By Tim Pigulski
The Thunderbirds fell to rival Portland in ugly fashion for the second night in a row, as the Winterhawks defeated Seattle by a final score of 7-0.
As Everett defeated Victoria for the second night in a row, their ninth consecutive win, and Spokane lost to Tri City, the Thunderbirds now know they will be playing the Silvertips in the first round of the playoffs. The outcomes of tomorrow night's games will determine who is the fourth seed and therefore has home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
In ten games this season, the Thunderbirds are 5-4-1-0 against Everett but have come up short in their last three meetings.
The Thunderbirds were fortunate to finish the first period of Saturday night's game knotted in a scoreless tie, as they were out shot 15-4 by the Winterhawks and gave Portland two power plays.
Seattle started Danny Mumaugh, who backed up Taran Kozun in each of the T-Birds' two previous losses, was the biggest reason the game was close through 20 minutes. The young goalie had a very impressive first period, letting nothing by him and making a highlight reel glove save on Portland's Alex Schoenborn, who had received a centering pass from Mathew Dumba and was alone in front before being robbed.
The second period didn't fare nearly as well for Seattle, as they found themselves down 4-0 after the game's second frame. Goals from Oliver Bjorkstrand, Adam Rossignol, Taylor Leier and Dumba gave Portland a lead that Seattle didn't really have much of a chance of overcoming.
"We've got to do a better job containing and knocking some of their guys off the puck and winning more battles," said head coach Steve Konowalchuk about his team's struggles in the defensive zone. "We needed to get the puck more and come out cleanly."
At 8:57 of the second, with Seattle trailing 2-0 and still with a glimmer of hope, Adam Henry dropped the gloves with Rossignol in an attempt to spark his team. The alternate captain did his job, winning a fight in a situation he rarely finds himself in, but the team wasn't able to capitalize on any spark he might have created.
As is often the case when these two teams play each other, the game became chippy in the second period, with no whistle ending calmly. In the second period alone, the two teams combined for 66 penalty minutes, including two fights and a misconduct for one player from each team.
The game's final period followed the same pattern as the second, as Portland outscored Seattle 3-0 during the last frame. Two more goals from Bjorkstrand and one from Paul Bittner crushed any hopes Seattle had for a comeback, and Brendan Burke finished with the shutout for the Winterhawks.
"It was a tough loss," said Konowalchuk. "I think it's a game we just want to put behind us and move on tomorrow."
Seattle concludes the regular season tomorrow night as they head to the Toyota Center to play the Tri City Americans, who defeated the Spokane Chiefs 3-0 on Sunday night to ensure the T-Birds finished no lower than fifth place.
T-Birds wing Branden Troock served his one-game suspension, handed down by the WHL, after colliding with Portland goalie Brendan Burke during the third period of Friday night's T-Birds loss.
Seattle finished the regular season winless in Portland, losing all six of their matchups.
Saturday night saw a couple of milestones for Portland stars: defenseman Mathew Dumba had his first career four-point game and was dominant at both ends of the ice; Danish wing Oliver Bjorkstrand had a hat trick, giving him 50 goals on the season. The last Winterhawk to accomplish the feat was Ty Rattie two years ago.
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