Alexander True and Ryan Gropp each had a goal and an assist to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 6-3 Western Hockey League victory over the Portland Winterhawks at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night.
The T-Birds (44-19-4-2) remain in first place in the U.S. Division and Western Conference standings with 94 points. The T-Birds are one point ahead of the Everett Silvertips (41-15-8-3), who beat the Tri-City Americans 5-1 Saturday night in Kennewick. The Silvertips have played two fewer games than the T-Birds.
The B.C. Division-leading Prince George Cougars (44-21-5-0) defeated the Chiefs 4-3 Saturday in Spokane and stay one point behind the T-Birds in the Western Conference race. The T-Birds have played one game fewer game than the Cougars.
The T-Birds have clinched home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs against a to-be-determined opponent. Games 1 is 7:35 p.m. Friday, March 24, and Game 2 is 7:05 p.m. Saturday, March 25 – both at the ShoWare Center.
Seattle outshot Portland 12-11 in a scoreless first period. Rylan Toth started the game for the T-Birds. Matt Berlin replaced Toth after one period.
Seattle went in front 1-0 at 2:38 of the second period on Matthew Wedman’s fifth goal of the season. Zack Andrusiak passed the puck to Turner Ottenbreit at the high point. Ottenbreit took a slap shot that Portland goalie Shane Farkas stopped. The rebound came right to Wedman in front of Farkas. Wedman chipped the puck over Farkas for the opening goal.
Portland (37-27-1-3) tied the game 1-1 at 3:25 of the first on a breakaway goal from Skyler McKenzie.
The T-Birds struck back at 10:56 of the second on a shorthanded goal by Nolan Volcan. Donovan Neuls worked the puck up the right boards to create a two-on-one with Volcan. Neuls crossed the puck from the low right circle to Volcan in the low slot. Volcan punched the puck past a lunging Farkas for his 14th goal of the season.
Seattle extended the lead to 3-1 on a four-on-three power-play goal from Gropp. Keegan Kolesar had the puck at the right point. Kolesar made a diagonal pass to True in the left circle. True quickly crossed the puck to Gropp to the right of the net. Gropp snapped the puck over Farkas as the goalie tried to make a diving save.
Portland cut the T-Birds lead to one goal at 18:01 of the second on a goal from Shaun Dosanjh.
True and Gropp teamed up for a shorthanded goal to get the T-Birds two-goal lead back 46 seconds into the third period. Gropp stole the puck in the Seattle zone and broke up ice on a two-on-one with True. Gropp carried the puck into the Portland zone on the right wing. Gropp crossed the puck to True and he beat Farkas high for his second shorthanded goal in as many games.
Keegan Iverson scored a power-play goal at 3:01 of the third to cut the T-Birds lead back to one goal.
Sami Moilanen was hauled down on a breakaway at the 14:48 mark of the third and was awarded a penalty shot. Moilanen skated wide left then cut back into the high slot and skated toward Farkas. Moilanen faked a moved right, brought the puck back left and slid it under the goalie for his 21st goal of the season.
The T-Birds iced the game at 18:59 of the third on a five-on-three power-play goal by Ethan Bear, who beat Farkas with a slap shot from the left point for his 28th goal of the season. Neuls and Kolesar had the assists.
Seattle outshot Portland 11-6 in the third period and 36-31 in the game.
Berlin finished with 17 saves in two periods and improved his record to 7-2-0-1.
Farkas made 30 saves and is now 3-5-0-0.
Tyler Carpendale made his T-Birds debut against Portland. Carpendale, from Powell River, British Columbia, signed with the team Saturday morning.
Final week of regular season; ticket details
The T-Birds travel to Spokane to play the Chiefs at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. They finish out the regular season with back-to-back home games on Saturday, March 18, and Sunday, March 19. They play the Winterhawks at 7:05 p.m. on Saturday and the Vancouver Giants at 5:05 p.m. Sunday.
Fans can purchase tickets online or at the ShoWare Center box office.
The T-Birds have a Group Ticket Special for fans that want to purchase tickets to Game 1 and Game 2, or both, before they go on sale on March 15. Fans who purchase 10 tickets to either Game 1 or Game 2 for $220 will also receive two additional FREE tickets to the playoff game they choose. Fans can purchase this playoff Group Ticket Special for Game 1 and Game 2 online or by calling the T-Birds at 253-239-PUCK (7825).
First period – No scoring. Penalties – Strand, Sea (cross checking), 1:52. Glass, Por (high-sticking), 2:29. True, Sea (roughing), 10:35. Overhardt, Por (roughing), 10:35. Andrusiak, Sea (slashing), 14:13. Hughes, Por (roughing), 14:13. Jones, Por (holding), 16:02.
Second period – 1, Seattle, Wedman 5 (Ottenbreit, Andrusiak), 2:38. 2, Portland, McKenzie 40 (Jones), 3:25. 3, Seattle, Volcan 14 (Neuls), 10:56. 4, Seattle, Gropp 32 (True, Kolesar), 14:56 (pp). 5, Portland, Dosanjh 2 (Gricius)18:01. Penalties – Overhardt, Por (checking from behind), 8:15. Strand, Por (holding), 9:44. Adams, Sea (roughing), 12:54. Gricius, Por (roughing), 12:54. Jokiharju, Por (interference), 14:23. Strand, Sea (high-sticking), 20:00.
Third period – 6, Seattle. True 23 (Gropp), :48 (sh). 7, Portland, Iverson 23 (Jones, McKenzie), 3:01. 8, Seattle, Moilanen 21, 14:48 (ps). 9, Seattle, Bear 28 (Neuls, Kolesar), 18:59 (pp). Penalties – Adams, Sea (high-sticking), 2:56. Gropp, Sea (tripping), 3:43. Ormsby, Sea (tripping), 5:55. MacEachern, Por (tripping), 14:48. Jones, Por (cross checking), 17:46. Iverson, Por (hooking), 18:50.
Shots on goal – Seattle 12-13-11 36, Portland 11-14-6 31. Goalies – Seattle, Toth 11 shots-11 saves, Belin 20-17 (7-2-0-1); Portland, Farkas 36-30 (3-5-0-0). Power plays – Seattle 2-6; Portland 1-6. A – 7,235. Referees – Dexter Rasmussen, Derek Zalaski. Linesmen – Erik Freeman, Nathan Van Oosten.