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Portland outlasts Thunderbirds in wild, high-scoring game

Zack Andrusiak scores one of his four goals Saturday night. It wouldn't be enough as Portland won 8-6 (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – With two old school WHL rivals playing, it was fitting that the Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winterhawks combined to score 14 goals Saturday night.

Seattle fought through a three-goal deficit to end the second period tied at five but had no answer to a Portland charge in the third period. The Winterhawks would break the tie with three markers in the final frame to win a wild 8-6 affair.

It was a game that would have fit right in during the high-scoring 1980’s.

“I give our guys a lot of credit,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “The way that game started there, going down 3-0 our guys could have packed it in there, but they didn’t, they kept battling. Obviously a five-goal second showed a lot of resiliency there. That’s the no quit attitude that we’d like to see, so credit to our guys.”

Zack Andrusiak paced the Thunderbirds with his third hat trick of the season, and would add a fourth marker for good measure but it wouldn’t be enough as Seattle dropped its fifth straight game. Portland (20-11-3-2) was led by four points from Joachim Blichfeld and multiple point games from four other players.

While the game was technically lost in the third period, it was a 19-second stretch in the first that may have ultimately been the difference.

Seattle started the game with a couple of strong shifts but one bad pinch by a defenseman led to a breakaway by the league’s leading scorer, Blichfeld. He would beat Liam Hughes through the five-hole for his league best 32nd of the season. Just 19 seconds later, Lane Gillis knocked home a loose puck from in close to give the visitors a 2-0 lead.

“I thought our start to the game was good, we came out and went right down in their end and put some shifts together,” O’Dette said of the first. “Obviously, we know at this point going against Portland we can’t get into the run and gun game.

“We got caught in some odd man rushes and they capitalized and that put us in the hole. Once we cleaned that up, we got back into the game.”

Seattle would then miss on an extended two-man power-play chance and Portland added a third goal right after, from Seth Jarvis.

The Thunderbirds were reeling and could have packed it in right there.

“We kept things positive,” Zack Andrusiak said. “We knew we weren’t out of the game and there’s lots of time left and we just wanted to stay positive and come out and play our game, play as hard as we could and see what happens.”

What happened was the Thunderbirds got back to their type of play.

They got pucks deep, crashed the net and got on the board three-minutes into the second when Noah Philp scored his 11th of the season. Minutes later, Portland’s Matthew Quigly caught Dillon Hamaliuk with a knee. It resulted in Quigly being ejected from the game and a five-minute power play for Seattle.

Hamaliuk would not return to the game but the Thunderbirds were able to cut the lead to one with a big power-play goal from Andrusiak, his first of the night.

“Obviously, you’d like to get more but that goal was big,” Andrusiak said of the five-minute power play. “To make it a one-goal game, it just gave us more momentum on the power play going forward.”

Seattle rode that momentum and Andrusiak tied the game at three with his second, four minutes later on a nice pass from Philp.

“We talked about it before the game, no matter what happens in a game, throughout the season, sometimes if you just keep pushing and keep plugging away and churning, you can find some daylight and get out of the hole,” O’Dette said of the comeback. “That was the message going into the game and we applied that throughout the game.”

With the score tied at three, the two teams would trade goals in a wild final six minutes in the second.

Portland’s Ryan Hughes gave the Winterhawks the lead back with a power-play goal, only to have Nolan Volcannsquare the game again on his 14th goal, when he crashed the net to score. Jake Gricius would then score with just over two minutes left in the period. Seattle wasn’t done and Andrusiak completed the hat trick at 18:39 on another power play.

When the smoke settled, the two teams had scored seven goals and were tied at five. Nothing had been settled.

The Winterhawks took control of the game in the third period to put it away. Clay Hanus gave Portland the lead 1:25 into the period when he raced around the Seattle defense and scored on the five-hole. Four minutes later Hughes would score again with a wrist shot from the high slot.

Just like that, Seattle found itself down two goals.

“I thought they had a little more legs going into the third than we did,” O’Dette said. “We were short forwards with Hammer going down. We got pinned in our end a little bit there and they got a couple there in the third and that was obviously the difference.”

Andrusiak would pick up his fourth of the night with the extra skater with 21 seconds left to give the Thunderbirds a glimmer of hope but it wouldn’t be enough in what was an exhausting game for the players as well as the 5,528 in attendance.

“It’s a lot, it’s an emotional game,” O’Dette said. “With the penalties and the scrums and mixing it up. Those are Seattle-Portland games, they’re always very taxing emotionally, physically. That’s a divisional game, we’re used to games like that.”

Notes

• O’Dette didn’t have details as to how severe Hamaliuk’s injury was. “I think we’re going to have to do some tests, we’ll wait and see but it doesn’t look great,” O’Dette said.

• The four goals for Andrusiak were a career high and he is tied for fourth in the league with 25 goals. It was the second four-goal game by a Thunderbird this season. Noah Philp potted four against Kelowna on Oct. 10th.

• After an 0-for-5 night on the power play Friday, the Thunderbirds found some success Saturday and were 2-for-4.

• The two clubs will meet again on New Years Eve in Portland as the Thunderbirds begin an eight-game road trip.

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