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T-Birds soar into winter break with 21st win | WHL

The Thunderbirds
The Thunderbirds' Alexander Delnov tries to push the puck past Americans goalie Evan Sarthou. Delnov had four points in Seattle's win.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/Thunderbirds, Brian Liesse

For the Reporter

The Seattle Thunderbirds got their 21st win of the season with a 5-2 victory over the Tri-City Americans at the ShoWare Center on Tuesday night.

The win moves Seattle into third in the division, behind Portland and Everett and was a "huge bounce back game" by Justin Hickman's admission after the T-Birds lost 5-3 Saturday night in Portland to the Winterhawks.

Seattle enters its winter break following this game and will next play Friday at the ShoWare Center against the Everett Silvertips at 7:35 p.m. The T-Birds also will face the Silvertips on Saturday in Everett at 7:05.

Danny Mumaugh started for Seattle after going 3-0 with a 1.66 GAA in his last three starts. The goalie was "especially sharp" in coach Steve Konowalchuk's eyes and got the win, which makes him 11-5-1-3 on the season. Evan Sarthou was in net for Tri-City for only the seventh time this season and is now 3-3-0-0.

Both teams played shorthanded, with Seattle only able to dress 16 skaters and Tri-City playing with five natural defensemen. Neither team lacked for energy despite the patchwork lines, however. Tri-City was able to control the play for the first five minutes, though the Americans only had three shots on goal in that span to Seattle's one. Four icing calls, two on the T-Birds, and a puck over the glass slowed the play as well.

A slow start wasn't enough to stop Seattle, who opened the scoring at 5:06. Alexander Delnov won the faceoff after a Tri-City icing call and ripped it past Sarthou to make the score 1-0. There were no assists on the goal.

Seattle burst to life after the goal, holding the puck in the zone for a minute straight and peppering Sarthou with shots. Delnov had two more chances at goal turned aside during the run of play before the Americans could take hold of the puck.

Unfortunately for the home team, the first penalty of the game went against them. A cross-checking call gave the Americans a power play and let the visitors get back to the attack. With a minute straight of puck control, the visitors lost it after a hand pass and subsequent faceoff loss let Seattle clear the puck down the ice. The Americans were unable to create after that, and the penalty expired with Seattle still leading 1-0.

The T-Birds expanded their lead after seven minutes of combative hockey. After Branden Troock narrowly missed tipping in a Delnov shot, Ryan Gropp put the rebound home to make the score 2-0 at 12:34.

Tri-City took a penalty almost immediately after the goal to give Seattle their first man advantage. The home team couldn't score after near constant control broken up only by a dangerous shorthanded chance for the Americans. Mumaugh stopped it calmly; one of the goalie's 13 saves in the first.

Just before the end of the first period, Tri-City scored to narrow the gap. A shot by Braden Purtill ricocheted off a defender's skate before making its way to the back of the net. The goal was credited to Brandon Carlo, who touched the puck in front of the net after its bounce, with Purtill and Justin Gutierrez earning the assists at 18:59.

The period ended with the score 2-1 and faceoffs 10-8 in Seattle's favor while shots were 14-13 in favor of the Americans.

Tri-City came out of the gates fast in the second period. The visitors controlled the puck for most of the period's beginnings and had seven shots in the first five minutes. Seattle's only shot during that time came on a quick dump during a line change.

The Americans had what seemed to be a gift of a goal stolen away from them at 3:25. After a mix up behind the net, Mumaugh was left out of the crease while the visitors controlled the puck. Even so, the goalie managed to dive across in time to smother the attempted wrap around and keep the score 2-1.

Seattle responded with a 2-on-1 break not long after when Troock managed to chip the puck past a defender. The Americans were able to get a stick in to break up the attempt and force a faceoff, only to have Seattle bang the puck off the post. Rushes became the way of the game immediately, with Tri-City responding with a 2-on-1 only to have Seattle create two more odd-man rushes on their next two possessions. The breakneck speed slowed closer to a normal pace after the puck went over the glass at 6:36.

Shots were at a premium in the second period, especially for the home team, but the game's pace kept up throughout. The teams spent most of the period in possession battles, with shots hard to come by and frequently being blocked away. The first power play of the period went to the T-Birds when the Americans were forced to trip Sam McKechnie coming up the boards to stop a break.

