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Zack Andrusiak hat trick not enough for Thunderbirds to overcome Winterhawks

Seattle's Reece Harsch tries to stop Portland's Jaydon Dureau from scoring Saturday night (Portland Winterhawks)

PORTLAND, Oregon – There are no moral victories in hockey, but the young Seattle Thunderbirds may have had one Saturday night.

The Thunderbirds dropped their third straight game, but it was not for a lack of effort against the Portland Winterhawks. It was one of the best efforts during the current stretch of games that has seen Seattle drop 10 of its last 11 games.

“We’re obviously disappointed with not winning the game but we can look ourselves in the mirror and know the fact that we worked as hard as we could,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “I thought we did that tonight. We made it a winnable game by sticking to it to the very end.”

Seattle (8-12-3-0) would get a late goal from Zack Andrusiak to pull within one against the Winterhawks at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Despite a mad scramble in front of the Portland net in the waning seconds, the Thunderbirds couldn’t find one more goal and would lose 4-3.

Andrusiak’s goal was his third of the night as he completed his third career hat trick and he extended his goal-scoring streak to six. Portland (14-8-0-2) was led by Reece Newkirk and Cody Glass, each who chipped in a goal and an assist.

A key moment in the game came late in the second period.

Seattle had cut into a 3-1 deficit five minutes into the period when Matthew Wedman set up Andrusiak for his second goal of the night, a pretty play where he waited out Portland goalie Shane Farkas and roofed a back hand.

While it looked like the Thunderbirds would go into the third period just needing one to tie, they would surrender a late goal. A shot at the Seattle net went wide and the rebound came out front on the other side. That caused Seattle goalie Liam Hughes to desperately dive back in position but he could not get there before Portland’s Mason Mannek buried his seventh of the year.

The goal came with 1:17 left in the second and was a killer.

“It’s something that we’ve been talking about,” O’Dette said of the goal. “If we can maintain contact and not give up those add-on goals. That one late…obviously that was the difference in the game. You never know when the play will be the play that ends up being the difference maker in the game. That was it, at the end of the second period.”

Newkirk gave the Winterhawks the lead in the first period, at 7:23, after Glass stole the puck as the Thunderbirds attempted to enter the zone on a power play. Glass took a shot that Hughes stopped but the rebound came to Newkirk who ripped his 14th of the season.

Andrusiak would get that goal back just 20 seconds later, while on the same power play, when he streaked down the wing and snapped a quick wrister. The Thunderbirds would end the evening 1-for-3 with the man advantage, which was a positive after their recent power-play struggles.

“I think we kept it simple on the power play,” O’Dette said. “Had the shot mentality, crash the net. I thought there was some steps there, some improvement.”

With the score tied at one, the Thunderbirds would struggle the rest of the period managing the puck. Portland forecheckers caused havoc and Seattle spent most of the period in its own end. That resulted in a lot of chasing with the Winterhawks holding a 22-6 shot advantage and the lead after Jayden Dureau put back a rebound at 18:58.

Glass would extend the lead to 3-1, 28 seconds into the second period with a deadly accurate shot on a Portland power-play for his ninth on the year.

Andrusiak then scored again which set up Mannek’s late-period score.

The Thunderbirds held on in the third and kept Portland from extending it’s lead. Andrusiak would score again, with 45 seconds left in the game to give Seattle a chance at the end but it would come up just short.

Portland made it hard for the Thunderbirds to set up offensively in the third as the Thunderbirds began to run out of gas.

“I think that’s part of throughout the course of the week, needing to be more efficient with some of our plays with the puck and not playing so much in our end,” O’Dette said. “That takes a toll over the course of a game and the course of the week. We’ve got some injuries and relying heavily on some guys, maybe there was a little bit of fatigue there.”

While the Thunderbirds didn’t get the result they wanted, they played a hard and competitive game against a good team. They will now have a week off to regroup, perhaps get some guys back from injury, before trying again next Friday against Kootenay.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” O’Dette said. “If we continue to work this way, we’ll get ourselves out of this.”

Notes

• Andrusiak was moved up to the top line Saturday, playing alongside Nolan Volcan and Matthew Wedman. That trio was the best the Thunderbirds had on the night and played a ton of minutes. “Our guys emptied the tank we knew it would take that type of effort to give us a chance,” O’Dette said. “Those guys, obviously they left it all on the line tonight. They’re pretty exhausted right now. There’s lots of character in that room and if we keep putting forth that effort, we’ll get out of this slump that we’re in.”

• Glass’ assist in the first period extended his assist streak to 11 games.

• The win for Portland evened up the season series at 2-2 for the long-time rivals. The home team has won all four games so far.

• Andrusiak’s hat trick gives him 15 goals on the year and was the second hat trick for Seattle on the season. Noah Philp scored four goals in Kelowna earlier in the season.