March 28, 2009

Merrill's Nine Points Propel Portland Past Stealth

from press release

The calendar only read March 28, but Saturday's game represented the way in which the Portland LumberJax plan on playing in April and May.

Behind a career-high nine points from defenseman Brodie Merrill (3 goals, 6 assists), the Jax beat the San Jose Stealth 14-12 in front of 3,018 at the HP Pavilion.  The Jax (6-4) scored seven of the final eight goals and held Stealth (4-8) forward Jeff Zywicki without a goal for only the second time this season.

Portland is now 8-4 all-time vs. San Jose and 6-1 at the HP Pavilion.  The Jax have won the last five meetings and now hold the critical head-to-head advantage with the Stealth.  The two teams meet again tomorrow, this time at the Rose Garden Arena at 3 p.m.

"It was a weird game today," said head coach and general manager Derek Keenan.  "It was  a little bit of us losing our composure and then them losing their composure.  We had some opportunities on the power play early on and missed, but we scored a couple late in the game when it mattered most."

After one of San Jose's five power play goals, the Jax got on the board with 6:43 left in the first quarter as forward Derek Malawsky (3 goals, 2 assists) scored off a rebound.  Forward Cory Conway (2 goals) made it 2-1 with 1:46 left in the first as he dove across the crease and beat Stealth goalie Matt Roik on the far side.  Merrill and goalie Matt Disher (37 saves) were credited with assists on the goal.

A late Stealth goal would tie the game at two after the opening quarter of play.

The Jax would begin to pull away in the second quarter as the team went on a 5-2 run; including a 4-0 that turned a 3-3 tie into a 7-3 lead.

Merrill first scored 11-seconds into the second quarter off the face-off to make it 3-2.  After defenseman Pat Jones won the face-off, forward Scott Stewart (2 goals, 1 assist) sent a pass to Merrill, who easily beat Roik.

Then, after a San Jose goal tied the game at three, Portland went on its 4-0 run.  Conway scored off a laser shot with 9:32 left off passes from Merrill and forward Ryan Powell (2 goals, 5 assists).  Then, Merrill scored in transition with 8:51 left before forward Peter Morgan (2 goals, 2 assists) scored with 6:12 left in the half to make it 6-3.

Roik would be pulled in favor of backup Tyler Richards, but it made little difference as Malawsky scored his second goal of the game with 5:36 left in the half to make it 7-3.

San Jose would score a late power play goal to cut the Portland lead to 7-4 at the half.

The Stealth would rattle off seven straight goals to begin the third quarter and take an 11-7 lead.  However, Portland cut the lead to 11-8 with 12-seconds left in the third as Stewart scored late in the shot clock.

With their backs against the wall, the Jax began their game clinching, 7-0 run.  First, Merrill scored with 12:01 left in regulation to make it 11-9.  After catching Roik's lethargic pass, Merrill sent a pass to Powell, who sent it right back to Merrill for the goal.

On the ensuing face-off, Merrill collected a loose ball and took an illegal cross check from Stealth defender Eric Martin.  Martin was tagged with a five-minute major, a 10-minute misconduct and an ejection by Crew Chief Tom Sutton.

Martin's ejection sparked the Jax as they scored two straight power play goals.  Malawsky scored with 8:03 left and then Powell scored with 7:32 left to tie the game at 11.

Fourteen seconds later, Portland took the lead for good as Powell rolled off a Conway screen and beat Roik to make it 12-11.  Stewart scored 18 seconds later and then Morgan scored with 2:19 left to cap the 7-0, game clinching run.

San Jose would add a late goal to make the final score 14-12.

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