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Third period sinks Thunderbirds in Portland

The Thunderbirds dropped back-to-back games against rival Portland this weekend (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

PORTLAND, Oregon – For the first 40 minutes of Sunday evening’s contest, the Seattle Thunderbirds had turned in a gritty effort against the Portland Winterhawks.

Despite missing some key players from the lineup, Seattle had built a 3-2 lead heading into the third period. That was where the good news for the Thunderbirds would end as the Winterhawks scored three times in the third to take the second game of a home-and-home by a 5-2 score.

Joachim Blichfeld scored twice for Portland, along with adding an assist while Seattle was paced by Turner Ottenbreit’s goal and assist in the loss.

“It was a really gritty effort from the guys,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after the game. “We have some key guys out and we stayed with those guys. We played hard and couldn’t hang on in the end there. A couple of mistakes there but I’m happy with the way guys competed today.”

Seattle (27-20-6-2) built its lead largely thanks to the power play.

With power-play mainstays Nolan Volcan and Sami Moilanen out of the lineup, O’Dette slapped together a make-shift power-play unit and ended the night 2-for-4 with the man advantage. Both goals came late in periods and both came after Portland (35-18-1-3) had tied the game.

While the power play was good on Sunday, it did allow Blichfeld to score his first goal of the evening short-handed after he stole the puck at the blue line for a breakaway.

“We had to piece together power-play units and our lines,” O’Dette said. “Obviously with the shortie, we didn’t want that one, but we got a couple goals by just being simple and shooting the puck. That was a positive and I think the PK was good again.”

Blichfeld’s short-handed goal evened the game up at one after Dillon Hamaliuk had given Seattle an early lead when he fired his 13th of the year at the 4:48 mark of the first period. The Thunderbirds would respond to the short-hander by scoring on the power play just before the period would end.

Ottenbreit teed up a big slap shot from the point at 19:11 that made its way through traffic and past goalie Shane Farkas to give Seattle a 2-1 lead at the first intermission.

The second period would be a similar story.

It started with Portland’s Lane Gillis tying the game at two when he knocked a puck past goalie Dorrin Luding from right in front at 15:30. Luding was starting in place of Liam Hughes and ended the night by stopping 31 shots.

As it did in the first, Seattle had an answer in the second.

On the power play again, Austin Strand took a point shot that was tipped past Farkas by Matthew Wedman, who was parked in front of the crease. It was Wedman’s 13th of the year and came with just a minute left in the second period.

“I don’t know how many NHL draft picks they have, six or seven,” O’Dette said. “I thought we played with them pretty well this weekend. I think they were both winnable games. I think losing Volcs was a factor but guys played hard and gave it what they had.”

The third period would be all Portland.

The Winterhawks outshot Seattle 17-4 and would score three markers.

It started with Ryan Hughes putting back a rebound to tie the contest at three. Then after Luding had made a sprawling save, Alex Overhardt was able to lift a back hand over the prone goalie at 13:02 to give Portland its first lead of the night.

Seattle tried to push back but was unable to and Blichfeld stamped the exclamation point for Portland with a late empty net score to send the home club to victory.

“They kind of took over there with some of their depth over our depth,” O’Dette said of the third period. “Our young guys were put in so tough situations, but the kids played hard.”

The loss was the third of the weekend for Seattle as the Thunderbirds only mustered one point out of six possible. They remain tied with Tri-City in the standings but are only six points ahead of the Kamloops Blazers for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

With a week off now before another grueling three games in three days weekend upcoming, O’Dette hopes that he can get a full line up back before Friday’s tilt with first-place Everett.

“We’re playing against teams loaded with depth and we need all our horses,” O’Dette said. “It becomes difficult to win with all the young guys. Keep working, keep fine tuning our game all week and hopefully we can get some guys healthy.”

Notes

• The two points that Ottenbreit recorded established a new career high for the defenseman. He now has 34 points, breaking the mark of 32 that he set last season.

• Hamaliuk’s marker in the first period broke a seven-game point drought for the rookie. He is tied for fifth in the WHL’s rookie scoring race.

• The three goals that Seattle potted were the most scored since a Jan. 23rd win against Brandon.

• While O’Dette was hopeful that he would get some guys back from the injured list he didn’t have any details about whether Moilanen or Volcan would be able to get back.