Kennewick, WA – The Seattle Thunderbirds (41-25-2-4, 88 pts.) jumped out to an early lead, scoring two power play goals in the first period, handing the Tri-City Americans (29-33-4-6, 68 pts.) a 6-1 loss to close out the 2013-14 regular season.
The Americans conclude the season with 29 wins and 68 points, good enough for the eighth seed in the Western Conference, setting up a first round matchup against the CHL leading Kelowna Rockets (57-11-0-4, 118 pts.) in the 2014 WHL Playoffs.
The Americans dug itself into an early hole, as Justin Gutierrez was assessed a minor for instigating a fight with Thunderbirds defenseman, Adam Henry. Seattle wasted little time, scoring with a Shea Theodore slap shot 17 seconds into the power play.
Alexander Delnov put the Thunderbirds up 2-0 after Beau McCue was whistled for a tripping penalty at 8:29. Delnov took the pass from Theodore and back handed it past Evan Sarthou for the power play marker.
Just 1:31 into the second period, the Americans would get back in the game when 15-year-old Morgan Geekie redirected Parker Wotherspoon’s point shot past Taran Kozun. It was the first WHL goal for the young forward, scoring in his first career game. The goal also gave the Americans momentum in the early stages of the period, narrowly missing on several occasions, as the team looked to tie the game at two.
But, the Thunderbirds took the momentum back, when Branden Troock was awarded a penalty shot at the 5:15 mark of the middle frame. His shot would hit the goal post to keep the score at 2-1, but just 1:02 later, Mitch Elliot deflected the centering feed from Keegan Kolesar past the Tri-City net minder, giving Seattle a 3-1 advantage.
Justin Hickman gave the Thunderbirds their first three-goal advantage at 11:51, streaking down the side boards and snapping a wrist shot off the far post and in, giving his team a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes of play.
Tri-City was unable to conjure up any more offense on the evening, registering just four shots on Kozun in the final 20 minutes of play.
Seattle would pull away with two goals in a span of 56 seconds, one off of a well-placed wrist shot by Theodore, ringing off the post and past Sarthou. Then, less than a minute later, a miscommunication behind the Americans’ net gave the puck to Troock with an empty net to shoot at.
The Americans best opportunity of the third period came at the 13:58 mark, when Parker Bowles was awarded a penalty shot. The 18-year-old attempted to slide the puck just inside the post, but Kozun slide across his crease to make the toe save.
The Americans begin its quest toward a WHL Championship in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarter Finals, Saturday March 22nd, when the team travels to Kelowna to take on the Rockets at Prospera Place. Fans can catch the action live, via WHL Live, at the Americans’ official home away from home, Kimo’s in Richland.
Jack In Box Three Stars
1) Shea Theodore, Seattle
2) Branden Troock, Seattle
3) Alexander Delnov, Seattle