(1090 The Fan) — With its 3-2 win over Everett on Saturday night, Seattle secured a Western Hockey League playoff berth for the second consecutive season.
While the feat was little more than a formality after the team’s play over the last six weeks, a stretch that has seen the Thunderbirds win 15 of 18 games, it was impressive to see Seattle achieve it with 13 games still to play.
At 37-17-2-3 entering Sunday’s tilt with Prince George, Seattle resides in fourth place in the Western Conference with 79 points. The team trails Kelowna (96 points), Portland (89 points) and Victoria (84 points) in the conference standings while holding an 8-point lead on Spokane.
“We’re trying to prove that we are a top team in this league and that’s what we’re doing,” said Thunderbirds’ defenseman Shea Theodore.
Seattle’s position is considerably improved from the seventh seed it earned last year which has to be a source of pride for general manager Russ Farwell. The team has made several transactions over the course of the season which have only served to improve the performance of the team.
Farwell has added players such as Adam Henry, Sam McKechnie, Jaimen Yakubowski, Russell Maxwell and Calvin Spencer to the roster since October, but the addition of goaltender Taran Kozun in a trade with Kamloops on the January 10th trade deadline has been the biggest factor.
Kozun is 11-2 with four shutouts, two WHL Goaltender of the Week awards, a .948 save percentage and 1.66 goals against average since joining Seattle.
Suddenly, with elite goaltending play, a solid defense and versatile forwards, the Thunderbirds are set to improve upon the first round exit it suffered at the hands of Kelowna last year.
Clearly, the confidence level is high for Seattle.
“It’s a lot of fun playing when there’s something on the line every night. The boys are responding real well and we are going to keep pushing to get the highest spot we can,” said Maxwell, one of the team’s mid-season acquisitions.
Over the next 13 games, Seattle will be hunting Portland which currently holds a 10-point lead over the Thunderbirds for the U.S. division crown. The winner of the division will likely finish with the two seed in the Western Conference, a position in which the Winterhawks currently reside, a full five points ahead of third-seeded Victoria.
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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