Portland, OR. – Playing their third game in four days the Seattle Thunderbirds fell, 2-0, to the Portland Winterhawks Friday at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. It was the 29th time the two rivals have played each other on New Year’s Eve in Portland. The Thunderbirds complete three straight games on the road when they travel next Friday to Kennewick to face the Tri-City Americans. Game time at the Toyota Center is 7:05 p.m.
Despite the loss Seattle Head Coach Matt O’Dette gave his player full marks for their effort. “The guys played hard. What more can you ask from them. It’s been a heck of a week, being shorthanded for three games with all sorts of travel on the bus. With weather and playing the night before, then facing a fresh team.”
While Seattle was playing their third game of the week and second in as many nights, the Winterhawks (15-11-3-1) hadn’t played in four days after they had a game postponed on Wednesday. O’Dette said his team still rose to the challenge. “We played extremely hard. We were up against a tough task. The effort and the compete and the character were there, like it is most nights.”
The game was scoreless until Portland’s Marcus Nguyen was awarded a penalty shot with just under nine minutes remaining in the third period. He was able to beat Thunderbirds goalie Thomas Milic inside the left post.
The Thunderbirds (19-9-3-0) pulled Milic for the extra skater in the game’s final 90-seconds looking for the equalizer. Instead, Seattle was assessed a penalty on a battle behind the Winterhawks net. Portland scored on the subsequent power play to put the game away.
O’Dette was disappointed in the officiating throughout the game as Seattle was not awarded a power play while Portland was given two, plus the penalty shot. The officials missed a clear goaltender interference call when a Portland player bowled over Milic, instead calling a phantom cross-checking minor on Seattle’s Sam Knazko. “I’m proud of the guys. They deserved better tonight. It’s plain and simple. The officiating was not even and it’s extremely frustrating and our guys deserve better, they deserve to be treated better and that wasn’t the case tonight.”
Milic suffered the loss, but was brilliant in goal in making 36 saves, including stopping a third period breakaway to give his team a fighting chance.
The Thunderbirds next home game is Saturday, January 8th when they host the Spokkkane Chiefs at the accesso ShoWare Center. Tickets for the 6:05 p.m. game are available online at seattlethunderbirds.com
Knazko returned to the lineup after being away with Team Slovakia at the World Junior Championship in Alberta. The tournament was cancelled Thursday due to Covid-19 issues.
Seattle has played the first three games after Christmas with four players unavailable. Jordan Gustafson, Conner Roulette, Lucas Ciona and newcomer Lukas Svejkovsky are all awaiting the okay to return to play. Combined that is 104-points (43g, 61a) missing from the T-birds lineup.
Boxscore: WHL Network