The Seattle Thunderbirds have mastered playing the role of giant killer during the 2022 WHL Playoffs.
Coming off dramatic back-to-back seven-game series victories against the Portland Winterhawks and Kamloops Blazers, one of the league’s youngest and most exciting teams find themselves in the WHL Final against the Edmonton Oil Kings, which kicks off tomorrow (Friday) from the Alberta capital.
One of the players enjoying the memorable ride is Prince George product and Cariboo Cougars graduate Nico Myatovic.
In 19 postseason games, Myatovic has posted three goals and four assists.
One of those tallies was the Game Four overtime winner against the Blazers.
“It was a special moment for me. The biggest goal of my life just to help the boys win that game. It was huge. We ended up winning the series, which was awesome but that goal is something I will remember for the rest of my life so it was special for sure.”
OH MY OH MY OH MY https://t.co/SXzK2n9OX7
— x – Seattle Thunderbirds (@SeattleTbirds) May 26, 2022
The 17-year-old told MyPGNow.com the T-Birds have been in a groove after knocking out some top-tier teams.
“Every team we have beaten has been really good. The Rockets in four in the first round and then Portland and Kamloops, which both went seven games. They have been really good series and we’ve just been playing for each other and it’s been really working out for us.”
In the case against, the Winterhawks, Seattle found themselves down 3-1 only to rally and claim three consecutive victories.
Myatovic proved clutch in that series as well. In Game Five, Myatovic notched the game-winning goal in a 3-1 victory over Portland.
Then, Myatovic scored shorthanded and helped set up a Lukas Svejkovsky goal in a convincing 6-3 victory in the seventh and deciding contest.
“When we were down 3-1 our backs were against the wall and we didn’t really have much to lose so we took it one game at a time. We won games five and six and then obviously in a game seven anything can happen and to get that first goal in a game seven is pretty huge. Then we played the rest like we knew we could.”
Nico Myatovic making the most of his opportunities!
T-Birds lead Game 7 after 20 thanks to this shorty.
— Canadian Hockey League (@CHLHockey) May 18, 2022
During the regular season, Seattle proved to be a thorn in everyone’s side going 44-18-4-2, good enough for 94 points and fourth place in the Western Conference.
Not bad for a team that encountered some brief growing during the shortened 2021 season where they only had one 20-year-old on their roster, scoring forward Keltie Jerri-Leon.
Fast forward 12 months later, a young core that includes Myatovic, Jordan Gustafson, Reid Schaefer, Connor Roulette, Jared Davidson, Kevin Korchinski, and goaltender Thomas Milic.
Myatovic stated the organizational decision to “go young” last year is paying early dividends.
“With all the young guys that came in, we were all able to get a lot of ice time and see what the league was like and it gave us an opportunity to play at the level without it being a true 68-game schedule. To carry that one 20-year-old, Keltie (Jerri-Leon), was unbelievable to us. He told us what our development curb was going to be and it showed.”
The 2022 postseason has also been a coming-out party of sorts for Milic who has posted a 2.16 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage all while outdueling two of the WHL’s elite goalies in Taylor Gauthier and Dylan Garrand
Myatvoic added they don’t get to the big dance without their netminder.
“He’s just gone toe-to-toe with every elite goalie we have played these playoffs. The media might say he might be outmatched but he’s proven that he’s competed with every goalie and he’s been our rock back there.”
The Thunderbirds attempt to slow down a red-hot Oil Kings team that dismantled the high-scoring Winnipeg ICE in five games, a team that was ranked 1st in the CHL Rankings for the majority of the season.
Edmonton is led by Arizona Coyotes first-rounder Dylan Guenther as well as former Vancouver Giants star Justin Sourdif.
In goal, the Oil Kings counter with Detroit Red Wings prospect Sebastien Cossa.
Puck drop for Game One is 6pm, Pacific, while Game Two is Sunday at three o’clock.
The winner of the league final will head to the Memorial Cup, which runs from June 20th to 29th in Saint John, New Brunswick.
Don’t mind us we’ll just have this on repeat https://t.co/5oFpZ7afQo
— x – Seattle Thunderbirds (@SeattleTbirds) May 15, 2022