SEATTLE - The Seattle Thunderbirds advanced to the Western Hockey League's semifinal series after putting the Tri-City Americans on ice Saturday night in Key Arena.

The Ams fell 2-1 after T-Bird Denis Tolpeko put the puck just over the right shoulder of Tri-City goalie Carey Price with 7:07 left in the game.

Tri-City lost the best-of-7 series 4-1.

The Ams mounted several comeback attempts in the remaining minutes, but just couldn't clear the T-Birds front line and defense.

Finally with 46 seconds to go, the Ams pulled Price and put seven men up ice, but they still weren't able to get around the T-Birds defense and goalie Bryan Bridges.

Bridges said he and his teammates just did what they had to.

"When they pulled their goalie, it was do or die," Bridges said after the game. "I could feel the pressure. It was my job to keep the puck out of the net."

And keep the puck out he did.

The Ams took 27 shots on goal, but Bridges only gave one up. Across the ice, Seattle took 31 shots, and Price missed two.

T-Bird coach Rob Sumner said the last five games made for a good series, especially with two games going to overtime, one of which went to double OT.

"We got a few breaks," he said, adding the Ams are a "good team."

Looking back on Saturday's game, Sumner said the Ams had the T-Birds "on the ropes" after the second-period power play goal by Ian McDonald at 11:03. That shot put the Ams up 1-0.

"We were really, really bent," Sumner said.

At the end of two, the Ams led 1-0 and Sumner said T-Bird morale was down.

But things turned around in the third period after Bridges came up with some big saves.

" 'Bridgie' stepped in and gave us the chance to win," Sumner said.

Ladislav Scurko also stepped up, and with 11:59 to play, he tied the game, slipping the puck by Price.

Tolpeko sealed the Ams' fate with his over-the-shoulder shot.

The T-Birds have to wait and see who they will face in the semifinal match.


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