PREVIEW: Vancouver Giants vs. Portland Winterhawks (Game #47)
Tonight in Langley, the Vancouver Giants return to action when they battle the Portland Winterhawks for the third time this season. So far in 2017-18 the G-Men are 2-0 against Portland and 1-0 against them at the LEC. The Giants remain unbeaten in regulation through eight games in 2018 posting a 6-0-1-1 record in that span. They gained a single point in a 4-3 shootout loss last night against Victoria. The Portland Winterhawks are coming off a 5-3 home loss last night to Swift Current, and will play tonight in Vancouver before returning to Portland for a showdown tomorrow with Brandon.
Head Coach: Mike Johnston
Road Record: 16-5-1-1
Last Game: A 5-3 loss at home last night to Swift Current
Last 10: 4-3-1-2
Goals For/Goals Against: 170/140 (+30)
Power Play: 28.5% (2nd in WHL)
Penalty Kill: (78.7% (9th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Cody Glass (42GP – 25G – 38A – 63PTS), Skyler McKenzie (45GP – 35G – 26A – 61PTS), Kieffer Bellows (34GP – 22G – 25A – 47PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Skyler McKenzie: The 19-year-old prospect of the Winnipeg Jets has been on a tear as of late for Portland. Over his past six games he’s netted seven goals along with five assists for 12 points. He’s got goals in four straight games. He’s tied for fifth in WHL goal-scoring with 35. Last season he had 42 goals and 42 assists for 84 points.
Joachim Blichfeld: The 19-year-old Dane had a goal and an assist last night for Portland against Swift Current and has registered 15 goals and 21 assists for 36 points through 31 games in 2017-18. He recorded a goal and an assist against Vancouer back on December 5th at the LEC. He’s a signed prospect with the San Jose Sharks.
WHO’S ON D:
Dennis Cholowski: The 2016 first-round pick of the Detroit Red Wings was acquired by Portland at the trade deadline for a bevy of prospects and draft picks that went back to Prince George. Cholowski won’t exactly be a welcomed sight for the Giants as he’s scored five goals and added five assists for 10 points against them already this season. In five games with Portland, Cholowski has notched six assists. He has 45 points in 42 games.
Henri Jokiharju: The first-round pick of the Chicago Blackhawks in 2017 has put forth another excellent season up to this point for Portland. His seven goals and 35 assists rank him second behind Cholowski in team scoring for defencemen and his +28 rating is tops on the team.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
Cole Kehler?: The Winterhawks are in an interesting predicament. They played last night at home and also have a game scheduled for tomorrow at 5:00 PM at home. 20-year-old Cole Kehler is their undisputed number one, but he played yesterday. Will Portland give Shane Farkas the start today? Or will they go back to Kehler who is 0-2 against Vancouver so far in 2017-18? Kehler’s entire body of work has been good though as he’s 21-11-1-3 with the second best goals-against-average 2.75 in the entire WHL.
Power Play: Despite some recent injuries, the Portland Winterhawks power play is still a force to be reckoned with. Coming into action tonight, Portland’s power play is ranked second in the WHL clicking at a 28.5% success rate. The Giants, by-and-large have been excellent on the penalty kill as of late, but if they give the Winterhawks added opportunities with the extra-attacker it could cost them dearly.
Head Coach: Jason McKee
Home Record: 13-7-1-1
Last Game: A 4-3 shootout loss last night to Victoria at home
Last 10: 7-0-2-1
Goals For/Goals Against: 167/164 (+3)
Power Play: 22.9% (9th in WHL)
Penalty Kill: 77.4% (14th in WHL)
Leading Scorers: Ty Ronning (46GP – 42G – 17A – 59PTS), James Malm (46GP – 17G – 31A – 48PTS), Tyler Benson (33GP – 17G – 26A – 43PTS)
WHO’S UP FRONT:
Ty Ronning: The Giants leading scorer is coming off a two-goal performance a night ago against Victoria and now has 42 goals in 46 games. He has six goals in his past three games and is now just a single point shy of reaching a new season-high for points in a single WHL season. He’s seven goals shy of a new franchise record and eight goals shy of becoming the first Giant to reach 50 goals.
The Giants captain was dialled in last night. He finished with two assists and a shootout goal and was a threat almost every time he took the ice. Through 33 games, Benson has notched 17 goals to go along with 26 assists for 43 points. He sits three points shy of setting a new single season high for points.
WHO’S ON D:
Dylan Plouffe: With his team down a goal in the third period last night, Dylan Plouffe rised to the occasion in a big way when he wired his eighth of the season home off a shot from the left point. Plouffe leads all Giants blueliners with eight goals and 36 points and his plus-minus is second best on the team at +!2. Over his past nine games he’s managed two goals and six assists for eight points.
Brennan Riddle: The newcomer recorded his first point as a Giant in last night’s game and has looked comfortable so far skating largely beside Matt Barberis. The 20-year-old has done everything asked of him through his first four games as a Giant and has done a nice job of providing some stability and physicality on the back-end for these young Giants.
WHO’S IN GOAL:
David Tendeck?: Last night Tendeck backstopped the Giants to a single point against the Royals. He stopped 22 of the 25 shots fired his way and gave his team a chance to win. In two meetings with Portland in 2017-18, Tendeck is 2-0 with a 1.50 goals-against-average, a .964 save percentage and one shutout. Given the quick turnaround it might mean that Trent Miner makes his first WHL start, but Tendeck is 11-1-1-1 in his last 15 starts and has been remarkably consistent for Vancouver – Especially since December 5th against Portland.
Push the Pace: Fatigue could very well be a factor tonight for Portland who played at home last night before hopping on the bus to head North. That, combined with some key injuries up front could give the Giants an advantage in the energy department. A big key for Vancouver will be to dictate the speed and the physicality of the game not unlike how they’ve done against Victoria and Kelowna so far on the home stand.