Saturday, March 14, 2009

Winterhawks Dominate T-Birds, 9-1

Last night’s Seattle Thunderbirds game was an ugly one on many counts, except for anyone who is a Portland Winterhawks fan. ShoWare Center was pretty packed (attendance: 5701) for Fan Appreciation night and the stage was set for what everyone thought would be a good game, with the T-Birds coming out on top. After all, in the ten times the two teams have faced each other this season, Seattle has won 8 of those games. The two they lost were by slim margins.

However, from the opening face-off, I could tell something was not right. The team didn’t seem to be gelling like they did last weekend, when they decisively shut out the 2nd place Tri City Americans. Passes were not being completed. Pucks were being stolen. And time and time again, the action ended up in Seattle’s zone. Nine minutes into the first period, Portland struck first. Taylor Peters got hold of a rebound and put it past Calvin Pickard. Brad Ross and Brett Ponich were credited with assists. Twelve minutes in, T-Bird winger Chris Cloud goes to the box for kneeing. A minute later, Portland scored again. Colin Reddin found the net this time, with help from Brad Ross and Killian Hutt.

With the score now 2-0, the T-Birds struggled to gain some control of the game. They had a perfect opportunity when Winterhawks Travis Ehrhardt was called for elbowing with just under four minutes left in the period, but Portland not only broke up the play, they scored a shorthanded goal. Luke Walker stole the puck, took it up the ice and got it behind Pickard. Portland’s Sawyer Mick was called for cross checking with 30 seconds left in the period, and the period ended with Seattle down 4-0.

The second period started with the T-Birds trying to generate some energy on a power play. They still couldn’t connect and Portland killed the penalty, then scored about two minutes later. Chris Francis beat Calvin Pickard, with Killian Hutt and Brett Ponich assisting. The crowd began to get restless, as the score was now 5-0. The game started to get a little physical here, with some pushing and shoving and a couple of stand-offs, but no fights.

Portland scored again about halfway through the period. Joel Ridgeway got the credit, with an assist going to Sawyer Mick. David Richard went to the box for slashing about a minute later and Portland capitalized on the power play. Luke Walker scored, assisted by Travis Bobbee and Chris Francis. A minute later, the Winterhawks struck again. Oliver Gabriel found the net, with help from Travis Ehrhardt and Brad Ross. The score was now 8-0, but the T-Birds did not give up trying to find their footing and regain their momentum.

There were some big hits this period, but none as big as the one Captain Thomas Hickey laid out on a Portland player with less than 3 minutes to go in the period. The T-Birds seemed to draw energy from that monster hit and a few seconds later, Charles Wells put one past Winterhawks goalie Ian Curtis. Jim O’Brien was credited with the assist. The mostly silent crowd erupted into cheers and roared their support for their home team. The second period ended a short time later with the score: Portland 9, Seattle 1.

The third period featured lots of hitting and some shoving but no fights. The biggest difference in the third was that Portland could not score a goal. The T-Birds defensive corps got to work protecting the net and Calvin Pickard made some truly amazing saves, including another one using his cat-like reflexes to snatch a speeding puck out of mid-air. Seattle couldn’t get the puck past Portland’s goalie either, so the third period passed pretty quickly and when the final horn sounded, Pickard was first off the ice, followed by his teammates.

Following the presentation of the “Three Stars of the Game”: 1. Brad Ross-Portland, 2. Luke Walker (Portland), 3. Ian Curtis (Portland), Seattle head coach Rob Sumner gave an interview about the game and his team’s play. He didn’t mince words.

“They beat us in all areas,” he said. “They were focused. We didn’t deserve to win. They were the better team.” He went on, “We weren’t shooting the puck. We had to fight to get it out of our end. They were better shorthanded than we were on the power play.”

When asked about tonight’s game, which will take place in Portland, Sumner said, “They played very well tonight. They will play very well tomorrow. We have to play better tomorrow.”

Sumner acknowledged the ShoWare crowd’s support of the T-Birds, saying, “The crowd stuck with us on our goal, but we were a tough team to stick with tonight.”

The T-Birds have a chance to even things up tonight, when they take on the Winterhawks down in Portland. The puck drops at 7:00 and fans that don’t make the trip down I-5 can listen to the game on 104.9FM.

Tomorrow night, the T-Birds wrap up the regular season against cross town rivals, the Everett Silvertips at ShoWare Center. The game starts at 5:05pm. Click here for more information on the games and tickets.

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