The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds are just one victory away from playing for their first Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Memorial Cup championship.
Seattle crushed the Kamloops Blazers 6-1 in their final game May 31 of the four-team round-robin portion of the tournament in Kamloops, British Columbia that will decide the champion of the 60-team CHL.
The T-Birds play a semifinal game at 7 p.m. Friday against the winner of the June 1 game between Kamloops and the Peterborugh Petes. The winner of the semifinal advances to play the Quebec Remparts in the title game at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 4. The semifinal and championship game will be carried live on the NHL channel.
Seattle scored two goals just 8 seconds apart in the second period to help get the victory over Kamloops.
“That’s the identity, that’s the T-Bird formula that we need,” said T-Birds coach Matt O’Dette of his team’s effort. “That’s how we played for our biggest wins in the playoffs.”
For the first time in the Memorial Cup, the T-Birds scored the game’s first goal as Lucas Ciona popped home his second of the tournament at 4:02 of the first period.
“You go to the net, you get rewarded,” said the Seattle captain. “We knew we didn’t go to the net enough against Quebec (a 3-1 loss). Tonight, we put an emphasis on it.”
Ryan Hofer scored for Kamloops midway through the first to tie the game. Seattle broke the tie with the two quick goals in period two. Jared Davidson struck on the power play at 6:39 and Jordan Gustafson followed with a goal at 6:47.
Kyle Crnkovic set up the Gustafson goal with a pass from behind the Blazers net. Crnkovic has six points (4 goals, 2 assists) in three games.
“We haven’t really changed the way we play much,” Crnkovic said. “Just getting some bounces here and there. Obviously, these are big games, so you want to come up big in these moments and my line has been able to do that.”
The T-Birds pulled away with a three-goal third period. Crnkovic got his fourth of the tournament at 5:33 with Kevin Korchinski and Davidson assisting. Davidson ended that night with three points (1 goal, 2 assists) and a game-winning goal. His line, with Crnkovic and Ciona, compiled seven points (3 goals, 4 assists).
“We’ve been playing together all year long,” said Davidson, the Montreal Canadians prospect. “We know how everyone plays and how we work with each other. The chemistry is working right now.”
Luke Prokop pushed the Seattle lead to 5-1 with a goal 64 seconds after the Crnkovic goal. Colton Dach finished the scoring at 14:38.
“That’s what we needed,” said O’Dette of the win. “You have to stay on path, stay with what we did to get here and we kept at it for the majority of the 60 minutes.”
• This is the first time Seattle has won two games in a Memorial Cup Tournament. They went 0-3 in 2017 and 1-3 in 1992, its only other apperances.
• Seattle’s top line of Brad Lambert, Reid Schaefer and Dylan Guenther still haven’t scored a goal in the tournament but they combined for six assists in the win over Kamloops.
• Through three games in the tournament, Seattle goalie Thomas Milic is 2-1 with a 2.02 goals against average (GAA) and a .923 save percentage. Milic was the Western Hockey League (WHL) goaltender of the year. Seattle won the WHL title.
Memorial Cup schedule/results
Friday, May 26 Quebec 8, Kamloops 3
Saturday, May 27 T-Birds 6, Peterborough 3
Sunday, May 28 Kamloops 10, Peterborough 2
Monday, May 29 Quebec 3, T-Birds 1
Tuesday, May 30 Peterborough 4, Quebec 2
Wednesday, May 31 T-Birds 6, Kamloops 1
Thursday, June 1 Kamloops vs. Peterborough, 6 p.m.
Friday, June 2 Semifinal, T-Birds vs. Kamloops/Peterborough, 7 p.m.
Sunday, June 4 Final, Quebec vs. T-Birds/Kamloops/Peterborough, 4 p.m.
Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds, contributed to this article.