The red-hot, Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds just keep on rolling through the Western Hockey League.
Seattle (23-4-1-1) has won eight of its last nine games and last week jumped to the No. 1 ranking in the Kia Canadian Hockey League Top-10 Rankings for the 2022-2023 season among 60 teams.
The T-Birds beat the Everett Silvertips 5-1 on Saturday night, Dec. 17 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. Seattle defeated Everett 4-1 the prior night at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. The T-Birds crushed Prince George 8-1 on Dec. 13.
Off on holiday break until a 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 27 game against the Spokane Chiefs at Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle, the T-Birds are in second place in the Western Conference, just one point behind the Portland Winterhawks.
Jared Davidson had four assists in the 5-1 win against Everett. He said memories of last year’s losses to Everett going into the holiday break were a motivating factor.
“We remembered what happened last year before the break (5-2 and 4-1 losses),” Davidson said. “It didn’t set well with us over last Christmas. It was nice to get this one.”
Seattle has kept winning the past couple of weeks despite playing without four of its top players. Goalie Thomas Milic, forward Reid Schaefer and defensemen Nolan Allan and Kevin Korchinski were selected to play for Canada’s National Junior Team in the 2023 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship. They’ve been practicing with the team for the Dec. 26 through Jan. 5 tournament, which means they will miss even more games.
With Milic gone, goalie Scott Ratzlaff demonstrated his abilities. The WHL named Ratzlaff the Goaltender of the Week for the week ending Dec. 18. He posted a 3-0-0-0 record over the last seven days, to go along with a 1.00 goals-against average and .963 save percentage.
The 17-year-old turned in a 23-save performance Dec. 16 in a 4-1 home victory versus the Everett Silvertips, stopping 34 of 35 shots the following night as Seattle swept its weekend home-and-home set with a 5-1 win at Everett.
Ratzlaff enters the holiday break leading all WHL goalies with a .927 save percentage, while his 2.05 goals-against average is ranked second among league puck-stoppers, according to the WHL website.
He holds a 5-0-0-1 record over the month of December, a mark that included a 36-save shutout Dec. 6 at Spokane.
Originally selected by Seattle in the second round of the 2020 WHL Prospects Draft, Ratzlaff boasts a career 29-4-1-1 record, 2.33 goals-against average, .912 save percentage and three shutouts across 39 appearances.
Seattle coach Matt O’Dette looks forward to keeping the good times rolling after the holiday break.
“Make sure we’re safe, recharge the batteries and be ready for a good second half,” O’Dette said to the team after the Sunday, Dec. 18 win against Everett. “We get back into it really quick once the guys get back.”
The T-Birds will play four games in five days, starting with the Dec. 27 contest against Spokane. They play the Chiefs again Dec. 28 in Spokane. Seattle then travels to Kelowna on the Dec. 30 before returning home New Year’s Eve to host Kelowna at the ShoWare Center.
Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds staff, contributed to this article.