The red-hot, Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds are off to an 8-0-0-0 start in the Western Hockey League (WHL).
Reid Schaefer scored two goals and Jordan Gustafson had three assists as the T-Birds beat the Spokane Chiefs 8-3 on Saturday, Oct. 22 in front of a crowd of 3,385 at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent for their eighth consecutive victory, the best start in team history.
The T-Birds have outscored their last three opponents 26-6, beating Spokane 8-3, Everett 11-3 and Edmonton 7-0.
Seattle sits atop the Western Conference of the WHL with 16 points, as of Oct. 24. The Portland Winterhawks are in second with 14 points at 7-1-0-0.
The T-Birds play Friday, Oct. 28 and Saturday, Oct. 29 at Prince George in British Columbia. They return home Tuesday, Nov. 1 in yet another game against Prince George.
Seattle has two showdowns with Portland, Friday, Nov. 4 at Portland and 6:05 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5 at the ShoWare Center.
In the victory over Spokane, the T-Birds scored first as they had done in five of their previous seven games.
Seattle picked up a pair of goals in the first period. Jared Davidson earned his fourth of the season at 11 minutes, 32 seconds. Just 20 seconds later, Coster Dunn scored his first of the year on an assist from Ethan Mittelstaedt.
“It was a great play by Mittsy, coming down the middle,” Dunn said. “I got it on my stick and just shot it. I didn’t see it go in, but it was a good feeling to get it (his first goal) out of the way.”
For the first time this season, Seattle lost a lead as Spokane struck for three goals in the first five minutes of the second period to go up a goal.
“That wasn’t a great stretch, when they rattled off three quick goals,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “In the blink of an eye we’re down 3-2 after being up two-nothing. That wasn’t ideal.”
But O’Dette liked his team’s response after falling behind. Seattle tied the game then took the lead on Schaefer’s two goals. His first came at 6:49 of period two and his game winning second goal came at 10:19.
“Obviously you don’t want to give up three goals that quick,” said Schaefer, the Edmonton Oilers prospect. “It was up to us to get the momentum back. I think our line did a good job of that.”
Gustafson assisted on both goals.
Seattle struck for one more goal in the second period as Lucas Ciona scored at 16:08 to finish off a back and forth passing play with Tij Iginla.
Seattle then put the game away with a three goal third period. Sam Popowich popped home a power play goal at 3:04 as Gustafson earned his third assist. Jeremy Hanzel followed at 8:50, snapping home a drop pass from Kyle Crnkovic. Sawyer Mynio finished the scoring at 17:58, blasting home a feed from Iginla.
The T-Birds have one of the youngest rosters in the WHL and O’Dette isn’t afraid to use his younger players in key moments. Three of those players, Mynio (age 17), Iginla (16) and Dunn (17), combined for six points (2 goals, 4 assists) in the win.
“There’s a lot of great things happening with those young players,” O’Dette said. “They’ve really given us a boost when we need it.”
O’Dette said there are going to be mistakes.
“But we can live with that because the effort is there,” he said.
Players on the team range in age from 16 to 20.
The T-Birds have a plus 28 goal differential through the first eight games.
Jared Davidson’s first period goal was the 65th of his Seattle career and his 140th point. Ciona has scored five times over his last three games and has 12 points (5 goals, 7 assists) in his last four.
Thomas Milic turned aside 28 shots to improve his record in goal to 4-0-0-0. He needs two more wins to reach 40 regular season wins as a Thunderbird.
As of Oct. 24, Schaefer has 10 goals, tied for first in the WHL. Kevin Korchinski has 11 assists, second best in the league. Goalie Scott Ratzlaff ranks first in goals against average at 1.61 in three games, including one shutout.
Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds staff, contributed to this article.