Kent, WA. – The Seattle Thunderbirds couldn’t hold on to a late lead and fell in a shootout, 6-5, to the Portland Winterhawks Saturday at the accesso ShoWare Center. Jordan Gustafson led the Seattle attack with two goals in the loss. The Thunderbirds complete the weekend action with a Sunday game in Everett at Angel of the Winds Arena. Game time is 4:05 pm
On Teddy Bear Toss Night, it was Lucas Ciona who sent the bears flying, redirecting a Kevin Korchinski shot with Seattle on the power play. Conner Roulette had the second assist on the goal that came at 15:46 of the first period.
Seattle (23-10-4-1) built a three-goal lead with a pair of goals 29-seconds apart early in period two. Gustafson’s first came at 3:07 and Henrik Rybinski jammed home his 13th of the season at 3:36.
For Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette, it was the start he wanted from his team, playing the middle game of three-in-three nights. “We were playing the right way, sticking to the game plan, it was really good. Things were working well for us.” He said they had sustained pressure for large portions of the game but just not enough. “There were some lapses here and there that gave them life. Some penalties at inopportune times.”
Portland began their comeback with a Jack O’Brien power play goal at 8:04. The Winterhawks then made it a one-goal game at 13:50 as Josh Zakreski scored.
Early in period three Portland forged the game’s first tie when Kyle Chyzowski scored at 2:05. The T-birds jumped back on top when Sam Popowich knocked home his fourth of the season at 3:53. The Winterhawks tied it back up at 4-4, thanks to a power play goal from Tyson Kozak at 7:30.
The Winterhawks finished the night 2-for-5 with the man advantage. “We have to avoid giving them those power play opportunities,” O’Dette said, adding “Ultimately we didn’t do enough to keep the pedal down and close them out. We kind of gave them some life here and there throughout the game.” He said it is another lesson that it takes sixty minutes to close out good team. “Every play matters. You don’t know what the difference in the game is going to be.”
The T-birds responded quickly to the Kozak goal, regaining the lead just 46-seconds later with Gustafson’s second of the night to go back up 5-4.
Portland pulled their goalie late for the extra skater and got the fifth and tying goal at 18:54 from Cross Hanas. There was no scoring in the five-minute overtime period. Portland’s James Stefan was the only shooter to score in the shootout, giving the Winterhawks the victory.
O’Dette says while the loss stings, he still sees more good then negative thus far on the weekend. “With the short lineup, short on the back end, we’ve got guys playing a lot of minutes who aren’t used to it, to have three points thus far on the weekend is a positive.”
After Sunday’s game in Everett, the T-birds next five games will be against BC Division opponents. Seattle’s next home game is next Friday against Prince George. Seattle has a home-and-home next weekend against Vancouver. They host the Giants next Saturday then travel to Langley for the rematch the next day. The Thunderbirds are in Victoria to face the Royals for two games, February 11th and 12th.
Conner Roulette had his four-game goal scoring streak snapped.
Once again, the T-birds broke the 40-shot barrier, outshooting Portland 44-32.
For the third straight game the T-birds dressed just 16 skaters, two under the limit. Seattle has four players in Covid Protocol (Hanzel, Oremba, Rempe and Mynio), one out with long term injury (Bauer) and a sixth player, Sam Knazko, away with Team Slovakia in preparation for the Winter Olympics next month in China.
Full box score: WHL Network