(1090 The Fan) — Alexander Delnov scored 4:19 into overtime, lifting Seattle to a 5-4 comeback victory against Portland. It was a much-needed win for a club that entered losers of seven of its past eight.
The Thunderbirds hosted arch rival Portland Saturday night at the ShoWare Center, immersed in a devastating slump that actually began with a 5-2 loss to the Winterhawks back on November 1st in a game that was for first place in the Western Conference.
Despite its recent poor play, Seattle came out aggressive — feisty even — as it shut down the high-scoring Winterhawks and built a 3-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
However, a wild third period then saw Seattle give away a two goal advantage, Portland storming ahead with three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead with six minutes to play, only to force overtime thanks to a game-tying goal by forward Justin Hickman.
Seattle (13-9-1-3) played an aggressive, intense hockey game from the opening face off, an effort it desperately needed after a troubling loss at Vancouver Friday night. Hickman scored two goals, including the tying goal with under four minutes to play. Roberts Lipsbergs extended his goal streak to four consecutive games, and Mathew Barzal chocked up two more assists to give him 22 through 26 games in his rookie season.
“They played a good hockey game,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said of his team afterwards. “They played a smart hockey game, they played a hard hockey game. It was good to see and that is the level they need to expect out of themselves.
“Great job by Hickman, he’s a captain and he came up with a huge goal for us and led the way at the end when we had a little adversity,” added Konowalchuk. “The team had a good attitude all game to go out and play and play with some passion and they finally did that.”
They certainly did. Portland (18-5-2-1) entered with the second-most points in the Western Conference, trailing Everett by two with 38 and leading the WHL in scoring by a wide margin with its near five goals per game average. The Winterhawks showed off that firepower in the third period as they roared back to take a 4-3 lead. The Hawks got goals from Keegan Iverson, Nic Petan and Brendon Leipsic in a six-minute span which left the 4,622 in attendance stunned and the T-Birds at their bench catching their breath during a timeout.
But Seattle responded behind Hickman’s hard-work goal at the 16:43 mark, forced overtime and came up with a critical, confidence-building win.
Justin Myles was handed his opportunity between the goal posts Saturday, and came up with 31 saves. His play through the first 40 minutes helped the T-Birds build their 3-1 lead, getting goals from Hickman (at 13:51 in the first), Lipsbergs and Troock, the latter scoring on a breakaway during 4-on-4 play late in the second period.
The Winterhawks were led by Brendan Leipsic and Taylor Leier, each providing a goal and an assist in the losing effort.
“That’s a big confidence boost,” stated Hickman. “We know that we can compete with anybody. That’s the top team in the league and they’ve given us a bit of grief lately…That just shows the character of our team this year. Last night just wasn’t good enough.”
The 6-3 loss against the Vancouver Giants was a poor effort from a Seattle team that was looking to carry over some momentum after getting three out of four points in the previous two games to snap a 6-game losing skid. Coach Konowalchuk was very impressed with the 24-hour turnaround his team showed.
“It was the complete opposite,” said Konowalchuk. “It’s a big win because we were building some momentum there with our compete level and then it was pretty frustrating to see what happened (Friday) night…this was a big rebounder to keep building that momentum.”
Seattle will look to carry that momentum through its Thanksgiving break to a showdown with Saskatoon (10-14-1-2) Friday.
1. SEA Justin Hickman 7 (Barzal), 13:51
2. POR Taylor Leier 19 (Haar), 18:29 (SH)
3. SEA Roberts Lipsbergs 15 (Bear, Henry), 18:05
4. SEA Branden Troock 7 (Eansor), 19:42
5. POR Keegan Iverson 7 (Schoenborn, Turgeon), 7:58
6. POR Nic Petan 15 (Leier, Leipsic), 12:02 (PP)
7. POR Brendan Leipsic 17 (De Leo, Bjorkstrand), 13:59
8. SEA Justin Hickman 8, 16:43
9. SEA Alexander Delnov 10 (Barzal, Bear), 4:19
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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