T-Birds stun Portland 5-2 in season opener
By Andrew Eide
Portland, Or – The Seattle Thunderbirds traveled to Portland to start the new season Friday evening and came away with as good a result as they could hope for. The Portland Winterhawks, considered by many to be the favorite in the Western Division, have a loaded roster and came out on fire. After dominating the first period play the Winterhawks watched, stunned, as Seattle roared back and won 5-2.
Portland played as dominant a first period as one team could play. They owned the puck and out shot Seattle 30-2. Everything we’ve come to know Portland to be was on display. They showed tremendous team speed and took the play to Seattle. Ty Rattie and new comer Oliver Bjorkstrand were buzzing the whole period, each with great scoring chances.
The problem for Portland is that they were just chances and not goals. Seattle net minder Brandon Glover stood up to every shoot, making spectacular save after spectacular save. In the end he stopped all 30 Portland first period shots. 30 saves in a game is a good night, but in a period?
“I had a 40 save one (period) in midget,” Glover said of his first period. “This was just as tough,you know its not any easier on our d-men or forwards to play the entire time in our end so everyone had to work hard in that period to keep the game even, luckily we just got through it and I thought we out-played them the rest of the way.”
“They came out firing, we didn’t play very well in the first period,” Steve Konowalchuk said of his club’s start. “The combination of the two was a pretty ugly period for us.”
Seattle went into the dressing room tied but knowing that they could easily have been down by several goals. They came out in the second a different team. They jumped on Portland, got a few shots, put together two or three good shifts and finally cashed in when their good play earned them a power play. Just as the man advantage ended Tyler Alos ripped a wrist shot past Brendan Burke and somehow Seattle was ahead 1-0.
They didn’t stop there however. They continued to out play Portland and back on the power play Luke Lockhart picked up a loose puck in front and beat Burke again. The goal was unassisted and Seattle was starting to feel it.
With fifteen minutes left in the period, again on the power play, Riley Sheen found himself with the puck in the face off circle, he had time and room and fired a deadly wrist shot that beat Burke high and on the short side.
Sheen struck again with 48 seconds left in the second period when he got the puck behind the Portland net and snuck in a wrap around shot. It was Sheen’s second goal of the night and the fourth goal for Seattle that period.
Whatever speech Konowalchuk gave the team between periods seemed to work.
“You know I didn’t say a whole lot, it’s kind of typical the way our preseason went. We had periods like that a couple of times in the preseason and had the same results and then we had other periods like the second,” Konowalchuk said.
Starting the third period the Thunderbirds knew that Portland has the weapons to wipe out a four goal deficit and Seattle came out and made sure that the game was out of reach 26 seconds into the third. Brendan Troock carried the puck down behind the end line, drawing several Winterhawks players with him. That left Alex Delnov all alone in front and when Troock found him, Delnov had an empty net and didn’t miss. Seattle had scored five unanswered goals and put the game out of reach.
Glover continued to make fine saves in the third, despite Portland scoring two late goals, and ended the night with 55 saves and a well deserved first star.
“He was a wall…a wall, I was really happy to see the guys answer the bell in the second and start playing the right way,” Konowalchuk said about his net minder.
Since coming to Seattle Glover has impressed people with how calm and relaxed he always seems. Despite seeing a barrage of pucks Friday night, he took it all in stride.
“For me, no matter what’s happening I just need to focus on making the next stop and being as solid as I can back there for the team,” Glover said afterwards.
How big of a win was this for Seattle? Portland was 11-1 against Seattle last season and was 31-4-0-1 against the T-Birds over the past three seasons. Seattle has designs on competing at the level of a team like Portland. Konowalchuk, while happy with the win, was quick to put things in some perspective.
“It’s one game,” Konowalchuk said. “We worked hard in preseason and we want to build on it, its one game, there were some good things that came out of this game, and some things we still have to work on. We’ll talk about some things tomorrow morning and keep doing the things we did well and less of the other stuff.”
After dropping their home opener to their rivals you can bet Portland is going to come out firing Saturday night at the ShoWare Center.
“Yeah, we’ll let them enjoy tonight but that team (Portland) is going to come and throw everything at us and try to spoil our home opener so we have to keep that from happening,” Konowalchuk said of Seattle’s home opener.
Seattle will play Portland again Saturday night at the ShoWare Center, face off at 7:05.
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