Dylan Guenther leads the Seattle Thunderbirds in the playoffs with 28 points (16 goals, 12 assists). COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Dylan Guenther leads the Seattle Thunderbirds in the playoffs with 28 points (16 goals, 12 assists). COURTESY PHOTO, Brian Liesse, Seattle Thunderbirds

Kent-based Thunderbirds target first Memorial Cup championship

Team travels to Kamloops to seek first Canadian Hockey League title

The Kent-based Seattle Thunderbirds will aim for their first Memorial Cup title May 27 to June 4, which would make them the champion of the 60-team Canadian Hockey League (CHL).

The T-Birds beat the Winnipeg Ice in a best-of-seven series last week to win the Western Hockey League (WHL) title and advance to the four-team, round-robin tournament at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, British Columbia. The tournament features the three champions from each of the CHL leagues and the host team.

Seattle opens against the Peterborough Petes, champion of the Ontario Hockey League, at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 27. The Kamloops Blazers, in the tournament as the host team, plays the Quebec Remparts, champion of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, at 6 p.m. on Friday, May 26.

“I couldn’t be more excited,” said Seattle general manager Bil La Forge, in an interview with WHL TV after the clinching win against Winnipeg, about playing in the Memorial Cup. “We’ve had some success there (against Kamloops), they are a great hockey club. All the champions that come are going to be tremendous challenges for us. We are ready to accept those challenges and to see if we can match them.”

Seattle plays its second game against Quebec at 6 p.m. Monday, May 29 and plays Kamloops at 6 p.m. Wednesday, May 31. A tiebreaker game, if necessary, will be at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 1. The semifinal game is at 7 p.m. Friday, June 2. The title game is set for 4 p.m. Sunday, June 4.

Seattle’s Jeremy Hanzel, who finished the series against Winnipeg with a team-leading seven points on three goals and four assists, likes the chances of the T-Birds, whose defensemen contributed 58 points (14 goals, 44 assists) in 19 playoff games.

“It’s an unbelievable group,” Hanzel said of his fellow defensemen. “From the top to the bottom, everyone knows how to play. Everyone is great at what they do and just a lot of trust among us.”

The T-Birds have never won the Memorial Cup. They lost all three games in the 2017 tournament and had a 1-3 record in 1992 when they hosted the Memorial Cup at the Seattle Coliseum. Kamloops won in 1992, including a semifinal win over the T-Birds. Seattle beat Kamloops this year in the WHL playoffs in six games.

Peterborough last appeared at the Memorial Cup in 2006 when it had a 1-3 record. The Petes won their only title in 1979. Quebec last took part in the event as hosts in 2015 when it compiled a 2-3 record. The original Remparts club won the Memorial Cup in 1971, a team led by future hockey Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur.

T-Birds extras

• Dylan Guenther leads the T-Birds in 19 playoff games with 28 points (16 goals, 12 assists), followed by Brad Lambert with 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) and Jared Davidson with 23 points (11 goals, 12 assists).

• Seattle has 10 players chosen in the NHL Draft. Six players could be drafted this June in the 2023 NHL Draft.

• Each game of the Memorial Cup will be broadcast on TSN in Canada as well as on NHL Network in the United States.

Memorial Cup schedule

Friday, May 26 Kamloops vs. Quebec, 6 p.m.

Saturday, May 27 T-Birds vs. Peterborough, 3 p.m.

Sunday, May 28 Kamloops vs. Peterborough, 3 p.m.

Monday, May 29 T-Birds vs. Quebec, 6 p.m.

Wednesday, May 31 Kamloops vs. T-Birds, 6 p.m.

Thursday, June 1 Tie-Breaker game, 6 p.m.*

Friday, June 2 Semifinal, 7 p.m.

Sunday, June 4 Final, 4 p.m.

* - if necessary

Thom Beuning, of the Seattle Thunderbirds, contributed to this article.

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