KAMLOOPS, B.C. –Two goals against, late in the first period, were the difference as the Seattle Thunderbirds fell, 5-2, to the Kamloops Blazers in Game One of the Western Conference Championship Series at the Sandman Centre. Game Two goes Saturday in Kamloops as well, Game time is 7:05.
The game was tied, 1-1, when the Blazers scored at 17:55 and then again at 18:48 of period one, giving them a 3-1 lead the T-Birds could not overcome, despite outshooting Kamloops on the night, 38-27.
T-Birds assistant coach, Kyle Hagel, filling in for head coach Matt O’Dette, who was under the weather and unavailable, said that 53-second stretch was the turning point. “It was some defensive zone coverage issues. We have to make sure we get back and assess who’s the most dangerous guy. In those instances, we didn’t do that, and we paid the price for it.”
Kamloops had opened the scoring with an unassisted power play goal from Matthew Seminoff at 8:06, as a T-Birds clearing attempt deflected twice and then found Seminoff’s stick right in front of the Seattle net.
“They have some really opportunistic goal scorers,” said Hagel. “They were able to finish. We gave them too many opportunities with a wide-open net.”
Seattle responded well and tied the game at 10:53. Kevin Korchinski took a pass from Reid Schaefer, skated in and fired home his fifth of the postseason.
The second period was scoreless, but the T-Birds took a late penalty that carried over to the start of the third. Just 12-seconds into the final period, they took another penalty, giving the Blazers a two-man advantage. Logan Stankoven’s second of three on the night, pushed the Kamloops advantage to 4-1.
The T-Birds got a late power play and pulled the goalie for a 6-on-4 advantage. They cut the Blazer’s lead to 4-2 when Jared Davidson scored his seventh playoff goal at 17:47 with Schaefer and Lukas Svejkovsky assisting. Seattle pulled their goalie again, hoping to close the gap but Stankoven completed his hat trick, scoring into the empty net at 18:39.
Hagel says the Blazers got some fortunate bounces but said that teams often create those bounces with strong play. He said the T-Birds didn’t earn enough of those chances. “We’ve got to create some more, high danger scoring opportunities. We did a really good job controlling the play. I thought we outchanced them, outshot them. We just need to make more of those chances high danger ones.”
Game One versus Kamloops was the first time Matt O’Dette was not behind the T-Birds bench since he was named head coach prior to the start of the 2017-18 season, a stretch of 317 games. O’Dette is expected to miss Game Two as well.
Kevin Korchinski now has five playoff goals through thirteen games. He scored just four goals in 67 games during the regular season.
Reid Schaefer has points in five straight games, accumulating nine points (3g, 6a) in the process.
Seattle will host Games Three and Four at the accesso ShoWare Center next Tuesday and Wednesday. Game time both nights is 7:05 p.m. Tickets are available at seattlethunderbirds.com and at the box office.
Full boxscore: WHL Network