, but results in a goal. We will chalk that up to a bounce.”
Portland’s struggle on the power play continued as they went zero-for-four on the night.
Newkirk talked about the challenge on the man advantage, “We are struggling a little bit to find the back of the net, but we have to keep our chins up. We are going to work on it in practice and try to come out hot.”
Gustafson felt the team did “everything but put the puck in the net” on the power play. “I think our execution was there, we shot the puck, we knew it wasn’t going to be a pretty goal, would have to be a shot and a rebound. We had our looks, had good rebounds, bodies at the net, opportunities, everything but getting the puck to go into the net.”
Clouston credited his penalty killers for ultimately keeping the Winterhawks off the scoreboard on the power play, “Portland had some really good looks, but we battled for sure. We blocked lots of shots and our goalie made a lot saves for us.”
The game required overtime, and ultimately a shootout, to decide a winner.
Farkas and Sogaard stopped the first four shooters before Chyzowski secured the extra point for the Tigers.
Each team credited their goalie for the point(s) they received on Sunday.
Clouston commented, “Some huge saves from Mads. It was a battle in the shootout and our guy stopped all of them. He has been awesome for us this year. Obviously he is a giant in there and takes up a lot of the net. [Sogaard} battles like crazy, but remains very calm. When there are those goalmouth scrambles in front, Portland attacked the net real well, he hold his ground and is able to just settle things down.”
Newkirk said, “We wouldn’t be here without Farkas in net, he has been hot lately. We have to win these games for him though. We have to give him more than one goal to play with; he was incredible and unstoppable out there tonight.”
Jarvis continued the praise for Farkas, “Shane was rock solid back there. He was making huge saves. Obviously their goal, I mean, I don’t know how much you can say at all that was Shane’s fault; the guy just ran him over. Shane was perfect and kept us in it for what, five rounds in the shootout? So by then we should scored.”
Medicine Hat finished their three-in-three 2-0-1 including victories over Everett and Portland. The Tigers now make the long trip back home before playing Saskatoon on Wednesday. “We won’t get home until noon on [Monday] riding the bus” Clouston said. “We will have a quick turnaround. We won’t practice [Monday], but have a quick skate on Tuesday, and then back at it on Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, Portland is off until Saturday when they face another Central Division team in the Red Deer Rebels. The game marks the last out-of-conference opponent for the Winterhawks this season. Seattle comes to town on Sunday before Portland departs for Vancouver to face the red-hot Giants. The B.C. Division leaders clinched a playoff berth on Sunday and are 8-1-0-1 in their last ten games.
– Portland played without Cody Glass and Brendan De Jong who are both out with lower body injuries.
– Per Gustafson, “I think [Cody] is close. He has been skating. He has been on his own. Richie (Rich Campbell, athletic trainer/strength & conditioning coach) has done a great job getting him ready. He is close to playing and will leave it at that.”
– On Brendan De Jong Gustafson said, “Brendan is still kind of fresh as it happened last night. It was an innocent deal where they finished their check, nothing vicious, nothing out of the ordinary. We had to look at the tape to find out where it was. Everything is so fresh right now and we are going to take a look at it and the doctors will talk with us more.”
– Matthew Quigley was a game-time decision with Kade Nolan after warmups. Quigley was given the final spot in the lineup on Sunday.