Seattle’s Brad Lambert and the rest of the Thunderbirds are clashing with the Winnipeg Ice for the Western Hockey League title. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Seattle’s Brad Lambert and the rest of the Thunderbirds are clashing with the Winnipeg Ice for the Western Hockey League title. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

T-Birds split first two WHL playoff games at Winnipeg; next three in Kent

Best-of-seven championship series continues this week at ShoWare Center

The Seattle Thunderbirds split their first two games against the Winnipeg Ice in the Western Hockey League Championship Series and return to Kent for the next three games.

Seattle bounced back for a 4-2 win over Winnipeg in game two on Saturday, May 13 in Manitoba after falling to the Ice 3-2 in the opening game of the series on May 12.

The next three games are at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16; Wednesday, May 17; and Friday, May 19. Seattle won the Western Conference title while Winnipeg won the Eastern Conference title.

If necessary, games six and seven will be played Sunday, May 20 and Monday, May 21 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.

Two goals 8 seconds apart in the third period gave the T-Birds the 4-2 victory at Canada Life Centre. Brad Lambert led Seattle with two goals, his fourth and fifth of the playoffs.

Lambert, a first-round draft pick last summer of the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets, spent the first half of the season playing in Winnipeg with the Jets American Hockey League affiliate, the Manitoba Moose. He said that was the furthest thing from his mind.

“Not at all,” Lambert said about whether he was thinking about being back in his old stomping grounds. “First of all, I’m on the other bench. I’m just trying to help my team win. We’re in the WHL final, so that’s enough motivation for me. “

Seattle coach Matt O’Dette thought his team stepped up its game after a loss in the series opener.

“A much better effort tonight (May 13),” he said. “More in tune with the way we need to play.”

For the second night, Seattle fell behind. Winnipeg’s Zach Benson opened the scoring at 4:11 of the first period. The T-Birds then were assessed a double minor high sticking penalty, giving the Ice a four-minute power play and a chance to add to their lead.

Seattle killed it off, led by goaltender Thomas Milic.

“We look at it as an opportunity,” Milic said. “If we do kill it off, the full four minutes, it’s a lot of momentum in our favor early in the game and I think we did just that.”

The T-Birds killed off five Winnipeg power plays in total. Sam Popowich, a key member of Seattle’s penalty killing units, said the team takes pride in denying opponents on the power play.

“We know they have a good power play so when we take penalties like that, and it happens through the game, you just have to be ready to do what we have to do out there,” Popowich said.

Seattle tied the game early in the second period on a Jeremy Hanzel blast.

“We’ve seen that now a few times in the playoffs,” said O’Dette about the Hanzel one-timer. “A big goal at the time to get us started. He’s been working hard on that shot.”

Seattle grabbed the lead with Lambert’s first goal of the game at 5:02 of the third. Eight seconds later Reid Schaefer made it 3-1 off a Dylan Guenther assist. After Benson pulled one back for the Ice, Lambert scored again off another Guenther assist with just under three minutes remaining.

“I thought the Lambert line was really good,” said O’Dette of Lambert, Guenther and Schaefer. “Dangerous and contributing to four goals. I thought their 200-foot game was really good. That’s what you need this time of year.”

In the series-opening loss to Winnipeg, Schaefer and Kevin Korchinski each scored in the third period for the T-Birds but it wasn’t enough in the 3-2 defeat.

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


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