The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds are riding high after beating the Portland Winterhawks for their season-best 10th consecutive victory.
The T-Birds defeated Portland 4-1 on Saturday, Feb. 25 in front of 5,569 fans at the accesso ShoWare Center. Seattle is 45-9-1-1 with 92 points, boosting its lead in the U.S. Division of the Western Hockey League over second-place Portland, which has 77 points. As of Feb. 27, Seattle also is atop the Western Conference. The Kamloops Blazers are next with 82 points.
During the 10-game winning streak, the T-Birds, who feature 10 players taken in the NHL Draft, have outscored their opponents 53-10.
Seattle, which already has clinched a playoff berth, plays its next two games on the road, March 3 at Tri-City and March 4 at Everett. The T-Birds then return to Kent for a five-game homestand, starting with Tri-City on Sunday, March 5.
Seattle concludes the regular season March 25 against Portland at the ShoWare Center before starting what it hopes will be a long run through the playoffs to the Memorial Cup May 26-June 4 at Kamloops, British Columbia. That tournament will feature the top four teams in the Canadian Hockey League, based on the playoff results, in a round-robin format.
Seattle’s Jeremy Hanzel scored the game winner against Portland, on a feed from Kevin Korchinski at 2 minutes, 12 seconds of the final period.
“I found myself in front of their guys,” said Hanzel of his winning tally, according to seattlethunderbirds.com. “I found myself backdoor and knew Kev saw me. I just thought, yeah, this is a good spot for me to score.”
Forty-four seconds later Tij Iginla won an offensive zone faceoff to the right of the Portland net. The puck found Nico Myatovic who passed it back to Iginla. Iginla went to his backhand to score his sixth goal of the season and second of the weekend.
Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette likes the way his young rookie is playing.
“Iggy’s hot right now,” O’Dette said about the 16-year-old forward. “The puck’s going in for him. He’s playing with good habits and getting rewarded for it.”
Goaltender Thomas Milic had 15 third-period saves to help Seattle hold off the Winterhawks.
“He’s really dialed up his game,” O’Dette said about Milic. “He’s been good all year, but you can tell he’s narrowing his focus a little bit more down the stretch and getting ready for the playoffs. He was there for us time and time again tonight.”
• With an assist on the game-winning goal, Kevin Korchinski extended his point streak to 10 games. The Chicago Blackhawks drafted Korchinski in the first round, seventh overall, of the 2022 NHL Draft. Brad Lambert, a 2022 first-round choice, 30th overall by the Winnipeg Jets, saw his nine-game point streak come to an end.
• Colton Dach, a second-round pick by Chicago in 2021 and who suffered a lower body injury Feb. 24 against Tri-City, did not play. Jared Davidson, a fifth-round choice by the Montreal Canadiens in 2022, missed his second straight game with an upper body injury. Jordan Gustafson, a third-round pick by the Vegas Golden Knights in 2022, has missed 17 games with an upper body injury. All three are listed as day-to-day.
• The game had a whopping 13 penalties in the opening period, seven against Portland and six against Seattle. Each team had a penalty just 4 seconds into the game. There were 5-minute major fighting penalties against Lucas Ciona of Seattle and Marek Alscher of Portland. The teams settled down a bit in the last two periods, with five penalties in the second period and four in the third period.
Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds, contributed to this article.