Seattle was stymied until just after the power play's expiration. Shea Theodore ripped the puck over Sarthou's stick-side pad to extend the lead at 17:52. Seth Swenson and Justin Hickman had the assists.

Seattle went to the locker room with a 3-1 lead after being outshot 11-9 and winning nine of 14 faceoffs in the second.

Once again, the ice was tilted in Tri-City's favor to begin the period. The visitors' attack was helped along by two icing calls against Seattle. After three minutes without much in the way of possession, the T-Birds created a chance that was smothered by Sarthou. Theodore had the best attack of the first five minutes, skating the puck up the ice and deking through the Tri-City defense before his shot went wide of the goal.

A penalty went against Seattle at 6:46 to give Tri-City a man advantage for two minutes. Hickman was denied a shorthanded goal a minute into the penalty. The T-Birds captain got behind the defense and was 1-on-1 with Sarthou, who got his pad on the puck to turn it away. This turned out to be the best chance for either team on the penalty, which ended without a goal and the score still 3-1.

Just after the penalty, Seattle scored their fourth goal of the game. Adam Henry's point shot found its way through traffic and was tipped under Sarthou's pads by Troock at 9:10. Delnov had the secondary assist on the goal that made the score 4-1 Seattle.

The next shift was more of the same for the T-Birds. The home team kept on the offensive and nearly had another goal before the puck was smothered in the crease. The attacking continued for Seattle until another penalty put them a man down with 6:55 left to play.

This time, the Americans took advantage of their power play and scored their second goal of the game. Braden Purtill scored through traffic to cut the lead to 4-2, with assists for Connor Rankin and Parker Wotherspoon.

The T-Birds came back and scored on the very next shift. Troock put home his second goal of the game at 14:54 to stretch the lead back to three goals. Delnov had the only assist on the goal. The goal was Troock's third point of the night and 15th in December. Troock's success has come from "playing simple hockey and letting the puck do the work" in Konowalchuk's words.

Delnov also had four points and has "had a chip on his shoulder the last three weeks" after missing out on an invite to the World Juniors, and Konowalchuk has enjoyed having Troock, Delnov, and Gropp continuing to shine together on a line that's "sure a lot of speed and skill coming at [the opponents]."

Shots in the third period were 15-7 and faceoffs were 12-8, both in Seattle's favor.

Tickets

Tickets are available online at the T-Birds website and at the ShoWare Center box office. The ShoWare Center Box Office is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday game days at 10 a.m. and Sunday game days at noon.

Season tickets can be purchased by calling the T-Birds office at 253-239-7825.

SCORING SUMMARY

First period - 1, Seattle, Delnov 16 (unassisted), 5:06. 2, Seattle, Gropp 5 (Troock, Delnov), 12:34. 3, Tri-City, Carlo 2 (Purtill, Gutierrez), 18:59. Penalties - Elliot, Seattle (cross-checking), 6:57. Vickerman, Tri-City (tripping), 12:57.

Second period - 3, Seattle, Theodore 13 (Swenson, Hickman), 17:52. Penalties - Hauf, Seattle (major-fighting), 13:47. McAndrews, Tri-City (major-fighting), 13:47. Purtill, Tri-City (tripping), 15:46.

Third period - 4, Seattle, Troock 16 (Henry, Delnov), 9:10. 5, Tri-City, Purtill 4 (Rankin, Wotherspoon), 14:35 (pp). 6, Seattle, Troock 17 (Delnov), 14:54. Penalties - Gropp, Seattle (holding), 6:46. Spencer, Seattle (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:05. McKechnie, Seattle (roughing), 16:17. Rankin, Tri-City (roughing), 16:17.

Shots on goal - Seattle 13-9-15 37, Tri-City 14-11-7 32. Goalies - Seattle, Mumaugh 32 shots-30 saves (11-5-1-3); Tri-City, Sarthou 37-32 (3-3-0-0). Power plays - Seattle 0-2; Tri-City 1-3. A - 5,026. Referee - Pat Smith. Linesmen - Al Creigh, Bevan Mills.

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