By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
The long wait to once again taste victory is finally over for the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Seattle ended more than six weeks worth of frustration when the T-birds topped the Kelowna Rockets 3-1 Sunday evening at ShoWare Center in Kent.
Seattle’s victory ended a 17-game losing streak. The last time the T-birds won was on Jan. 9, when they topped a Prince George Cougars team with the league’s worst record 4-1 at home.
The T-birds did not know where the losing streak stood in franchise history. It is easily the team’s longest losing streak since Everett began play in 2003.
The 17-game losing streak was the longest in the WHL this season, surpassing the 16-game skid by the Edmonton Oil Kings from Dec. 19-Jan. 30. It was well short of the league record for the longest losing streak, which is 32 by the Victoria Cougars in 1989-90.
Seattle’s losing streak was characterized by close losses. In eight of the 17 defeats the T-birds lost by a single goal. Five of the losses came in overtime. In total the T-birds were outscored 70-34 during the streak, which is an average score of 4-2. Only once during the streak was Seattle shut out.
Finally pulling one of the close ones out enabled Seattle to end the streak Sunday. The game was scoreless heading into the third period, then goals by 15-year-old Branden Troock — his first in the WHL — and Prab Rai gave Seattle a late 2-0 lead.
Kelowna made it a tense ending when Tyson Barrie scored with 3 minutes, 14 seconds remaining. But Rai scored into an empty net with 19 seconds remaining, allowing the T-birds to finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Seattle was also indebted to goaltender Calvin Pickard, who made 42 saves. The T-birds were outshot 43-23 in the contest.
The losing streak ensured the T-birds would not make the playoffs this season. Seattle hasn’t been mathematically eliminated yet, but it’s merely a formality. With 11 games remaining in the regular season Seattle can achieve a maximum of 63 points, and eighth-place Chilliwack is sitting on 60.
Around the WHL
The Regina Pats’ frustrations at possibly missing the playoffs this season came to a boil Friday during a 10-2 loss at Brandon. The game featured 172 penalty minutes combined between the two teams, and Brandon forward Mark Stone had to be helped from the ice after being goaded into a fight by Regina’s Colten Teubert. … Longtime Portland radio broadcaster Dean Vrooman, who was the radio voice of the Winterhawks for 25 years, returned to the booth for one game to broadcast Saturday’s home game against Kelowna. Vrooman filled in for Andy Kemper, who had a family commitment, and announced the game with his son, Todd, who is now the color commentator. … Spokane’s Mitch Wahl was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 19-year-old forward had two goals and six assists as the Chiefs went 4-0.
Points — Craig Cunningham (Vancouver) 89; goals — Kyle Beach (Spokane) 46; assists — Jordan Weal (Regina) 58; penalty minutes — Josh Caron (Kamloops) 171; wins — Drew Owsley (Tri-City) 33; goals against average — Kent Simpson (Everett) 2.39; save percentage — Thomas Heemskerk (Everett) .924.
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog