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HomeNewsSeattle's perfect power-play pushes Cougars to the brink of elimination

Seattle’s perfect power-play pushes Cougars to the brink of elimination

Talk about David versus Goliath.

A four-goal first period explosion by the Seattle Thunderbirds paced their way to a dominant 8-1 victory over the Prince George Cougars in front of 4,756 fans at the CN Centre Tuesday night.

Seattle leads the best-of-seven Western Conference semi-final series 3-0.

Right from the opening shift the T-Birds had the puck on a string, using their tenacious forecheck to pound the Cats into submission.

Edmonton Oilers prospect Reid Schaefer opened the scoring at the 1:42 mark, locating a pass from Brad Lambert who rifled it past Cougars netminder Ty Young for a 1-0 lead. Exactly four minutes later, Seattle found themselves on a fortunate 3-on-1 rush – a cross ice feed by Jared Davidson allowed Colten Dach to tee up from the far face off circle to double the advantage.

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Overage forward Jaxsen Wiebe provided the turning point of the game for the Cougars but for all the wrong reasons, ambushing Dach inside the defensive zone, catching him up high with his stick. This led to a five-minute major, a game misconduct and a likely suspension.

It took all of 12 seconds for Seattle to make the Cougars pay for their lack of discipline as Davidson wristed a backhand shot past Young, courtesy of slick set up by Lambert and Kevin Korchinski.

Like a shark that smells blood, the Thunderbirds were hungry for more on the power-play – this time it was Gracyn Sawchyn who delivered, converting on another set play from Lambert and Korchinski, giving the visitors a commanding 4-0 lead after 20 minutes.

“Our start was important. We knew coming home they would have a pretty big crowd and Game three is kind of a pivotal game going back to home ice. Starting well, starting hard and putting pucks on goal is what we wanted to do and we did that,” said Dylan Guenther, T-Birds forward.

The snowball continued to roll down the hill for the Cougars as Lambert following a broken play, swooped on a loose puck in the neutral zone, blowing past Hudson Thornton, tucking it five-hole past Young.

Chase Wheatcroft would finally deliver the ice breaker for PG, blasting a backhand shot past Thomas Milic, trimming the deficit to 5-1.

Unfortunately, any momentum the Cougars had was quickly snuffed out as Mekai Sanders found a crack in the defensive coverage restoring Seattle’s five-goal edge.

Following a Hunter Laing high sticking penalty, Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Guenther made his presence felt, blasting a one-timer into the top corner making it 7-1 Thunderbirds after two.

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Guenther added his second of the game on another three-on-one rush late in the third period, throwing more salt on the wound.

Local product Nico Myatovic was held pointless for Seattle, recording one shot on goal.

Seattle outshot the Cougars 40-20 and went 4-for-4 on the man advantage. PG didn’t score on their two power-play chances.

PG was also without Riley Heidt who was serving a one-game suspension after a major penalty in game two after hitting T-Birds blueliner Nolan Allen.

To give you an idea on how stacked the Thunderbirds are, their embarrassment of riches includes ten drafted NHL players including Guenther (Arizona), Lambert (Winnipeg), Schaefer (Edmonton), Korchinski (Chicago), Jordan Gustafson (Vegas), Dach (Chicago), Jared Davison (Montreal), Nolan Allen (Chicago), Luke Prokop (Nashville) and Lucas Ciona (Calgary).

In addition, seven of their players participated at the World Junior Hockey Championship over the Christmas holiday. This included: Dach, Lambert, Guenther, Schaefer, Korchinski, Allen and goaltender Thomas Milic.

Everyone with the exception of Lambert (Finland) collected a gold medal for Canada.

Not to be outdone though, Lambert has been the star of the series with 13 points in three games – six of which occurred in Tuesday’s victory.

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“Obviously, I have great linemates, the power-play was clicking and a lot of the stuff I passed seemed to go in tonight,” added Lambert.

Lambert has had a bit of a whirlwind year to say the least. After being selected by the Winnipeg Jets 30th overall in the 2022 NHL Draft, he started the year with the AHL’s Manitoba Moose where he tallied three points in 14 games.

After suiting up for Finland at the World Juniors in Halifax, he was sent to the Thunderbirds, finally showcasing his talents against players in his own age group.

“I started out really good in the AHL but got sick and struggled a little bit. The World Juniors is always tough, we didn’t get the result we wanted and then getting sent here at first was a bit of a disappointment but at the same time it’s a big opportunity for me and I am trying to make the best of it.”

“Getting the opportunity here has been really good and hopefully I can translate that into the pros,” added Lambert.

Guenther on the other hand, suited up in 33 games this season for the Coyotes compiling 15 points.

He and Prokop were both members of last year’s Edmonton Oil Kings club that defeated Seattle in the league final, punching their ticket to the Memorial Cup.

“It has been a lot. It all happened pretty quick. When you go to training camp you are focused on making the NHL. That is everyone’s dream. Getting sent down was tough but there is still work to be done and I haven’t had the opportunity to look back on it and see what has happened. Where we are right now has us in a good spot to do something special,” added Guenther.

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“I think when you know people it makes the transition that much easier and although I have played in the league for a while, I haven’t played on this side, never really playing against guys from PG or Kelowna but there are a lot of guys from the Edmonton area on Seattle so that helped.”

Wiebe was also a member of that Oil Kings team, he notched three goals and one assist in four games at the national championship.

Game four is set for tonight (Wednesday) at 7:00 pm from the CN Centre.

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