While in the midst of this first-ever playoff meeting between the Silvertips and Thunderbirds, it reminded me of the last time Seattle played their other rival in the playoffs, the Portland Winterhawks. It was way back in 2006 and Seattle had home ice. Back then, the WHL had a divisional playoff schedule so even though the Thunderbirds were 6th in Western Conference with a record of 35-31-1-5, they would have home ice as the 2nd seeded US Division team. Portland was 8th in the West at 32-32-3-5 but that was good enough for 3rd in the US division.
It had been 4 years since they had last faced off in the playoffs. In 2002, Seattle scored what was considered a major upset when they beat Portland in a 7 game classic. Seattle had finished 30 points behind Portland in the regular season standings and had given up the most goals of any team to make the playoffs that season. So there had to have been a little bit of revenge on the minds of the Winterhawk franchise going into the 2006 playoff matchup.
The teams were not very high scoring during their respective seasons; neither placed anyone in the top 15 in league scoring. Brandon Dubinsky of the Winterhawks was the highest scorer between the two teams with 21G 46A 67P in just 51 games. The highest scoring Thunderbirds were Aaron Gagnon (24G 21A 45P) and Kyle Pess (20G 25A 45P) although half of his points came while he was Lethbridge that season.
You could say that the TBirds might be the favorite as they had won the season series 8-4. In those 12 games, however, 3 were decided in overtime and 2 more went to a shootout. So it was a lot closer than the series record would indicate.
- Seattle 4 Portland 5 (OT)
- Portland 1 Seattle 3
- Seattle 3 Portland 2 (OT)
- Portland 2 Seattle 3 (SO)
- Portland 2 Seattle 4
- Seattle 3 Portland 6
- Seattle 4 Portland 3 (OT)
- Seattle 9 Portland 1
- Portland 2 Seattle 6
- Portland 6 Seattle 5 (SO)
- Portland 1 Seattle 4
- Seattle 2 Portland 3
Game 1 didn’t start out well for Seattle. Clayton Barthel took a penalty about 5 minutes into the first period and that led to a Dubinsky goal and an early Portland lead. However, Chris Durand would score 2 for Seattle, both on the PP, to give the TBirds the advantage with about 8 minutes left. Kyle Bailey, who will figure large into the outcome of the series, tallied late for Portland and teams ended the first period tied at 2.
After a quick Gagnon 5-on-3 PP goal to start the 2nd, it was all Winterhawks. Michael Sauer scored 2 with a Jannik Hansen goal in between and that made it 5-3 Portland not even halfway through the second period. It looked like Portland was going to run away with it. A Scott Jackson goal with 6 minutes left cut the deficit to one and that’s how the period ended.
Seattle tied it quickly into the 3rd with Pess scoring just 78 seconds in. Bud Holloway added 2 about 10 minutes apart and Chris Durand netted the hat trick on the power play with a little over a minute to go. The Thunderbirds, after being down 5-3, had scored 5 goals in a row and ran the Winterhawks out of the building with a final of 8-5.
Penalties played a large part in the game. Portland took 16 penalties for 85 minutes. 3 of those were 10 minute misconducts as the Winterhawks were frustrated with some of the calls being made by the referee. Seattle got 10 power plays out of it and converted on 4 of them, easily the reason that the TBirds won the game.
Stats-wise, Durand was the best player on the ice. He ended up with 3G and 1A. Bretton Stamler chipped in 3A and Tyler Johnson also had 3A. Bryan Bridges made 32 saves on 37 Portland shots for the win. On the Portland side, Sauer finished with 2G 1A and both Bailey and Dubinsky had 1G 2A. Kurtis Mucha took the loss stopping 30 of Seattle’s 38 shots.
Having dug through the TBird Tidbits archives, I was able to uncover coverage of that 2006 series between the Winterhawks and Thunderbirds. I am happy to present game 1 of that series played on March 24, 2006 at KeyArena. Next week, we will find out what happened in this rivalry playoff series.
Audio is from the Portland broadcast and is presented without edits. Dean “Scooter” Vrooman and Andy Kemper are on commentary with John Kirby down at ice level.
All audio rights belong to the Portland Winterhawks, KUFO 970AM Portland, DSL Northwest and any other rights holders. No claim is made by this author and the audio is being presented as archival and historical footage.