Thunderbirds close home schedule by beating Portland on night of milestones
Mar 16, 2019, 11:54 PM | Updated: Mar 17, 2019, 12:54 am
KENT – It was a night of milestones Saturday for the Seattle Thunderbirds as they closed out their regular season home schedule.
Hosting the Portland Winterhawks in a game that didn’t mean anything to Seattle in terms of playoff positioning, the Thunderbirds built a 3-0 lead and hung on for a 5-2 win. The win was nice, but perhaps bigger were a couple Seattle players who reached career marks.
Nolan Volcan, playing in his last regular season home game for the Thunderbirds, scored a goal 14 seconds into the second period. It was his 27th goal of the year and 100th regular season goal during his five-year Thunderbirds career.
“It’s pretty cool,” Volcan said of the mark. “I wasn’t thinking about it too much. I knew I was at 99 and just tried to come into the game clear minded and lucky enough there to score.”
Volcan’s linemate, Matthew Wedman, also scored for his 40th on the season. It was the first time a Thunderbird had reached the 40-goal mark since Prab Rai did it in the 2009-2010 season.
“It’s pretty cool,” Wedman said. “Hopefully can get some more in my career and we can go on a run here. (Getting 40) was definitely in the back of my head. It was a pretty big weight off my mind.”
Wedman’s goal, a power-play goal, came 32 seconds into the third period and gave Seattle (30-29-6-2) a 3-0 lead. The Thunderbirds would hold off a Portland comeback to pick up the win and push them over the .500 mark for the season.
It was a big night for all of Seattle’s leaders as Noah Philp also had two goals in the win as well.
“Unbelievable leadership all year,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “They’ve been the mainstays throughout the season. Obviously with our roster shuffle there, Weds, Volcan, Philp, (Jarret) Tyszka, these guys have been leading the way for us all year.”
For Wedman, the 40th goal was a career high and gives him 77 points on the season, two points more than Philp for the team lead. He was named Most Valuable Player during the team’s post-game year- end awards.
“With the injuries that we’ve had, Weds has been the guy who’s been there the whole way,” O’Dette said. “He’s a big reason why we are where we are and that’s the reason he’s the most valuable player for us.”
Portland (40-21-3-3) cut into the Seattle lead in the third period thanks to a full two-minute five-on-three power play chance when Jared Freadrich scored just prior to the man advantage ending. Josh Patterson would then cut the lead to 3-2.
Philp would stem the tide when he raced the puck up ice to beat Portland goalie Shane Farkas for his second of the night. Owen Williams would add a long-range empty-net goal to seal the win and delight the sell-out crowd.
“I thought we played well,” O’Dette said. “Our start was where it needed to be. I thought we got a little bit off track with that five-on-three, obviously gave them a lot of momentum and we were in hang on mode after that. I thought we could have done a little bit better job with some composure during that stretch.”
Goalie Roddy Ross had a bounce back night in making 45 saves, several of them point-blank saves to hold off the Winterhawks charge.
After giving up five goals in back-to-back starts, Ross was more himself in what should be his final tune up before the playoffs.
“He was big, made big saves,” O’Dette said of Ross. “He was calm and cool the entire night. It was nice to see him bounce back and stand tall again. I don’t think the previous game was his best, but he was unreal tonight. He bailed us out multiple times.”
Saturday night was the last home game of the regular season for the Thunderbirds and they will wrap up the schedule Sunday with a Portland rematch.
The game didn’t mean much to the Thunderbirds but they played it like it was a playoff game in front of a loud crowd. The playoffs don’t start for another week, but it felt like they had arrived Saturday.
“We just wanted to put on a show for the fans,” Wedman said. “They’ve been supporting us all year through thick and thin. We just wanted to play one last game for them, hard. The crowd was awesome tonight. It definitely gives the team a buzz that’s hard to beat.”
O’Dette wouldn’t reveal what his lineup will look like on Sunday but it would make sense if some of the veteran players are rested.
That most likely means that Volcan, who is still recovering from an upper-body injury he suffered in late January, would sit on Sunday. If that’s the case, then Saturday was a perfect send off for the 20-year-old captain who has played in 321 regular season games for the Thunderbirds and now has 100 goals to go with his 231 points.
“You want to play every game especially since I missed so many,” Volcan said about Sunday. “It’s up to (O’Dette) and whatever decision he makes we’ll stand by it. If I’m in I’ll play hard, if I’m not I’ll cheer hard.”
• Seattle’s 2018 first-round draft pick, Kai Uchacz, was in the lineup for the Thunderbirds Saturday and played well. The 15-year-old hit a post, just missing his first career goal but took three shots and won eight of the 13 faceoffs he took.
• Both teams were 1-for-5 on the power play.
• Volcan becomes the 13th Thunderbirds-Breakers to reach the career 100-goal plateau. The last Thunderbird to reach the mark was Ryan Gropp, who scored his 117th goal during the 2016-2017 season.