Thunderbirds find scoring touch against Portland to snap losing streak
KENT — It turns out that the Seattle Thunderbirds just needed their oldest rivals to come to town to snap their seven-game losing streak.
After falling behind 2-0 in the first period, Seattle would score five unanswered goals on its way to holding off the Portland Winterhawks 6-4 in front of 5,052 rowdy fans at the accesso ShoWare Center Saturday night.
Goalie Liam Hughes was under duress early and often but ended the night by kicking out 51 Portland shots to give his club a chance to win the game. That allowed the Thunderbirds beleaguered offense to find itself again.
Seattle (8-9-3-0) found a way to snap out of its goal-scoring funk that had plagued it over the past couple of weeks of hockey. The Thunderbirds top line had been struggling to finish chances, but Saturday night combined to have a big night.
Matthew Wedman had only picked up one assist in the seven games heading into Saturday, but he scored twice in the second period and would add an assist later. Andrej Kukuca was riding a seven-game pointless streak, but he chipped in a goal and an assist. Nolan Volcan provided a spark Saturday with three assists to snap his own seven-game pointless streak.
Portland (13-7-0-2) got on the board at 2:02 of the first period with a power-play goal from Jake Gricius that had to be confirmed by video review. Six minutes later Winterhawks defenseman Clay Hanas streaked down the wing and snuck his second of the season past Hughes on the short side.
Down 2-0 it was looking like more of the same for the Thunderbirds but they would strike back from a couple of unlikely sources.
Rookie Jared Davidson fired a rebound past Portland goalie Dante Gianuzzi at 8:56 for his first WHL goal. Before the first period ended Samuel Huo found a loose puck in the crease and knocked it home for his third of the season.
The Thunderbirds would take the lead in the second behind the top line’s efforts.
Volcan got the puck deep at 5:10 of the second and would feed Wedman in front for his first of the night. Just 37 seconds later Kukuca would lead a rush that would finish with Wedman converting again, his seventh on the season.
Seattle had a two-goal lead heading into the third period, trying to not repeat its last home game, where Spokane had erased a two-goal lead in the final frame. That night the Thunderbirds couldn’t extend their lead and ended up losing in overtime. Saturday, they found that goal four minutes into it.
Gianuzzi skated out to the face off circle to play a puck but he played it to Kukuca. That sparked a mad scramble in the Portland zone. With Gianuzzi desperately trying to get back in the net, Volcan slid a puck towards the net that Kukuca banged home.
The Winterhawks stemmed the tide for a while when Nick Perna got a shot past Hughes at 9:20 of the third but Volcan would make a play to get the Thunderbirds their three-goal lead back. He won a race for the puck along the boards and whipped a pass to Zack Andrusiak, who was alone in the middle of the ice. Andrusiak beat Gianuzzi for his 10th of the season and essentially iced the game for Seattle.
The Winterhawks would add a late, cosmetic goal from Gricius, his second of the night, to round out the scoring.
Seattle will next be in action Wednesday night when it hosts the B.C. Division leading Vancouver Giants.
• Andrusiak has goals in three straight games and four in his last five outings.
• Seattle was without defenseman Reece Harsch on Saturday. He was injured Friday night in Spokane and was not able to go Saturday after taking pregame warm ups.
• Huo moved to center on Oct. 27th against Vancouver. All three of his goals have come since the position change.
• Both Gianuzzi and Hughes picked up assists on Saturday. The two goalie points come a night after Prince Albert’s Ian Scott scored a goals in the Raiders win over Tri-City.