With the playoffs inching closer, the doubleheader presented a good opportunity for Seattle (25-19-3-3) to pick up four points and build some confidence offensively.
Seattle (23-19-3-3) picked up an important victory over Spokane Sunday to claim sole possession of third place in the U.S. division only to surrender a late lead in Kamloops Wednesday. The team travels to Prince George for a pair of weekend games still searching for consistency.
In front of a sold out crowd of 6,208 at the ShoWare Center Saturday, the Thunderbirds held a 30-13 shot advantage deep into the second period, yet trailed on the scoreboard 3-2. Seattle played much of the game in Portland’s zone, peppering Hill with shots, but the young Portland netminder was terrific.
Ryan Gropp and Jerret Smith each had a goal and an assist while goaltender Taran Kozun provided 22 saves to lead the Thunderbirds to their fourth win in five games against their rival.
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.