T-Birds Crank it up late in Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. –Kyle Crnkovic scored two late goals and the Seattle Thunderbirds pulled away from the Portland Winterhawks, 4-2, Saturday at Veterans Memorial Coliseum. With a record of 52-9-1-2 Seattle has tied the franchise mark for wins in a season, set back in 1989-90 when they finished 52-17-3. Seattle returns home to the accesso ShoWare Center Tuesday with a chance to break the record when they face the Kamloops Blazers. Game time is 7:05 p.m.

The Thunderbirds got the win despite giving up a two-goal lead early in the third period.  Crnkovic was able to put a puck past the Portland goalie at the left post with just over three minutes remaining to restore the lead. The goal also snapped Crnkovic’s six-game scoreless streak.

“It’s been a while,” he said. “And in a big game for us, it was nice to pot one.” The initial shot from Jared Davidson was wide of the net, but Crnkovic was there to knock it home. “I think it bounced off the ice and I batted it out of the air.” Davidson and Reid Schaefer were credited with the helpers.

Seattle had built a 2-0 lead with a pair of second period goals. The first came shorthanded and unassisted from Nico Myatovic at 4:02. Ten minutes later Dylan Guenther jammed home a puck sitting on the goal line. Brad Lambert and Jeremy Hanzel earned the assists.

Portland got on the board with a power play goal just 11-seconds into the third period, then tied it with an even strength goal at 5:53. That setup the late game Crnkovic heroics. Crnkovic then sealed the win with an empty netter with 90-seconds remaining. Schaefer and Sawyer Mynio got the assists.

In the 1989-90 campaign that Thunderbirds team got their 52nd win in game number 71 of a 72-game season. This year’s club picked up win number 52 in game 64 of a 68-game season.  Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said it is a nice achievement, but not the ultimate goal. “We’re just taking it one game at a time. It’s nice to be able to achieve those things along the way to our ultimate goal, which is, hopefully, winning the championship.”

As for the game, O’Dette said his team showed character, coming back late after surrendering a two-goal lead. “We know, in this building in particular, the roller coaster of emotions in a game,” he commented. “We’ve been in these situations before. We just have to stay even keel, stay composed and that’s what the team did.”

Thomas Milic earned his 25th win of the season with a 26-save performance. Milic has allowed just twelve goals in his last ten starts and continues to lead the league with a 2.02 goals against average and .928 save percentage.

The Thunderbirds have just two road games remaining this season, the first of those is Wednesday in Kamloops.  Friday Seattle returns to Portland.


The win was Seattle’s 24th on the road this season, surpassing last year’s record of 23 road wins. “I think it’s a result of our workman like attitude,” said O’Dette of the team’s success the past two years away from home. “We’re a work-based team, a gritty team. It doesn’t matter where we play, what building we’re in, we’re gonna play the same way, we’re gonna play hard, we’re gonna be resilient. Those are things you need to be successful on the road.”

With his assist on Seattle’s second goal Brad Lambert has eight points (3g, 5a) in his last four games and has points in all but two of the 23-games he has played in with the Thunderbirds.

Jared Davidson still needs one goal to reach the 100-goal plateau in the WHL and two goals to attain 40-goals for a second straight season.

Boxscore: WHL Network

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