Sports

T-Birds clip Winterhawks, win 8th straight game | WHL

The Thunderbirds
The Thunderbirds' Keegan Kolesar brings the puck up the ice with the Winterhawks' Paul Bittner defending.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/Thunderbirds, Brian Liesse

For the Reporter

The Seattle Thunderbirds defeated the Portland Winterhawks 3-2 Friday night at the ShoWare Center, extending their winning streak to eight games.

Seattle's win brings its record to 20-9-1-3 and moves the T-Birds to fourth in the WHL's Western Conference, while Portland falls to 22-7-2-2.

Seattle travels to Portland to take on the Winterhawks once again at 7:05 p.m. today. The T-Birds will be at home Tuesday when they host the Tri-City Americans at 7:05 p.m.

On Friday night, Calvin Spencer debuted for the T-Birds. Spencer played "tenacious and smart" in the words of coach Steve Konowalchuk. The 17-year-old said that he "felt like (he) really fit in out there" and "took a shift to get used to [the speed]" before being asked to play heavy minutes due to injuries and penalties.

Danny Mumaugh started his third straight game and 19th of the season for the T-Birds, getting the win to run his record to 10-5-1-3. Brendan Burke took the loss for Portland and is now 19-6-2-2.

Pressure came early from the home team, with Seattle getting its first chance 15 seconds into the game. Branden Troock stole the puck near the Portland goal, only to have the eventual chance stopped by Burke's glove. Continuous pressure gave the T-Birds their first power play at 1:37. Portland's defense held strong and slowed Seattle's attack enough to make it through the penalty without consequence.

The energy gained from the kill was enough for the Winterhawks to get their first offensive opportunity of the game. The subsequent change of possession sent the puck back down into the Portland end, where a timely turnover gave Seattle the lead. A Portland pass up the middle hit a defenseman's skate and went right to Branden Troock in the slot. He took the puck just in front of the crease and jammed home his own rebound to make the score 1-0.

Portland came back on the attack soon thereafter and had several close calls, though the visitors were unable to record a shot on goal in the first eight minutes. Seattle took a penalty at 7:43. The Portland power play had a few chances in the first shift, all of which were steered aside by Mumaugh. Despite six shots during the advantage, the Winterhawks were shut out by Seattle, who maintained their 1-0 lead.

A second penalty against Seattle put them a man down at 12:14. The first cover up by Mumaugh brought with it a scrum that resulted in offsetting penalties. Once again, the T-Birds killed off the penalty despite three more shots from Portland, who had not recorded an even strength shot on goal in the first 15 minutes.

A 3-on-1 break for Portland tied the game at one at the 16:15 mark. Chase De Leo had the goal for the Winterhawks, with Brendan Leipsic and Colton Veloso earning the assists. The assist was Veloso first WHL point coming in his first game.

The goal by Portland was the last of the period's scoring. With the game tied 1-1, the team's headed to the locker room. Portland led 11-8 in shots and faceoffs were tied, with each team winning 10.

Offsetting penalties came with in the first 15 seconds of the second period to create two minutes of 4-on-4 in the game. Scott Eansor just barely missed his first WHL goal when his shot careened off the inside of the post in the first 30 seconds of the penalties. The rest of the 4-on-4 time was staunchly in Seattle's favor as Burke had to reach to turn away a handful of chances by the home team, who controlled the puck throughout.

Momentum swung to the T-Birds, who continued to dominate the puck following a return to full strength hockey. With almost constant control, Seattle still only had three shots on goal in the period's first seven minutes thanks to numerous near misses and blocked shots.

The Winterhawks had their first extend pressure as the second period reached its midway point, holding the puck in the zone until Keegan Kolesar was able to skate out and start the Seattle offense. An icing call resulted against Portland. The T-Birds stayed on offense from there, drawing a penalty at 10:19 for their second power play. Defense reigned, and Seattle couldn't score during their man advantage.

Mumaugh covered the puck soon thereafter. A series of heated disagreements followed, the end result of which was a Portland power play. Seattle stayed aggressive and killed the penalty without incident until a bad bounce cost them a goal. De Leo had the goal for his second of the night, giving the Winterhawks a 2-1 lead at 16:01 of the second period.

