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Thunderbirds offense goes cold against the Portland Winterhawks

Seattle's Keltie Jeri-Leon fires a shot during Seattle's loss to Portland Friday (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – With the winter storm keeping the crowd away, the Thunderbirds offense went cold Friday night against the Portland Winterhawks.

Neither team generated a ton of offensive chances, but it would be the visitors who were able to capitalize on theirs early. The Thunderbirds struggled to score until late in the third period and it wouldn’t be enough as they dropped a 4-1 final to the Winterhawks.

It was a game that didn’t have the normal intensity found in Portland-Seattle match ups as the snow storm resulted in the building being mostly empty.

“I thought our guys had pretty good energy considering,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “It’s been a long week and we usually rely on our crowd to give us some juice and we appreciate the fans that did show up in tough weather. That’s awesome.”

Portland (33-15-3-2) got a goal and assist from John Ludvig as well as 25 saves from Shane Farkas to pick up its seventh win in its last ten. Seattle (20-26-5-1) got a goal from Matthew Wedman in the loss and has dropped back-to-back games.

The Thunderbirds got defenseman Jarret Tyszka back in the lineup after he missed the two games in Victoria but would lose fellow blue-liner Simon Kubicek to injury in the first period.

The Winterhawks took a 2-0 lead in that first period behind goals from Joachim Blichfeld and Ludvig and would not look back.

“They’ve got some good shooters, they ripped a couple there on pretty good shots,” O’Dette said. “They capitalized on what chances they had and it’s just kind of a stalemate kind of game. Not a ton going on, which against Portland is good. We don’t want the track meet up and down the ice. It was our style of game, we just didn’t generate enough offense to win the game.”

Seattle had its chances with the power play early but could not find a goal.

The Thunderbirds would end up 1-for-6 on the power play and only converted late in the game as Wedman scored on a five-on-three look.

“When you get those chances early it can be a blessing or a curse,” O’Dette said. “If you don’t get one on it you might not get many more as the game goes on. I thought we did a good job earning what we got. They have a good penalty kill, they clog stuff up pretty good and not a ton of shooting lanes. We’re a work in progress on the power play.”

The second period was Seattle’s best as it spent a good deal of time in the Portland zone. The Thunderbirds got nine shots on Farkas but not enough of those came with traffic or were quality scoring chances.

While they were building some momentum, Portland would strike back quickly to snatch the momentum back. Lane Gilliss was left alone in front of Seattle’s net and he snapped his 13th of the season past goalie Cole Schwebius at the 11:18 mark of the second.

“I thought we played a decent game to be honest, there were some chances that got away from us that we didn’t bear down on,” O’Dette said. “Kind of fumbled off a stick, things like that. I thought five-on-five we played pretty well. We had sustained pressure in their end at times. We’re a little bit offensively challenged right now.”

Down three goals, Wedman saved the Thunderbirds from being shut out with his 26th of the season when he slammed home a goal late on the power play.

The loss wasn’t costly to the Thunderbirds in the standings as the Kamloops Blazers lost to Vancouver Friday night. That keeps Seattle a point ahead and in the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Seattle will be back in action at the accesso ShoWare Center Saturday night against the Medicine Hat.

Notes

• O’Dette didn’t have an injury update on Kubicek after the game. “He’s a tough kid and he’ll come back as soon as he can, but I think it will be a little bit of time,” O’Dette offered.

• Wedman extended his point streak to three games, a streak that has seen him pick up four points.

• Noah Philp picked up an assist Friday and he has three points in his last two games.