PORTLAND, Ore- Playing a fourth straight game with a less than full roster, the Seattle Thunderbirds were shutout, 3-0, by the Portland Winterhawks Sunday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Seattle played the game with seven regulars sidelined due to injury. The T-birds next see action Friday when the travel up to Langley BC to face the Vancouver Giants.
“We’re proud of the group,” commented head coach Matt O’Dette after the game. “It was a tremendous effort all weekend long. The adversity we’re facing, we’re battling though it. You definitely can’t fault the effort. We laid everything on the line tonight.” He added they carried themselves very well despite not having seven players available.
The depleted Thunderbirds kept the game close early with a scoreless first period. Seattle (36-17-4-2) did miss out on grabbing the lead though when they failed to convert on three first period power plays.
“It was obviously a factor in the game,” said O’Dette. “We needed to get something on the power play. We had a couple good opportunities. Just a little bit out of sorts, not executing well enough.” He did add that part of the problem was the opponent. “Give them credit they have a good penalty kill. It’s second in the league, you’re not going against a scrub unit.”
Early in the second the Winterhawks broke the scoreless deadlock, going up 1-0 on an unassisted Cross Hanas goal at 1:23, as Portland caught the Thunderbirds in a bad line change. “We have to eliminate the big play,” O’Dette lamented. “I thought as far as overall zone time and carrying the play, I though we held our own but we have to eliminate those odd man rushes, the breakaways and home run plays against.”
Thanks to the play of Thomas Milic in goal, the T-birds got to the end of the second period only down 1-0. Milic came up with 11 saves in the period, including stopping a couple of late odd man rushes in the final 30 seconds. “He made some big saves for us,” said O’Dette of his goalie. “He was there for us. I thought he had a good weekend, obviously he needs some run support.” The T-birds also killed off a nearly two-minute Portland, 5-on-3, man advantage midway through the game with Milic coming up with six saves in the process.
A Seattle miscue at center ice early in the third period led to a 2-on-0 Portland rush and Aiden Litke tapped home the Winterhawks second goal just 43-seconds into the final frame. The T-birds pulled Milic late for the extra skater but, despite a couple of good chances, couldn’t get the puck past Portland netminder Taylor Gauthier. The Winterhawks then iced it with a Tyson Kozak empty net goal with a minute remaining.
Despite the loss O’Dette said his players fought hard all weekend and believes the adversity they are going through will make them stronger when they get players healthy and back in the lineup. “We can get excited about the possibilities down the road when we get our full lineup back. I think the experience gained by our depth players that got to play more minutes in high leverage situations is going to bode well for us down the line. Teams that win championships have to go through things during the year.”
The game Friday at Langley marks the start of another three-game weekend for Seattle. They’ll host the Giants at the ShoWare Center Saturday at 6:05 pm then complete the weekend with a game against the Tri-City Americans Sunday in Kennewick.
Seattle had 209 points sitting in the stands. The seven injured players include leading scorer Jared Davidson, out since last weekend with an upper body injury.
Henrik Rybinski has not played since February 26th as he deals with his own upper body injury. Lucas Ciona missed his fourth game with a hand injury. Meanwhile Gabe Ludwig was sidelined for a second straight game as was defenseman Ryan Gottfried. Joining the list of wounded players was Mekai Sanders who was hurt Saturday and is waiting the results of an MRI.
Thunderbird’s captain, Tyrel Bauer, out since early December with a lower body injury could be close to rejoining the team. He has missed 33 games.
The T-birds were outshot by Portland 26-20, the first time Seattle had been outshot by an opponent since January 30tha span of 19 games.
To help fill out the roster Sunday, Seattle recalled 16-year-old defenseman Niko Tsakumis and used him as a forward.
Full box score: WHL Network