T-Birds Set Win Mark, Grab Top Seed
KENT. Wash. –Dylan Guenther scored twice, including the game winner, and the Seattle Thunderbirds came back to beat the Kamloops Blazers, 6-3, Tuesday at the accesso ShoWare Center. The win clinches the top seed in the Western Conference for Seattle heading into the postseason. It also improves the Thunderbirds record to 53-9-1-2, establishing a new single season record for most wins. Seattle heads north to Kamloops Wednesday for a rematch with the Blazers. Game time at the Sandman Centre is 7:05 p.m.
Guenther’s first goal, at 15:31 of the second period, finished off a six-minute stretch in which Seattle scored three times, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead. He would add a second goal midway through the third period to put the Thunderbirds up, 5-2.
“Not our best start,” commented the prospect of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes. “But I thought we continued to get better as the game went on. As we continued to get scoring, we continued to play better. It’s a good game for us and we just need to take that momentum into the rematch tomorrow.”
Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette agreed with Guenther. “I thought we got stronger as the game went on,” he said. “Which is kind of a trend for us. We’d like to be better earlier in the game, but a good hockey game. Two good teams going at it.”
Seattle actually grabbed an early lead, scoring on their first shot of the game, 34-seconds in. Nolan Allan potted his tenth of the season on assists from Nico Myatovic and Jared Davidson. Kamloops tied it four minutes later with an Ashton Ferster goal and took their only lead when Olen Zellweger scored on the power play at 12:15.
Seattle used a power play goal of their own from Brad Lambert at 9:27 of the second period to tie it at 2-2. Kyle Crnkovic and Jeremy Hanzel earned the assists. Jared Davidson was credited with the Thunderbirds third goal. Guenther followed with his two goals, giving the Thunderbirds the lead for good.
The lead held up thanks to the play in goal of T-Birds netminder Thomas Milic, who turned aside 34 shots, including a pair of breakaways. “These are the games I love to play in,” said the Seattle goalie. “Especially against Kamloops, since there’s a chance we could see them later in the playoffs.”
O’Dette remarked Milic was a difference maker in the game. “He was lights out. Obviously, we’d like to prevent those big, high-quality chances. We can’t be giving those up.”
In the game’s final two minutes, while on the power play, the Blazers pulled their goalie and scored a 6-on-4 goal to pull within 5-3 but shortly after Reid Schaefer scored into the empty net to put the game away.
After Wednesday, the Thunderbirds have just games remaining this season. the first of those is Friday down in Portland. Seattle returns home to host Portland Saturday in the regular season finale.
The T-birds pulled withing two points of idle Winnipeg for the WHL’s best record. Both teams have three games remaining.
After a six-game absence, Colton Dach returned to the T-Birds lineup. Seattle is still without Tij Iginla, Jordan Gustafson and Gracyn Sawchyn. All are still sidelined with injuries.
With the other results in the WHL Tuesday night, Seattle now knows their first-round playoff opponent, For the second straight season they will play the Kelowna Rockets in the opening round. The series will start at home. Seattle will host Game 1 on Friday, March 31st. Game 2 is Saturday, April 1st.
Jared Davidson’s goal would be the 100th of his WHL career but there is belief it will be credited to Nico Myatovic upon review.
Brad Lambert, Dylan Guenther and Nico Myatovic are all riding five game point streaks. Jeremy Hanzel finished the game with three assists, his second three-point game in his last four games.
Guenther needs three goals in the last three games of the regular season to reach 100 goals in his WHL career.
Boxscore: WHL Network