Revamped T-Birds beat Portland 3-1

Jan 8, 2016, 11:19 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2016, 12:53 pm
Nolan Volcan scored his 10th goal of the year during Seattle’s 3-1 win over Portland (T-Birds...
Nolan Volcan scored his 10th goal of the year during Seattle's 3-1 win over Portland (T-Birds photo)
(T-Birds photo)

KENT – For the first time in a month the Thunderbirds had a full roster as they took on their rivals, the Portland Winterhawks, Friday night.

Seattle iced a revamped lineup after a busy week of trades and the new guys were the brightest stars as Seattle beat Portland 3-1 to snap a two-game losing streak. Newcomer Cavin Leth scored a goal and added an assist while Landon Bow was big in net making 24 saves to get his first win in a T-Birds uniform.

“It was nice to have some depth in there,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “I really liked our first two periods and its a good win against a tough team.”

With a 1-0 lead in the second period Leth made his presence felt as he chipped a puck off the glass and into open ice in the neutral zone. From there Nolan Volcan used his speed to out race the Portland defense to the puck. He went in alone and beat Adin Hill to build the Seattle lead.

Leth stepped into the spot that Jamal Watson had vacated before he was dealt earlier this week. He was on the wing with Scott Eansor and Volcan and were Seattle’s best line on the night.

“I think my speed is my biggest asset,” Leth said. “Watching those guys practice they looked pretty quick and that was a key to how we gelled.”

With Swift Current, Leth had already surpassed his career highs in goals and points and he had an impressive debut with the T-Birds.

“What you see is what you get,” Konowalchuk said of Leth. “He plays an honest two-way hockey game and he finishes checks, is good with the puck and makes good smart decisions.”

Three minutes after the Volcan goal, Leth would get on the board himself. A Jerret Smith shot rebounded off Hill’s pads right to Leth who was speeding down the wing. He snapped the puck into the Portland net for his first Seattle goal and seventh on the year.

Getting traded is never easy and Leth said he didn’t know a move was coming. But he’s happy to go from a team that was out of the playoff race to one that is fighting for first in their division.

It also helped to have several of his former Swift Current teammates already on the Seattle roster.

“That makes it a lot more comfortable,” he said. “I didn’t walk into a room completely out of the blue and not knowing anybody. But it was good coming in and seeing (Andreas) Schumacher and (Owen) Seidel and then Bow joined me a little after. It made the transition a little bit easier.”

With Leth providing offense, Bow was stellar in the net.

After only facing four shots in the first period, Seattle leaned on him in the third when the Winterhawks had a push.

“I had the nerves going,” Bow said. “I haven’t played anywhere else than Swift Current the last three years. It was a little bit of a change of pace for me. Different rink, different fans and team but I had a really good experience.”

With the T-Birds up 3-1 in the third the Winterhawks had two back-to-back power-play chances and Bow was perhaps at his best. He made several key saves and the Seattle defense did a good job of finding loose pucks and clearing them to safety.

It’s an adjustment coming to a new team, even for a goalie, but Bow tried to keep it simple.

“You’ve got to stop it no matter what’s in front of you,” he said. “You have to stop the puck and leave the rest to whoever is in front of you.”

Like Leth, he’s happy to come to a team competing for a playoff spot.

“Coming here I was really excited for that opportunity,” Bow said. “Especially coming into a team that was making changes to make a push in the playoffs.”

Seattle played two solid periods Friday to get back on track. With a three-goal lead heading into the final frame they did let Portland get back into the game. Colton Veloso scored early in the third and Seattle had to hold off the charging Winterhawks.

“These guys are kids and they have to be reminded every day that they have to play the third period,” Konowalchuk said. “We came ready to play though, that’s how we got the lead and the win.”

The T-Birds will have another tough test on Saturday night as the team they’re chasing in the division, the Everett Silvertips, come calling. Seattle has struggled in two games against Everett and will need to play 60 minutes.

A loud ShoWare Center wouldn’t hurt either, something the new guys got a kick out of.

“It was an unbelievable experience,” Leth said of the crowd. “Swift Current got loud in the playoffs but nothing can top (tonight). They’re unbelievable fans and I enjoyed it.”

Notes

• Seattle’s first goal came on an Ethan Bear slap shot from the blue line, it was the 12th goal of the year for the Edmonton Oiler prospects.

• Defenseman Jerret Smith picked up two assists Friday night and has a four-game point streak.

• Volcan’s goal was his 10th of the season as he has surpassed his career high set last year.

• Bow, Leth and Bryan Allbee got their first taste of the Seattle rivalry. It sounds like they were informed by their teammates how it goes. “The boys were telling me about it,” Bow said. “We hate Portland, they hate us and there’s no better game to start off with than against your big rival.”

• Friday night marked the return of Eansor, Mathew Barzal and Alexander True from the World Juniors. The trio has only been back in the U.S. for a day or two but fought off any jet lag they had to have strong games.

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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