By Thom Beuning
Nico Myatovic scored just past the midpoint of overtime and the Seattle Thunderbirds edged the Kamloops Blazers 2-1 in game four Wednesday, May 25 of the Western Hockey League Western Conference Championship Series at the accesso ShoWare Center.
The series is even at two wins apiece. Game five of the best-of-seven matchup is 7 p.m. Friday at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia.
Missing two of their top six forwards, Henrik Rybinski and Lucas Svejkovsky for reasons the team didn’t disclose, T-Birds head coach Matt O’Dette called it a gutsy win.
“That’s what it took,” he said. “We needed every single guy to raise their game and that’s what they did. We have a lot of character and a lot of resiliency in our room and we showed it again tonight.”
For the fourth time in the series, Kamloops opened the scoring. The power play goal came in the final minute of the first period from Daylan Kuefler. Seattle found the equalizer early in period two, with a power play goal of their own. Jordan Gustafson scored his fourth of the postseason at 1:55, assisted by Lucas Ciona and Samuel Knazko.
O’Dette said goaltender Thomas Milic was strong in net, giving his team a chance for the win.
“We defended a lot better in front of him tonight,” O’Dette said. “That was a focus, getting back to our good habits and fundamentals. When there was a breakdown, Milly was there.”
The game stayed at 1-1 through the remainder of regulation, forcing overtime. At 11:16 of the extra period, Ciona skated the puck behind the Blazers goal then passed out in front to Myatovic, who popped home his third of the playoffs. Gustafson had the second assist on the game winner.
Myatovic, who had a potential game-winning goal disallowed in the third period because of a hand pass, said he had to forget that and focus on the overtime period.
“We just thought we had to keep pushing and hopefully we’d get a break,” Myatovic said. “We stuck with our game plan all night and I was able to bury the winner.”
Like Myatovic, Ciona had a goal waved off by the referee because of contact with Blazer goalie Dylan Garand. While he didn’t agree with the call, he said he moved past it.
“We had a mission to go out against their top line tonight,” Ciona said. “Gussy, Nico and I were all strong all game, our d-men were good. It was a very determined effort from us. You can get a little frustrated by that (disallowed goal) but you just have to go out there and score again.”
The T-Birds are 5-3 at home in the playoffs and 5-3 on the road.
The win by Seattle guarantees there will be a game six Sunday at the accesso ShoWare Center. Game time is 5:05 p.m. Tickets are on sale at seattlethunderbirds.com
The T-Birds are 2-1 this postseason in overtime games. They lost in extra time in game four of the first round to the Kelowna Rockets on the road. They came back to be the Rockets at home in overtime in game five to close out that series.
The T-Birds have no status update on either Rybinski or Svejkovsky ahead of game five.
A crowd of 2,721 attended the overtime game at the 6,250-seat, city-owned ShoWare Center. A total of 4,684 fans were at the Tuesday, May 24 game when tickets were half price.
Reporter Steve Hunter of the Kent Reporter contributed to this report.