KENT — In a game where it seemed like Seattle had the edge early, big mistakes at bad times gave the momentum to Portland, who was able to notch their second victory of the season against Seattle, this time by an ugly 10-5 margin.
The T-Birds opened the scoring just 97 seconds into the game as a nice forecheck by Seattle’s second line led to Zack Andrusiak notching his second goal of the season.
Blake Bargar and Andrusiak forced a turnover in the Portland zone along the right boards, allowing Elijah Brown to sneak in and grab the loose puck. Andrusiak removed himself from the scrum at the right time, heading towards the slot and getting fed by Brown before beating Portland goaltender Scott Farkas on his glove side.
Portland responded midway through the period on the game’s first power play as Keoni Texeira sent a puck from the left faceoff dot in the Seattle zone through heavy traffic in front of Seattle goaltender Matt Berlin. The puck appeared to deflect off of T-Birds defenseman Reece Harsch’s skate before squeaking past Berlin.
Just 70 seconds later, Portland took their first lead of the game after a bad Seattle turnover in the neutral zone ended up on the stick of Vegas Golden Knights draftee Cody Glass. With Seattle’s entire line breaking in one direction, getting back to put a body on Glass proved impossible as he fed a breaking Skylar McKenzie for a one-timer over Berlin’s glove.
“It seemed like every time we had something going there was a big mistake that led to a goal for them,” said T-Birds head coach Matt O’Dette following the loss. “We talk about eliminating the big play all the time. Any time we had any momentum, we made a big mistake and gave up the big play.”
The Winterhawks added to their lead with just under two minutes left in the first as Ryan Hughes found too much space in the offensive zone and was able to once again beat Berlin through heavy traffic in front.
After one period, Portland led 3-1 and outshot Seattle 13-8.
Portland quickly extended their lead just 1:01 into the second period as defenseman Henri Jokiharju took a shot then crashed the net hard, converting his own rebound to make it 4-1 Winterhawks.
The T-Birds cut the lead back down to two a minute and 37 seconds later after Brown was tripped by Ryan Hughes, giving Seattle their first power play of the evening. Sami Moilanen scored for Seattle, grabbing a loose puck in front and beating Farkas high.
It didn’t last long, however, as just 18 seconds later Jake Gricius regained the three-goal lead for Portland. Berlin made a couple of nice saves on Gricius but was unable to cover the puck. Gricius, from almost behind the Seattle net, made a smart play from a tough angle by sending the puck off of the back of Jake Lee’s skate and into the net when he saw Lee standing in the crease.
With 15:30 left in the second period, Jokiharju scored his second goal of the game on a heavy snapshot from the top of the right circle that snuck its way just inside the post on Berlin’s stick side.
After giving up six goals on 20 shots, Berlin was pulled in favor of Liam Hughes, who had played in one game prior to Saturday night, Seattle’s 6-2 loss to Portland the week prior.
“Against Portland it’s a game of momentum,” said O’Dette. “Once they get momentum it can spiral out of control. We didn’t feel that we were overwhelmed. It was the huge errors at the wrong times that piled on tonight.”
Hughes gave up one more goal to the Winterhawks in the second period when McKenzie batted a puck out of the air from the slot as he was turning around, giving Portland a five-goal lead. It was a nearly impossible puck for Seattle’s Hughes to react to.
The T-Birds added a goal late in the second to make the score 7-3 when Noah Philp, standing at his own goal line, found a breaking Matthew Wedman, who was exiting the T-Birds zone. Philp hit Wedman in stride, springing him on a breakway that Wedman was able to convert high over Farkas’ blocker.
After two periods, Portland had outshot Seattle 32-20.
The game would end with a final score of 10-5 after Portland added three goals during the third period. Seattle added two more goals of their own as Moilanen tallied his second power play goal of the game and Blake Bargar scored his first goal as a Thunderbird.
“We had a good start and some good energy early,” O’Dette said when asked if there were any positives the T-Birds could take away from tonight’s game. “We got away from the way we need to play, especially against those guys. We started turning pucks over. They capitalize on the transition game. That’s their strength. We didn’t get enough pucks deep when we had to.”
Seattle is back in action Sunday evening as they head north to take on the winless Kamloops Blazers. O’Dette was not sure following Saturday’s game whether Berlin or Hughes would start versus Kamloops.