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Thunderbirds cruise past Blazers 6-1 to punch ticket to Memorial Cup semifinal

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — Kyle Crnkovic and Jared Davidson each had a goal and two assists for the Seattle Thunderbirds in Wednesday’s 6-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers to reach the Memorial Cup semifinal.

Lucas Ciona, Jordan Gustafson, Luke Prokop and Colton Dach also scored for the Western Hockey League champion T-Birds. 

Seattle starter Thomas Milic made 30 saves for the win.

Ryan Hofer scored the lone goal for the host Blazers with Dylan Ernst stopping 36 of 42 shots.

The winner of Thursday’s tiebreaker between the Blazers and the Ontario Hockey League’s Peterborough Petes will face Seattle in Friday’s semifinal.

Peterborough — after opening the tournament with two straight losses — staved off elimination with Tuesday’s 4-2 win over the Quebec Remparts.

The Quebec Remparts (2-1) have a bye to Sunday’s final after beating both Seattle and Kamloops.

Ciona opened the scoring for the Thunderbirds 4:02 into the first period.

The captain sent a lead pass from just inside the blue line to a streaking Davidson, who fired a backhand shot that was stopped, but not controlled, by Ernst. 

After a scramble in front, Ciona sniped the puck home for his second of the tournament.

A costly Seattle mistake led to Kamloops drawing even at 10:50.

Kevin Korchinski mishandled a pass and lost the puck to Daylan Kuefler as he looked to leave his own zone. 

Kuefler quickly dished it to Hofer, who wired the puck past Milic from the right faceoff circle for his second to the delight of the home crowd at Sandman Centre.

But Davidson put the Thunderbirds ahead with a power-play marker at 6:39 of the second period.

The Blazers defence had a lapse when Dylan Guenther found Davidson open with an up-ice stretch pass. Davidson drove in and fired the puck past Ernst from the left faceoff circle.

Just eight seconds later, the Thunderbirds capitalized on another Blazers’ gaffe.

Kamloops defenceman Aapo Sarell turned the puck over behind the net to Crnkovic, who fed Gustafson in front of the net to beat a sprawling Ernst for a 3-1 lead for Seattle.

Seattle outshot the Blazers 29-19 through a two heated periods with numerous skirmishes between the Western Hockey League foes.

Crnkovic padded the Thunderbirds’ lead at 5:33 of the third period. 

He scored his team-leading fourth goal of the tournament with a point shot that beat Ernst glove side.

Prokop made it a 5-1 just over a minute later. He scored from the slot on a pass Brad Lambert intended for Guenther.

Dach scored with 5:32 remaining in the game when he took a pass from Reid Schaefer from the right faceoff circle, took the puck around Ernst and tucked it in.


The Thunderbirds and Blazers split their four-game regular-season series and finished first and second in the Western Conference standings. The two met in the Western Conference championship series, with Seattle prevailing 4-2 in the best-of-seven matchup.

The Thunderbirds also ousted Kamloops in the 2022 conference final in seven games.

“It’s been a great little rivalry developed over the last couple of years,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after practice Wednesday. “They’re a great team, you know, I think they don’t get enough respect.

“We’re expecting a difficult game, you know, we’ve had very tough series’ against these guys.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2023.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press