(ISN) – KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds defeated the Tri-City Americans 7-3 Tuesday night. The T-Birds are now 35-25-4-5. The win extends Seattle’s lead on Spokane for third place in the U.S. Division to seven points. A win by Seattle or a loss by Spokane tomorrow will clinch third place for the T-Birds. Tri-City falls to 29-37-0-3 with the loss.
Taran Kozun stopped 21 of 24 shots for the T-Birds. Kozun is now 32-19-4-4 on the season. Tri-City’s Eric Comrie was in goal and made 31 saves on 37 shots, falling to 18-19-0-1.
Scott Eansor scored 13 seconds into the game to give Seattle a very early lead. Calvin Spencer was cutting behind the net when he found Eansor at the post. Eansor’s shot popped through Comrie’s pads as the goalie tried to squeeze his legs together. Nolan Volcan had the secondary assist on the T-Birds’ fastest opening goal of the season.
Richard Nejezchleb tied the game at 8:36. Parker Wotherspoon brought the puck up along the boards on the rush and centered the puck to Nejezchleb, who redirected it before the T-Bird defenseman covering him could get his stick on it.
Nejezchleb had another chance off the faceoff following the goal. Nejezchleb stole a pass between Seattle’s defensemen and raced to the net with no one but Kozun in front of him. Kozun followed Nejezchleb as the winger cut to the right and was able to get his leg on the shot before covering up.
Another Eansor goal made it 2-1 Seattle. This time, Spencer took the initial shot from higher in the slot when Volcan centered the puck. The rebound went straight to Eansor in front, who knocked it home at 9:27 to give him 13 goals on the season.
Shots were 11-7 Seattle in the first period.
Ethan Bear scored five minutes into the second, making it 3-1 T-Birds. Ryan Gropp stole the puck as Tri-City scrambled to get out of the zone. Bear took the pass from Gropp, deked between two defenders, and fired the puck through Comrie’s pads for the goal.
The Americans took another penalty seconds after their first of the game expired to put Seattle back up a man immediately. A shorthanded goal followed when Kozun left his net to break up an attack and was unable to handle the puck, leaving Beau McCue with an open net to shoot at and making it 3-2.
Justin Gutierrez tied it up at 18:46 while shorthanded. Lucas Nickles started the break and was quick enough to make it a two-on-two as Seattle’s defense rushed to react. Nickles’ pass to the front of the net found Gutierrez, who tapped it in for the goal.
Second period shots favored Seattle 10-9.
The T-Birds took back the lead when Roberts Lipsbergs scored at 6:15. Mathew Barzal carried the puck in and worked along the boards under heavy pressure to just behind the net. The puck dribbled out from a scrum of bodies there to Lipsbergs, who was able to skate across the crease without pressure and beat Comrie to make it 4-3. Bear had the secondary assist.
Despite playing shorthanded, Shea Theodore extended Seattle’s lead to 5-3 at 7:35. Theodore gathered the puck off the faceoff win by Eansor and worked all the way into the zone past all but one Tri-City skater. Theodore’s shot was a rocket past Comrie for his 12th goal this season.
At 13:36 Barzal found Lipsbergs for a sixth Seattle goal. Barzal faded toward the boards after bringing the puck up the slot before stopping in the faceoff dot. He immediately found Lipsbergs, who had stopped at the far side of the goal. Lipsbergs went top shelf over Comrie to extend the lead.
Eansor completed the hat trick with an empty net goal at 15:09. Volcan curved a pass beyond the reach of Tri-City’s retreating defense to Eansor, who only had to skate into the zone and toss it home for his third goal of the night. Volcan and Jerret Smith assisted.
Shots were 17-8 Seattle in the third period.
Seattle will travel to Kelowna to play the Rockets on Wednesday at 7:05 pm. After that, the T-Birds will be in Spokane on Friday to play the Chiefs at 7:05 pm. The final regular season home game of the season will be on Saturday against the Portland Winterhawks at 7:05 pm.
Tickets for the Seattle Thunderbirds first home game of the 2015 Playoffs are now on sale.
The T-Birds will face either the Portland Winterhawks or the Everett Silvertips in the first round of the playoffs.
Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 of the first round series will be played in either Everett or Portland. Games 3, 4 and 6 will be played at ShoWare Center.