(1090 The Fan) — Seattle put the rest of the Western Hockey League on notice with an impressively dominant 4-1 beating of Portland, Saturday night.
Portland (47-13-2-3), the Western Conference’s second-best team and the defending WHL champions, came into Saturday’s contest in front of 6,031 at the ShoWare Center riding a 21-game win streak. Yes, 21. A total that fell one shy of tying the WHL record of 22 set by the 1967 Estevan Bruins for consecutive wins in a single regular season.
Thunderbirds’ captain Justin Hickman, who scored a second period goal to give his team a key 2-goal advantage, said afterwards that he thought this was the best 60-minute effort his team has played in the second half.
“It feels good especially against those guys,” said Hickman. “They were obviously playing ridiculously good hockey, I mean twenty-one straight speaks for itself.
“I think that’s the best (sixty minutes) we’ve put together, probably in the second half…It tells us that when we are playing sixty minutes of hockey like we know we should, nobody can beat us.”
Sure there was Portland’s incredible streak to halt, a division still up for grabs and a season series to climb back into, but more than anything, Seattle needed this win to serve notice to Portland, and the rest of the WHL, that it is a worthy contender for the Memorial Cup.
It wasn’t all roses early on, however.
Seattle fell behind 1-0 when Chase De Leo jammed home a trickling puck behind Seattle goalie Taran Kozun for his 36th goal of the season 2:43 into the contest.
The T-Birds rebounded quickly, though, thanks to a 5-on-3 power play opportunity. Shea Theodore took a pass from Adam Henry at the right point and drove a slap shot over the left shoulder of Winterhawks’ goalie Corbin Boes, who was making his ninth consecutive start in net in place of Hawks’ starter Brendan Burke who is out with an illness.
The goal was crucial as it not only tied the game quickly, but served to keep a large crowd in the game and the momentum on Seattle’s side. Alexander Delnov followed Theodore’s goal up with a tally of his own, chipping a shot over Boes at 11:16 in the first period to give Seattle a 2-1 lead.
Surprisingly, that was all the T-Birds would need, though they would get more. The breathing-room-goals came from Hickman (at 16:32 in the second period) and Branden Troock (at 12:40 in the third).
But two goals were enough thanks to a defensive effort that held the WHL’s leading power-play offense to an 0-for-5 mark and another fabulous performance in goal from Kozun, who stopped 41 of the Winterhawks’ 42 shots.
“(It) was a really good effort. The guys played hard, they built off of how they played last game and the play away from the puck, it was good to see,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said.
“They’re a confident bunch…They believe — and they should believe — that if we take care of our game, and we know what we have to do, they have a chance to beat anybody on any given night.”
Seattle (39-19-2-4) moved to 4-5-0-0 against Portland with three games remaining against their rival this season. Portland with 99 points and a 15-point lead on Seattle, needs just one point or any loss from Seattle to clinch its second consecutive divisional title.
Meanwhile, the T-Birds increased their lead to six points over Spokane for the No. 4 seed with eight games left on their schedule.
1. POR Chase De Leo (36) (Leier, Bjorkstrand), 2:43
2. SEA Shea Theodore (18) (Henry, Gropp), 6:55 (PP)
3. SEA Alexander Delnov (27), 11:16
4. SEA Justin Hickman (21) (Yakubowski, Maxwell), 16:32
5. SEA Branden Troock (22) (Lipsbergs), 12:40
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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