Seattle’s Jeremy Hanzel scored two goals to help lead the Thunderbirds to a 6-3 win over Winnipeg in the WHL Championship Series Tuesday, May 16 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Seattle’s Jeremy Hanzel scored two goals to help lead the Thunderbirds to a 6-3 win over Winnipeg in the WHL Championship Series Tuesday, May 16 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Kent-based Thunderbirds top Winnipeg to take WHL Championship Series lead

Seattle wins 6-3 at ShoWare Center to go up 2-1 in best-of-seven series

The Seattle Thunderbirds scored three goals within 45 seconds in the first period en route to a 6-3 win against the Winnipeg Ice in the Western Hockey League (WHL) Championship Series on Tuesday night, May 16 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.

The victory puts Seattle up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Game four is 7:05 p.m. Wednesday, May 17 and game five is 7:05 p.m. Friday, May 19. Both games are at the ShoWare Center. Games six and seven, if necessary, are Sunday and Monday, May 19-20 in Winnipeg.

The winner of the series advances to the four-team, round-robin Memorial Cup May 26 to June 4 in Kamloops, British Columbia.

”It was a blur of a start,” said T-Birds coach Matt O’Dette as the two teams traded goals in the first 90 seconds of the opening period. “We get the first one, right off the bat. They answer right away. There were some big saves in there too, one on a breakaway.”

Seattle opened the scoring just 25 seconds in when Kyle Crnkovic scored his fifth of the playoffs. He said it was fueled in part by the large, boisterous crowd of 5,505 at the 6,200-seat arena. “It’s always easy playing in front of our fans. It was packed tonight. To get one early, to get the crowd into it was awesome.”

A minute after the Crnkovic goal, Winnipeg answered with a goal from Carson Latimer. Then Seattle got the offense going. The three-goal outburst was started with a power play goal from Jeremy Hanzel, who finished the night scoring twice and adding an assist.

“I’ve always known I’ve had it,” said Hanzel of his deadly one-timer. “I’ve just found myself in situations where I get to use it more. Lately guys have been finding me with the puck. It’s been great.”

The goal, at 13:24 of the first, was followed 23 seconds later by a Brad Lambert goal. Jared Davidson scored 22 seconds later to make it 4-1.

“Shifts after goals,” O’Dette said. “We got right back on the attack, adding goals and capping off a pretty good first period.”

The T-Birds added a second power play goal at 8:09 of period two. The goal was Dylan Guenther’s 15th of the playoffs, tops in the WHL this postseason. After the Ice’s Zach Benson scored to make it 5-2 at 13:42, Hanzel added his second goal with under a minute and a half remaining in the period.

“We had some timely goals,” O’Dette said. “We didn’t finish the game as strongly as we’d like but we’re happy with the win.”

Winnipeg scored the only goal of the third period, a Zack Ostapchuk power play marker at 12:12.

T-Birds extras

• Reid Schaefer’s five game goal scoring streak came to an end for the T-Birds, but he did pick up an assist and now has points in six straight playoff games.

• Thomas Milic earned the win in goal with a 35-save performance. It was his 14th win of the 2023 playoffs and the second consecutive year he has posted at least 14 playoff wins.

• With his goal, Davidson has 51 career playoff points as a T-Bird, four back of Ethan Bear for second all-time in franchise history. Mat Barzal leads with 65 points.

• Seattle improved to 7-1 at the ShoWare Center in the 2023 postseason.

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

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