The Seattle Thunderbirds celebrate their 4-1 semifinal win over the Peterborough Petes on June 2 in the CHL Memorial Cup in Kamloops, British Columbia. COURTESY PHOTO, Candice Ward/CHL

The Seattle Thunderbirds celebrate their 4-1 semifinal win over the Peterborough Petes on June 2 in the CHL Memorial Cup in Kamloops, British Columbia. COURTESY PHOTO, Candice Ward/CHL

T-Birds advance to CHL Memorial Cup championship game

Kent-based team beat Peterborough 4-1 in semifinal; will play Quebec for title at 4 p.m. Sunday

The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds will play in their first Memorial Cup championship game against the Quebec Remparts on Sunday, June 4 at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia.

Seattle advanced to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) title game with a 4-1 victory over the Peterborough Petes in a semifinal Friday night, June 2. Sixty teams compete in the CHL. The T-Birds advanced to the four-team, round-robin tournament by winning the Western Hockey League championship.

“One more step to take,” said Seattle coach Matt O’Dette after the victory. “We’ve worked extremely hard to get here but the job’s not done. We’ll savor this win for the next hour or so then focus on the next game.”

He then paused and added, “It’s obviously a big one.”

The game against Quebec is at 4 p.m. Sunday and will be shown live on the NHL Network. Quebec is the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League champion.

In the semifinal against Peterborugh, winner of the Ontario Hockey League, the game was scoreless until late in the second period, despite Seattle ending the night outshooting the Petes 47-28. The T-Birds finally broke through at 15:37 on Brad Lambert’s first goal of the tournament on an assist from Nico Myatovic.

“We had a guy coming off the bench,” said Lambert of the play that led to his score. “He took a shot and it kind of bounced to me. I took a shot off my backhand, so I just tried to get it on net, and I think it went through his five-hole.”

Colton Dach’s game winner came at the 1:28 mark of the third period, on an assist from Kyle Crnkovic.

“Our plan is to always get net presence,” remarked the Chicago Blackhawks prospect. “We have a lot of big guys who can be the net front presence and get to those rebounds. Kyle made a great pass, and it was a wide-open net for me to put it in there.”

Peterborough made it 2-1 at 2:41 on a Brennan Othmann goal. It was after that when Seattle goalie Thomas Milic came with a couple of his biggest saves of the game.

“That was obviously a crucial point of the game. They had just cut the lead and got some momentum,” said O’Dette. “Thomas made some big saves there to stem the tide. That’s what Milly’s been doing all year for us. Tonight, was no different.”

Seattle restored their two-goal cushion when Crnkovic pushed a bouncing puck just over the goal line at 9:33.

“A good goalie like that, you’re not going to beat him on shots.” he said of his tournament-leading fifth goal. “If he can see it, he’s going to stop it. So just getting to the net, causing havoc and get some bounces.”

Desperate to get back in the game, Peterborough pulled goalie Michael Simpson with just over two minutes remaining, but Myatovic scored into the empty net on a pass from Reid Schaefer at 17:51 to seal the win.

“It wasn’t easy,” O’Dette said. “Their goalie played really well. I think some frustration was setting in with all the saves he was making. We just needed to stay on the path, stick with the process, not waver and we eventually broke through.”

T-Birds extras

• Quebec beat Seattle 3-1 in the T-Birds’ second game of the round-robin tournament on May 29.

• Quebec is coached by Patrick Roy, the former star goalie of the Colorado Avalance and Montreal Canadiens. Quebec won the Memorial Cup in 2006, Roy’s second year as coach. Roy has announced that this will be his final season as coach.

• This is Seattle’s third time in the Memorial Cup tournament but it had never reached the championship game. The Portland Winterhawks and Spokane Chiefs are the only American teams to win the Memorial Cup.

• Not only did Crnkovic score his tournament-leading fifth goal, with his assist he now has eight points in four games, one point behind Kamloops’s Logan Stankoven for the tournament lead.

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