The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds will get another chance to clinch the Western Conference Championship Series of the Western Hockey League (WHL) at 7 p.m. Monday, May 8 in game six against the Kamloops Blazers at the Sandman Centre in British Columbia.
Seattle failed to clinch the series when it fell 4-2 to the Blazers in game five on Saturday, May 6 in front of a crowd of 5,063 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. The T-Birds lead the best-of-seven series, 3-2.
Kamloops scored twice in the first 46 seconds of the third period to break a 1-1 tie.
Seattle coach Matt O’Dette was disappointed in the loss but said they were prepared from the start for a long series.
“We knew going in it was going to be a battle, and it is,” he said. “We knew they weren’t going to go away, no surprise there.”
After a scoreless first period, Seattle thought it had grabbed the lead with a goal from Kyle Crnkovic at 3:06 of period two. The goal went to video review, and it was ruled there was a hand pass, and the goal was disallowed.
The T-Birds shook that off and came back three minutes later to open the scoring on Jared Davidson’s ninth of the postseason. It was also his 22nd career playoff goal with the T-Birds, establishing a new franchise record, breaking the old mark of 21 held by Scott Eansor.
Davidson said the record is nice, but he’d prefer it had come in a win.
“It’s tough not closing the game out today,” Davidson said. “The individual stuff is cool, but it doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. We would rather have won that one tonight.”
Kamloops tied it at 1-1 on a Matthew Seminoff goal with four minutes left in the second. The Blazers then struck twice early in period three. Seminoff scored again at the 43-second mark and Ryan Hofer got on the board 23 seconds later.
“That was the game, right there,” said O’Dette. “That’s where it got away from us.”
On his team’s third period start he said they need a sharper focus in those key moments.
“We preach it all the time,” he said. “It’s something we did better last game, in their building, a heightened awareness in those key times.”
The T-Birds surrendered another goal four minutes later, when Hofer scored shorthanded at 5:31. Seattle did get one back when Reid Schaefer scored on the power play at 5:48.
Seattle ended the game with a chance to skate 6-on-3 with 90 seconds remaining after the Blazers took back-to-back penalties. But Seattle was assessed a penalty of their own while on the power play and the Blazers were able to keep them at bay.
O’Dette said they played well for most of the games but also missed some opportunities.
“We just didn’t find the back of the net enough,” he said. “Their goalie played well. It’s a positive that we generated chances. We controlled some stretches of the game but there were also lapses at inopportune times.”
If necessary, game seven would be at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, May 9 at the ShoWare Center.
The winner of the series advances to play the Winnipeg Ice in a best-of-seven series for the WHL title. Winnipeg swept the Saskatoon Blades 4-0 for the Eastern Conference title. The winner of the WHL title advances to the Canadian Hockey League Memorial Cup, a four-team, round-robin format May 26 to June 4 in Kamloops.
• The loss was Seattle’s first at home in the 2023 playoffs. They are now 6-1.
• With his record setting goal, Davidson now has 48-career playoff points for the T-Birds. That ties him with Keegan Kolesar for third all-time. He trails only Ethan Bear (55) and Mat Barzal (65).
Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds, contributed to this article.