For Seattle (13-15-2-2), the loss was its first to Portland this season and third in the last four games. The team played a much more energetic, focused and disciplined game after Friday’s 4-0 shutout loss to Tri-City.
Wardley, 20, missed the previous five games after being suspended by the Western Hockey League for a checking from behind penalty against Saskatoon on November 8. It was Wardley’s second suspension of the 2014-15 season.
Seattle (4-3-0-1) entered the first game of a two-night home-and-away double-header against Spokane with six defensemen only to fall to three able-bodied defenders late in the first period after Ethan Bear, Turner Ottenbreit and Jared Hauf all went off with separate ailments.
Despite some key losses, The Thunderbirds have routinely been picked to finish in the upper half of the Western Conference, second to Portland in the U.S. Division. Seattle’s B.C. Division rivals Kelowna and Victoria are also expected to return strong squads in 2014-15.
The Seattle Thunderbirds emerged from a difficult stretch in which it faced four playoff teams in five nights only to face a weekend of meaningful games with just a two point lead for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage.
Troock now has 22 goals on the season and 31 assists for a total of 53 points, good for third on the team behind defenseman Shea Theodore (69) and Alexander Delnov (56). It’s his hope that the goal spurs his game back to where it was in December when he was lighting the lamp nearly every night.
Late goals from forwards Justin Hickman and Brendan Troock carried Seattle to a statement-making 4-1 win over Portland, Saturday at the ShoWare Center in Kent. Goalie Taran Kozun had 41 saves and Seattle halted one of the greatest regular-season streaks in WHL history.
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.
Having come from a team in the bottom tier of the WHL Western Conference standings, goaltender Taran Kozun can appreciate the difference between a winner and a loser.
Seattle (32-15-2-3) has now won 10 of its last 11 games. With 20 games remaining, the team has its sight firmly set on winning the U.S. Division and getting home ice for the playoffs.