The Seattle Thunderbirds celebrate their 4-3 overtime win against the Kamloops Blazers in game two of the Western Conference finals Sunday, April 30 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

The Seattle Thunderbirds celebrate their 4-3 overtime win against the Kamloops Blazers in game two of the Western Conference finals Sunday, April 30 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds open Western Conference finals with two wins

Stretch playoff record to 10-0 with victories over Kamloops, 5-1 and 4-3 in overtime

The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds continued their amazing playoff run with wins in the first two games against the Kamloops Blazers in the best-of-seven Western Conference Championship Series of the Western Hockey League (WHL).

Jeremy Hanzel scored at 6 minutes, 21 seconds of overtime to give the T-Birds a 4-3 victory on Sunday, April 30 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. The T-Birds have won 10 consecutive playoff games over the first three rounds.

Seattle beat Kamloops 5-1 in the series opener on Saturday, April 29 at the ShoWare Center.

Game three is Tuesday, May 2 at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops followed by game four on Thursday, May 4. If necessary, game five will be at 6:05 p.m. Saturday, May 6 at the ShoWare Center. If the series goes to game six it would be Monday, May 8 in Kamloops with game seven in Kent on Tuesday, May 9.

The winner of the Western Conference title advances to a best-of-seven series against the Eastern Conference champion for the WHL title. The Winnipeg Ice leads that series 2-0 over the Saskatoon Blades. The WHL champions will advance to the Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup May 26-June 4 in Kamloops, British Columbia.

The T-Birds trailed 2-0 and 3-1 in the second period of the overtime game before rallying for the victory. Brad Lambert scored early in the third period to tie the game at 3-3.

“It was certainly a wild one out there,” Seattle coach Matt O’Dette said. “A high event game, up and down, lots of chances. A little too high event and volatile for the coaches liking. We had to dig into some resiliency, and we did that tonight.”

The T-Birds finally got on the board thanks to a power play goal from captain Lucas Ciona, just before the midpoint of the second period.

“We needed a little jump,” said Ciona, the Calgary Flames prospect. “It was nice to see the puck go into the net. We got gelling more through the rest of the game. It just helped us.”

The Blazers responded with another power play goal of their own five minutes later from Matthew Seminoff. Down two goals again, the T-Birds started the comeback at 15:56 of period two when Colton Dach scored his third of the postseason with assists to Gracyn Sawchyn and Kevin Korchinski.

The T-Birds had to kill off a Kamloops man advantage late in the third period to force the overtime. In the extra period, Seattle was stopped on an early power play. Lambert then won a puck battle deep in the offensive zone, pushed it out to Sawyer Mynio at the left point. Mynio fed it to Hanzel who ripped a one-timer into the back of net.

“He’s got a heavy shot,” said O’Dette of Hanzel’s game winner. “Especially in overtime you need to be direct. Every shot is a good shot and he got rewarded.”

Game one victory

Jared Davidson scored twice and added an assist in the 5-1 opening victory.

Davidson upped his scoring to seven goals in the playoffs, including six in the last five games. His first goal of the night was the first of the game and came with three minutes left in the opening period. He said getting a good start was key after a 10-day layoff following the team’s second-round series win.

“It was nice to get some rest but being able to start the game quickly was very important for us,” Davidson said. “It’s always good to start the game quick and play with the lead instead of chasing.”

Seattle doubled its lead in the second period. Jordan Gustafson and Nico Myatovic broke up ice on a 2-on-1 rush and Gustafson fed Myatovic for what stood as the game winner. It was Myatovic’s second of the postseason.

T-Birds extras

• It’s the first time in franchise history, the T-Birds have started the postseason by winning their first 10 games. Seattle has outscored its opponents 23-3 in the third period and later.

• The T-Birds drew a crowd of 6,023 on Saturday, April 29 at the 6,200-seat ShoWare Center. A crowd of 4,677 attended the Sunday game, which started an hour earlier than scheduled so not to conflict with game seven of the televised NHL Stanley Cup playoffs between the Seattle Kraken and Colorado Avalanche, won by the Kraken.

• Before the April 29 game the T-Birds held a moment of silence for long time team physician, Dr. Alfred Blue, who died April 23.

Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds, contributed to this article.

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