T-Birds’ win streak surges to 10 straight after 3-2 win in Portland

Mar 13, 2016, 10:22 AM | Updated: 10:32 am

PORTLAND, Ore. – The loud techno music blaring out of the Seattle Thunderbirds dressing room Saturday night in Portland’s Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum told you all you needed to know about the outcome of the game.

The T-Birds had just won their 10th straight game by beating the Portland Winterhawks 3-2, putting themselves on the brink of clinching the U.S. Division title.

Seattle picked up goals from three different scorers and Landon Bow made 29 saves to lead the T-Birds to their 14th win in 15 games. And with Everett losing on Saturday night, Seattle can clinch the division Sunday if the Silvertips lose in regulation to the same Portland squad that the T-Birds vanquished on Saturday.

“I liked a lot of our game,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said afterwards. “(Portland) played hard as well but I thought for the most part we had everybody going and pushed the pace, playing with a high tempo. Their goalie made some saves or we might have had some more goals.”

The T-Birds wasted no time in getting on the board Saturday night.

Just a minute into the contest, Scott Eansor had the puck deep and wheeled around the Winterhawks net. It looked like he was going to attempt a wrap-around shot but instead sent the puck to Nolan Volcan in the slot. Volcan let a back-hander go that beat Portland’s Adin Hill.

It was Volcan’s 16th goal of the season and came on Seattle’s first shot of the game.

In last weekend’s home win over Portland, Eansor, Volcan and Donovan Neuls were Seattle’s best line. The same could be said for Saturday’s contest, as well. The three speedy forwards would combine for two goals and six points, on top of playing stingy defense the whole night.

“They’re all quick and tenacious and think the game the right way,” Konowalchuk said about his so-called second line. “They have chemistry and they win battles and they’re a real major line for us.”

Portland would get things even eight minutes into the game when Domonic Turgeon cashed in on a power-play chance for the Winterhawks. That goal went against the momentum that the T-Birds had built while playing five-on-five.

In the second period the T-Birds would get their lead back when Ryan Gropp ripped a wrist shot from the top of the circle for his 34th marker of the season. But in a similar fashion to the first period, the T-Birds would give up some momentum again by taking penalties.

The Winterhawks took advantage and would tie the game again when Rodrigo Abols tipped a Keoni Texeira shot past Bow. The goal was technically an even-strength goal but came a second after a Portland power play had expired.

As it has during this red hot stretch it’s on, however, Seattle didn’t let that goal affect its play.

With time running out in the period, Neuls would put a dagger in the Winterhawks’ hopes as he fought through a couple of defenders to score with just 34 seconds left. It was his 13th goal of the year and was set up again by Eansor and Volcan.

“It’s big,” Konowalchuk said. “We’re playing a pretty good hockey game and their goalie made a couple of saves to keep it 2-2, so to get one like that and go in 3-2 is big.”

The T-Birds would clamp down defensively in the third period and outshot the Winterhawks 13-9 to seal the game and put themselves one game away from the division title. They had to do it Saturday playing a completely opposite style of game they played on Friday night; against Everett they had to fight through checks and neutral zone traps in a low-scoring, low-chance game.

Saturday night they played an opponent who likes to open the game up. That contrast didn’t negatively impact the T-Birds as they are now proving that they can win any style of game.

“We focus on our game,” Konowalchuk said. “We’re still playing the same way. They’re going to open it up, that’s the way they play here. I’m real happy with our compete level tonight.”

Seattle will sit back and watch what happens Sunday in Portland as the Winterhawks host the Silvertips. Konowalchuk said he might find some time to watch a little bit of the game Sunday but warned that there is still hockey to play yet.

“You have to keep your foot on the pedal,” he said. “You want to keep this mentality of competing and working hard. Regardless of what happens tomorrow we have to keep pushing.”

If Everett does pick up a win or gets a point in an overtime affair, the T-Birds will have a chance to clinch the division themselves on Tuesday night when they host the Spokane Chiefs.

Notes

• Saturday’s game was a hard hitting contest where both teams landed some pretty big checks. One such hit proved to be costly for Seattle as defensman Jarret Tyszka was hit along the boards in the first period. He immediately skated to the bench favoring his right shoulder. He did not return to the action and Konowalchuk did not have an update following the game.

• The T-Birds have struggled at times on the road this season but have now won five straight away from Kent. Saturday’s win raises their record to 15-18-1-0 on the road.

• Portland will be desperate when they play Everett on Sunday afternoon. The Winterhawks only lead Spokane by one point for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

• Bow has won eight out of his last 10 starts for Seattle and has not allowed more than two goals in a game since Jan. 29, when he gave up five in a loss to Spokane.

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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