Both teams refused to give an inch, meaning the rest of the period was spent almost exclusively in the neutral zone. Seattle was forced to play with only 14 skaters during this stretch, managing to succeed on the strength of "keeping it simple" and sticking to "real short shifts" according to Troock.

Shots were 9-9 in the second period and faceoffs were 10-6 in Portland's favor.

Up and down hockey started the third period as once again neither team was able to control the puck for very long. The T-Birds struck to tie the game after five minutes. Jerret Smith deked around a Portland defender and threw a cross-crease pass to Justin Hickman, who tapped it at the backdoor to make the score 2-2. Smith and Troock had the assists on Hickman's 11th goal of the season. Smith, known more for his defensive abilities, downplayed his impressive offensive contribution, saying that he "went through the legs and just saw [Hickman] going backdoor."

Seattle's tempo was unrelenting, eventually forcing Portland into another penalty at 7:07 to give the T-Birds their third power play. Thirty seconds of the advantage was all the home team needed to take the lead. Shea Theodore's rocket from the point was deflected in by Troock at 7:36 for the power-play goal. Theodore and Alexander Delnov were credited with assists.

Troock narrowly missed a hat trick three minutes later when Burke was able to deflect away a point-blank shot from the Seattle winger. Even so, Troock ended the night with three points, bringing his total to 10 points in December and 24 points in the last 15 games. Troock credited the team's success and his own to their physicality, saying that "when we play physical nobody's really going to want to battle with us for 60 minutes."

The visitors battled back as the period wound on, creating some of their best chances in the last seven minutes of the third. Seattle almost scored a fourth goal, only to take an interference call as the puck bounced off the post at 14:24. The resulting power play for Portland was for naught, going scoreless after several key saves from Mumaugh.

Down by one, Portland pulled their goalie with 50 seconds left in the game. Seattle won the subsequent faceoff in their own zone and was able to kill 20 seconds before Portland regained possession. An attack by Eansor ended with an icing call, giving the T-Birds an offensive zone faceoff with just nine seconds left in the game, ending Portland's chance and giving Seattle the win.

Tickets

Available online at the T-Birds website and at the ShoWare Center box office. The ShoWare Center Box Office is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday game days at 10 a.m. and Sunday game days at noon.

Season tickets can be purchased by calling the T-Birds office at 253-239-7825.

SCORING SUMMARY

First period - 1, Seattle, Troock 14 (unassisted), 4:31. 2, Portland, De Leo 20 (Leipsic, Veloso), 16:15. Penalties - De Champlain, Portland (slashing), 1:37. Elliot, Seattle (holding), 7:43. Delnov, Seattle (hooking), 12:14. Wardley, Seattle (roughing), 12:31. Schoenborn, Portland (roughing), 12:31.

Second period - 3, Portland, De Leo 21 (Price, Haar), 16:01 (pp). Penalties - MacPherson, Portland (unsportsmanlike conduct), :18. Swenson, Seattle (unsportsmanlike conduct), :18. McColgan, Portland (cross-checking), 10:19. Hickman, Seattle (major-fighting), 14:23. Hickman, Seattle (roughing), 14:23. Wardley, Seattle (roughing), 14:23. Wardley, Seattle (10 minute misconduct), 14:23. Hauf, Seattle (10 minute misconduct), 14:23. Schoenborn, Portland (major-fighting), 14:23. Turgeon, Portland (roughing), 14:23. Turgeon, Portland (10 minute misconduct), 14:23. Iverson, Portland (10 minute misconduct), 14:23.

Third period - 4, Seattle, Hickman 11 (Smith, Troock), 4:46. 5, Seattle, Troock 15 (Theodore, Delnov), 7:36 (pp). Penalties - Rossignol, Portland (slashing), 7:07. Troock, Seattle (interference), 14:24.

Shots on goal - Seattle 8-9-13 30, Portland 11-9-15 35. Goalies - Seattle, Mumaugh 35 shots- 32 saves (10-5-1-3); Portland, Burke 30-27 (19-6-2-2). Power plays - Seattle 1-3; Portland 1-4. A - 3,705. Referees - Sean Raphael, Jeff Ingram. Linesmen - Zach Brooks, Kevin Boris.

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