The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds open the Western Hockey League playoffs Friday, March 31 at home against the Kelowna Rockets. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds open the Western Hockey League playoffs Friday, March 31 at home against the Kelowna Rockets. COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Thunderbirds open WHL playoffs in Kent against Kelowna March 31

Seattle aims for Memorial Cup championship in two months

The Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team’s march to the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Memorial Cup starts Friday, March 31 against the Kelowna Rockets at the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent.

The 7:05 p.m. game is the first in the opening round best-of-seven series for Seattle against Kelowna. The T-Birds are seeded No. 1 in the Western Conference of the Western Hockey League while the Rockets are No. 8.

Seattle must win three best-of-seven series to advance to the Western Hockey League championship against the survivor of the Eastern Conference finals. That winner than moves on to the Memorial Cup, a four-team, round-robin format, May 26 to June 4 in Kamloops, British Columbia.

“We’re ready for a week of preparation,” Seattle coach Matt O’Dette said after the regular season finale March 25 against Portland. “Everything we’ve been playing for, going towards this year, is ahead of us. It’s an exciting time of the year.”

Seattle plays Kelowna again at 6:05 p.m Saturday, April 1 at the ShoWare Center before playing Games 4 and 5 at Kelowna. Game 5, if necessary, would be back in Kent at 7:05 p.m. Friday, April 8. Game 6 is scheduled for Kelowna and Game 7 in Kent at 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, April 11.

Seattle finished with the best single season in franchise history at 54-11-1-2. The T-Birds beat Kamloops 6-3 on March 21 to clinch the top seed in the Western Conference.

The other playoff pairings in the Western Conference include Portland against Everett; Vancouver against Kamloops; and Prince George against Tri-City.

Seattle goalies Thomas Milic and Scott Ratzlaff ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the WHL for goals against average during the regular season. Milic allowed just 2.08 goals per game and Ratzlaff 2.15. Milic had the top save percentage at 0.928. Ratzlaff was fourth at 0.918. Ratzlaff had the most shutouts with five while Milic tied for second with four.

The T-Birds named their team award winners for the 2022-2023 season: MVP and Top Scorer Jared Davidson; Defenseman of the Year Kevin Korchinski; Rookie of the Year Gracyn Sawchyn; Most Improved Nico Myatovic; Most Dedicated Bryce Pickford; Scholastic Player of the Year Scott Ratzlaff; and Humanitarian Luke Prokop.

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

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