(1090 The Fan) — Justin Hickman and Branden Troock scored third period goals to lead Seattle to a 3-2 comeback victory over Portland and its eighth consecutive win.
The win was also Seattle’s (20-9-1-3) first in regulation over the Winterhawks this season. Troock had two goals and an assist, and Danny Mumaugh improved to 10-5 thanks to 33 saves on 35 shots.
“It was a big win for us,” Seattle defenseman Jerret Smith said. “We had a bad first, but we came back in the second and third and battled hard and got the win…Closing the gap on them was really important.”
In the sixth match-up between the two squads this season, each team was without at least one leading scorer. Seattle’s Roberts Lipsbergs joined his native Latvia to play in the World Junior Championships running December 15-21 in Poland. Portland (22-7-2-2), meanwhile, were missing their three leading scorers — Nic Petan, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Taylor Leier — each one joining Canada’s junior team selection camp.
The game played ragged in response. An early turnover by the Winterhawks deep in their own zone, something uncharacteristic for the second-place team in the Western Conference, led to a Branden Troock goal at 4:31 in the first period.
Fights, turnovers and missed opportunities plagued both short-handed squads, turning the second period into a languishing affair. Portland managed to rise above it all, briefly, with Chase De Leo leading the way.
De Leo answered Seattle’s first period goal with a tally of his own at 16:15. He scored his second on a 4-on-3 power play in the second, 16:01 in after each team had multiple players sent off the ice for game misconduct. The Winterhawks took a 2-1 lead into the third period.
Maybe it was the short bench, maybe it was an intermission speech from the head coach or perhaps it was simply having its winning streak on the line; whatever the case was, Seattle came out much sharper in the third. Hickman tied the game with his 11th goal of the season 4:46 in, then Troock deflected Shea Theodore’s slapshot from the point on the T-Birds’ power play at 7:36 to give the team the lead.
“The main thing that we want to do there is just short shifts,” said Troock regarding playing with the short bench. “You know you’re going to get a lot of ice time when we are down that many guys, so just keeping it real simple, (you) don’t want to get caught out there too long.”
With three more points Friday, Troock now has 10 goals and nine assists in the last 12 games. It’s a run Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk thinks is due to the chemistry building in the locker room.
“There are some good character kids in that locker room right now that are just playing with passion, it’s been contagious,” Konowalchuk said.
“I feel really good out there,” added Troock. “We’ve got some good chemistry within the lines…Delnov and Gropp, they’re both really skilled players so they’re finding me out there and it’s pretty easy to play.”
Now Seattle travels down to take on the Winterhawks in Portland, a place it has not fared too well as of late. In the two contests in Portland this season, Seattle has yielded 10 goals in each. Troock knows the team needs to exorcise its Moda Center demons, but doesn’t expect them changing anything from what they’ve been doing during this recent run.
“We’re going to do the same thing,” Troock said. “We’re going to be expecting a big push back from them. They’re obviously not going to be too happy about that loss.”
1. SEA Branden Troock (14), 4:31
2. POR Chase De Leo (20) (Leipsic, Veloso), 16:15
3. POR Chase De Leo (21) (Price, Haar), 16:01 (PP)
4. SEA Justin Hickman (11) (Smith, Troock), 4:46
5. SEA Branden Troock (15) (Theodore, Delnov), 7:36 (PP)
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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