For most of the 68-game Western Hockey League regular season, the Portland Winterhawks were solidly in position to hold home ice advantage for the first round of the playoffs.
But on the final night of the regular season, home ice slipped away.
The Seattle Thunderbirds scored two third-period goals and beat Portland 6-5 on Sunday in front of 8,862 fans at Memorial Coliseum.
By beating the Hawks for the second consecutive night, the Thunderbirds allowed Spokane to finish second in the U.S. Division, one point in front of Portland.
As the third-place team in the division, the Winterhawks will open the playoffs with games on Friday and Saturday at Spokane.
Games 3 and 4 will be at 7 p.m. on March 26 and March 27 at Memorial Coliseum.
Game 6, if needed, will be on April 1 at Memorial Coliseum.
The Winterhawks finished the regular season 40-22-3-3 (86 points). Spokane (40-21-2-5, 87).
Seattle, which enters the playoffs as the final wild-card team, finished fifth in the division at 31-29-6-2 (70).
The one bright spot for the Winterhawks on Sunday was Joachim Blichfeld winning the WHL scoring title with 114 points. His assist on a Jared Freadrich goal with 1.1 seconds left pushed him one point ahead of Moose Jaw's Tristan Langan.
Langan finished his season on Saturday, scoring two goals and adding an assist to pull even with Blichfeld for points and goals. Blichfeld and Langan share the goals title with 53 apiece.
The Winterhawks announced that star forward Cody Glass has been rehabilitating his injured knee in Las Vegas, but will return to Portland for the playoffs. Winterhawks VP/GM/coach Mike Johnston did not elaborate on Glass' availability, continuing to describe Glass and defenseman John Ludvig as "day to day" entering the playoffs.
Portland led 4-3 after a wild first period, but didn't score again until Frederich's slap shot from the blue line beat Seattle goalie Cole Schweibus.
Blichfeld is the seventh Winterhawks player to win a WHL scoring title.
Early on, it looked like Portland would lock up home ice with ease against a Seattle squad that rested four of its top scorers. The Hawks took advantage of an early five-on-three power play and Reece Newkirk scored from in tight 1:13 into the game.
Jake Gricius made the score 2-0 at 5:35 of the first period.
But Seattle got goals from Jared Davidson, Kai Uchacz and Simon Kubicek to lead 3-2.
Clay Hanus and Seth Jarvis scored 54 seconds apart late in the period to make the score 4-3 Hawks.
But Seattle again scored the next three goals. Brecon Wood tallied the only goal of the second peirod to send the teams to the third period tied at 4-4.
Sean Richards put the visitors up 5-4 5:30 into the third period with a power-play goal, and Jarret Tyszka scored on an odd-man rush to give Seattle a 6-4 lead with 12 minutes left.
Joel Hofer made 27 saves in the loss for Portland. Schwebius made 40 saves.
Portland went 2 for 4 on the power play, including the Freadrich goal with one second remaining.
Seattle went 2 for 3 with the man advantage.
• The Winterhawks announced their team awards before Sunday's game. Blichfeld was voted team MVP by his teammates. Glass, who was not at the game, won the fan favorite award and shared the award for character, leadership, heart and soul with Gricius. Jarvis was named the team's rookie of the year. Freadrich was given the award for character and ability, and Ludvig was named defenseman of the year.
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