The rival Portland Winterhawks denied Seattle of a second consecutive division title, upending the Thunderbirds 4-1 in a Western Hockey League game Saturday night in front of 6,173 fans at the raucous ShoWare Center.
With the loss Seattle (45-20-4-2, 96 points) winds up second to the Everett Silvertips (44-18-6-3, 99 points) in the division chase. The Silvertips clinched their fifth U.S. Division title, using three power-play goals to fuel a 5-2 win over the Victoria Royals in front of a crowd of 7,989 at Xfinity Arena on Saturday.
The Winterhawks (40-27-1-3) snapped the T-Birds’ 17-game home winning streak, dating back to Dec. 30 when, coincidentally, Portland won 2-1.
The T-Birds, who have clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, will play either Tri-City or Portland. Games 1 and 2 of the first-round series are on ShoWare Center ice at 7:35 p.m. Friday, March 24, and 7:05 p.m. Saturday, March 25.
The T-Birds will face which team finishes third in the U.S. Division after Sunday’s games. Portland (40-27-1-3, 84 points) hosts the Spokane Chiefs while Tri-City (48-28-3-0, 83 points) plays Everett in Kennewick.
On Saturday night, Portland took a 1-0 lead at 17:57 of the first period on a goal from Colton Veloso.
Portland outshot Seattle 17-13 in the first period.
The Winterhawks made it a 2-0 lead at 6:16 of the second period on Veloso’s second goal of the game.
Seattle cut the Portland lead to one at 10:15 of second. Scott Eansor had the puck in the left corner. Eansor moved the puck up the left wall to Ryan Gropp. Gropp skated into the left circle and beat Portland goalie Cole Kehler through the legs for his 35th goal of the season. Elijah Brown had the second assist.
Alex Overhardt scored at 3:39 of the third period to put the Winterhawks in front 3-1.
The T-Birds pulled Matt Berlin with over two minutes left in the game. Keoni Texeira hit the empty net with 39 seconds left to make it a 4-1 Portland lead.
Portland outshot Seattle 12-6 in the third period and 41-32 in the game.
Berlin made 37 saves on 40 and his record is now 7-2-2-0.
Kehler had 31 saves on 32 shots and his record is now 32-17-0-3.
Regular-season finale; playoff tickets
The T-Birds ends the regular season on Sunday against the Vancouver Giants at 5:05 p.m. at the ShoWare Center.
Single-game playoff tickets for Games 1 and 2 are currently on sale at the ShoWare Center box office and online on the T-Birds website.
Fans who purchase 10 tickets to either Game 1 or Game 2 for $220 will receive two additional free tickets to the playoff game they choose. Fans can purchase the playoff group ticket special for Game 1 and Game 2 online or by calling the T-Birds at 253-239-7825.
First period – 1, Portland, Veloso 17 (Gilliss, Jones), 19:34. Penalties – Veloso, Por (tripping), :20. Strand, Sea (high-sticking), 6:43. Harsch, Sea (interference), 19:34.
Second period – 2, Portland, Veloso 18 (Overhardt, Hughes), 6:16. 3, Seattle, Gropp 35 (Eansor, Brown), 10:15. Penalties – Hyman, Sea (holding), 3:35. Hughes, Por (goaltender interference), 3:35. McKenzie, Por (roughing), 12:12. Kolesar, Sea (roughing), 12:12. Clayton, Por (hooking), 15:39.
Third period – 4, Portland, Overhardt 14 (Veloso, De Jong), 3:39. 5, Seattle, Texeira 12, 19:21 (en). Penalties – Iverson, Por (interference), 11:47.
Shots on goal – Seattle 13-13-6 32, Portland 17-12-12 41. Goalies – Seattle, Berlin 40 shots-37 saves (7-2-2-0); Portland, Kehler 32-31 (32-17-0-3). Power plays – Seattle 1-2; Portland 0-1. A – 6,173. Referees – Brett Iverson, Mark Pearce. Linesmen – Zach Brooks, Mark Heier.