Western Conference Playoff Race Going Down to the Wire

KENT, WA (ISN) – In a game that could have huge implications for the Victoria Royals and their quest for a playoff position, the Seattle Thunderbirds defeated the Spokane Chiefs 3-1 Tuesday night to move within one point of the Royals for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Thunderbirds (24-43-1-1) also have a game in hand on the Royals and are just two points behind the seventh place Everett Silvertips.

The T-Birds and Chiefs will renew acquaintances on Friday in Spokane at 7:05pm in a game that will be broadcast on Root Sports. The T-Birds play the Everett Silvertips on Saturday at ShoWare Center and then travel to Portland to face the Winterhawks in the last game of the season for both teams.

The last two games of the Royals season are against the Portland Winterhawks on Wednesday and Friday in Victoria.

The Silvertips finish the season with three road games. They are at Kelowna on Wednesday, at Tri-City on Friday and at ShoWare Center on Saturday.

The 10th place Prince George Cougars are still mathematically in the playoffs as they are two points behind the T-Birds with two games remaining on their schedule. The Cougars did their part to stay alive Tuesday, defeating Tri-City 5-4 in OT.

In Kent Tuesday, at 16:50 of the first, Spokane’s Steve Kuhn was awarded a penalty when he was tripped up on a breakaway. Kuhn tapped the puck forward from center ice to start the penalty shot but then over skated the puck and the puck stopped moving negating his chance to open the scoring.

Spokane (36-24-5-4) had an 11-7 advantage in shots on goal after one period of play.

The T-Birds got on the board at 11:58 of the second on a power-play goal by Connor Honey.

Seth Swenson took the puck into Chiefs zone on a three-on-two. Swenson passed the puck to Brendan Rouse in the right circle. Rouse sent the puck quickly across the slot to Honey at the bottom of the left circle. Honey had a wide open net to shoot at as Spokane goalie Mac Engel was lunging from left to right to try and make the save. Honey slammed the puck into the net for the go-ahead goal.

At 15:31 of the second, Seattle went up 2-0 on a power-play goal by Swenson. Brendan Rouse had the puck at the right circle and sent it to Shea Theodore at the top of the slot. Theodore slapped the puck towards the goal but Engel stopped it partially with his pad. The puck trickled behind Engel and Swenson swooped in from the right to tip it in on the right side of the net.

Spokane led Seattle 21-18 in shots after two periods.

Seattle made it 3-0 at 6:39 of the third on a power-play goal by Honey. Colin Jacobs took the puck into the left side of Chiefs zone and stopped at the top of the circle. Jacobs turned and centered it to Honey coming into the zone. Honey weaved the puck past a Chiefs defender in the slot and then chipped it up and over Engel’s blocker with a backhand shot.

Spokane cut Seattle’s lead to 3-1 at 8:08 of the third on a goal by Steve Kuhn. Corbin Baldwin and Collin Valcourt had the assists.

Spokane outshot Seattle 42-24 in the game.

Calvin Pickard saved 41 of Spokane’s 42 shots improving his record to 24-35-1-1.

Mac Engel saved 21 of Seattle’s 24 shots, bringing his record to 27-19-1-3.

T-Birds single game tickets for the 2011-12 season 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.