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Thunderbirds Strike Early and Often to Win Game 3 of 2023 WHL Championship Series Presented by Nutrien

May 17, 2023 - Western Hockey League (WHL) News Release

Kent, Wash. - The Seattle Thunderbirds scored three goals in a span of 45 seconds on their way to a 6-3 victory in Game 3 of the 2023 WHL Championship Series presented by Nutrien, taking a 2-1 series lead over the Winnipeg ICE Tuesday at accesso ShoWare Center.

A 45-second window in the first period saw the Thunderbirds take the lead for good as defenceman Jeremy Hanzel (Coquitlam, B.C.), Winnipeg Jets prospect Brad Lambert (Lahti, Finland), and Montreal Canadiens prospect Jared Davidson (Edmonton, Alta.) all found the back of the net to give Seattle a commanding 4-1 advantage.

"It was a good start," said Dylan Guenther (Edmonton, Alta.), prospect of the Arizona Coyotes. "Our crowd is really good, so that helps us get into it. We had a really good shift, tried to get on our path early and we did a good job of that tonight."

While Seattle eventually took over the game, that fate wasn't obvious from the first puck drop.

With electricity pumping through the crowd of 5,505 at the accesso ShoWare Center, Game 3 got off to a wild start, as seen on TSN.

A mere 25 seconds into the affair, veteran forward Kyle Crnkovic (Chestermere, Alta.) scored his fifth goal of the post-season to give the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead, sending fans into a frenzy.

The home crowd was quelled moments later as Ottawa Senators prospect Carson Latimer (Surrey, B.C.) took a two-on-one pass from Arizona Coyotes prospect Conor Geekie (Strathclair, Man.) and converted to tie the game 1-1 only 62 seconds after Seattle had jumped out to the early lead.

If that wasn't enough excitement to start Game 3, Buffalo Sabres prospect Matthew Savoie (St. Albert, Alta.) broke in alone on Thunderbirds goaltender Thomas Milic 3:25 into the first period. Facing a point-blank opportunity, Milic (Coquitlam, B.C.) was up to the task, stonewalling Savoie and preventing the ICE from taking a lead.

"We're happy with the win," said Matt O'Dette, Head Coach of the Thunderbirds. "A very fast-paced start to the game for both teams, up and down the ice quickly. We did a good job the first shift getting one and getting the crowd into it. [The ICE] responded right away and we responded right back, so I really liked our first period.

"It was an emotional game and we carried that through the final 40 [minutes]."

Milic's save on Savoie helped harness some emotion for Seattle and ultimately led to an offensive outburst for the hosts and the turning point of Game 3.

On the strength of a power-play opportunity, Hanzel let rip from the point to restore the Seattle lead, making it a 2-1 game.

Only 23 seconds later, Lambert broke in all alone and beat ICE goaltender Daniel Hauser to make it a 3-1 contest.

If that wasn't enough, Davidson piled on, scoring his 11th goal of the 2023 WHL Playoffs to make it a 4-1 lead for the Thunderbirds. Over a span of 45 seconds, Hanzel, Lambert, and Davidson had turned a 1-1 game into a commanding 4-1 advantage for the home side.

"When you get behind the way we did, three quick goals in less than a two-minute span, it was a tough hill to climb," said James Patrick, Head Coach of the ICE. "If I look at the first two games of the series, I've been happy with how we have defended the rush, defended in the D-zone, and we didn't do those things good enough today.

"When we got down 2-1, it was like we wanted to make it up in one shift. We started gambling."

With 11:51 to go in the second period, Guenther extended the Thunderbirds lead to 5-1. With the ICE serving a penalty for too many men on the ice, Guenther deposited a rebound past a helpless Hauser. The goal was Guenther's 15th of the 2023 WHL Playoffs.

The ICE made the most of some four-on-four hockey with 6:18 remaining in the second period. Minnesota Wild prospect Carson Lambos (Winnipeg, Man.) and Savoie came together to set up 2023 NHL Draft prospect Zach Benson (Chilliwack, B.C.) at the backdoor, making it a 5-2 game before the second period came to a close.

Hanzel restored the four-goal lead for the Thunderbirds with 1:35 to go in the second period, sending another blast from the point to the back of the net to make it 6-2. When the final buzzer sounded, the three-year veteran Hanzel finished with a game-high three points (2G-1A) to earn first-star honours.

The third period saw Winnipeg once again close the gap as Ottawa Senators prospect Zack Ostapchuk redirected a pass in tight to convert on a power play for the ICE. That made it 6-3 with 7:48 remaining in regulation.

"They're a pretty quick team," Geekie said of the Thunderbirds. "I think we match up well. We have our own unique traits - both teams - but it's going to be a hard battle. We didn't come in here expecting it to be easy. I think we're a really good team with adversity, we have a lot of really good character on our team. They play with some space and they work hard, we just have to match that."

When all was said and done, Milic backstopped the Thunderbirds to their second victory in the 2023 WHL Championship Series presented by Nutrien, turning aside 35 of 38 shots.

At the opposite end of the rink, Hauser allowed six goals on 22 shots and was pulled from the game after 40 minutes of play. San Jose Sharks prospect Mason Beaupit (Surrey, B.C.) came on in relief and stopped all 11 of the shots he faced during the third period of play.

The Thunderbirds and ICE resume the 2023 WHL Championship Series presented by Nutrien Wednesday, May 17 with Game 4 at accesso ShoWare Center (7:05 p.m. PT, TSN, Fox13+ - Seattle area, WHL Live - United States and International).

Notes: The Thunderbirds finished 2-for-3 on the power play ... The ICE went 1-for-4 on the man advantage ... Seattle controlled the faceoff circle, winning 60 per cent of the draws (36/60), led by Davidson who was good on an impressive 81 per cent of his faceoff attempts (13/16) ... 12 different Thunderbirds hit the scoresheet by registering at least one point during Game 3 ... With two more points, Guenther finds himself in the midst of a three-game point streak to start the 2023 WHL Championship Series, having recorded five points (1G-4A) ... Geekie recorded a game-high six shots on goal ... Game 3 marked the first time in 59 appearances throughout 2022-23 campaign (regular season and playoffs) Hauser has allowed more than four goals in a game ... While the Thunderbirds three goals in 45 seconds was impressive, it didn't quite match the WHL record for fastest three goals by a single team in a WHL Playoff game. That record was set April 19, 1970 when the Winnipeg Jets of the WHL scored three times in 26 seconds against the Flin Flon Bombers. Henry Boucha, Brian Howe, and Jim Hargreaves all found the back of the net from 18:50 to 19:16 of the first period in an eventual 10-1 win for Winnipeg ...

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