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Defensive lapses send Thunderbirds to fourth straight loss

Seattle struggled defensively during its 6-4 loss to Prince Albert on Tuesday (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT –  The Thunderbirds found their offense on Tuesday but it wouldn’t be enough to avoid their fourth straight defeat.

Prince Albert’s Jordy Stallard scored with just over five minutes left in the game to break a 4-4 tie and lead the Raiders to a 6-4 win at the Accesso ShoWare Center. Nolan Volcan had two points for the Thunderbirds while Austin Strand scored his 10th goal of the year.

Defensive break downs allowed Prince Albert (9-7-3-0) to create golden scoring chances and it cost Seattle (9-8-1-1) the contest.

“You can’t give up the big plays, we talk about it all the time,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “It’s not like they’re hemming us in our own end the whole game. They’re big time lapses and Grade A chances that those goals were.”

Seattle had fought back to take a 4-3 lead with 20 minutes to go. The Raiders would tie it up 16 seconds into the third period when Curtis Miske banged home a puck from the side of the net. It tied the game at four and gave Prince Albert the momentum.

“Starts are huge,” Volcan said. “You get a goal first shift of any period it gives them a ton of momentum. It’s a tough pill to swallow.”

The Raiders would take the lead later in the period, at 14:48, when Stallard was left alone in front of the Seattle net for a back-door pass that goalie Matt Berlin had no chance at. Stallard tapped it in and the Raiders took the lead for good.

“We drifted up in the zone and weren’t aware there was a guy behind us. That can’t happen, it can’t happen,” O’Dette said of the game-winning goal. “Defensive lapses were obviously a problem tonight and they were coming from veteran defensemen. Its unacceptable right now.”

Seattle had its chances on Tuesday.

The Thunderbirds cashed in on two five-on-three power-play chances in the first period and ended the night 2-for-8 on the power play. They also scored a short-handed goal and an even-strength goal.

Finding a scoring touch on a night that they struggled in their own end was frustrating for the club.

“I thought we did a good job finding those goals,” O’Dette said. “You can’t do that at the expense of your defensive hockey and the D-zone. Letting guys get behind us on rushes and blown coverage, that should be a strength of ours, with our veteran D. It wasn’t tonight.”

Prince Albert cashed in on an early two-on-one chance at 5:11 of the first when Spencer Moe banged home a centering pass from Brett Leason for his fourth of the year.

The Thunderbirds got the equalizer on a five-on-three power-play chance when Strand beat Ian Scott with a wrister from the top of the circle at 8:27. It was the defenseman’s 10th goal and ninth power-play tally.

Strand’s goal tied the game and left Seattle with over a minute left on the power play. Unfortunately for the Thunderbirds, Leason would snap a shot past Matt Berlin while killing the penalty to give the Raiders the lead back at 9:31.

Parker Kelly would score on a shot through Berlin’s five-hole to extend the Raiders first-period lead at the 12-minute mark as the Thunderbirds found themselves in a first-period hole. Berlin would end the night with 26 saves.

In what quickly became a crazy first period, Seattle cut the lead to 3-2 on another five-on-three power-play chance at 14:53 when Zack Andrusiak ripped his eighth of the year from the circle.

Seattle tied the game 40 seconds into the second period with a short-handed marker of its own. After a Prince Albert turnover in the neutral zone, Volcan slipped the puck to Turner Ottenbreit just inside the blue line and the captain fired a slap shot past Scott for his fourth of the season.

Jarret Tyzska would pick up his first of the year at 14:14 of the second period after some slick stick handling through the Prince Albert defense. He slid it past Scott to give the Thunderbirds their first lead of the night at 4-3.

After taking the lead on Stallard’s marker in the third period, Miske would add another with 35 seconds left with the Seattle net empty.

“We’ve got to learn from it,” O’Dette said in summing up the game. “We’ve focused a lot on scoring goals but at the same time we’ve been talking about how nothing changes defensively. We’ve got to be as stingy as we can.”

Notes

• A year after only losing eight times in regulation at home, Seattle is off to a 3-6 home start. “The whole time I’ve been here this has been the toughest building to play in and right now its not like that,” Volcan said. “We’ve just got to realize what kind of team we are. We’re a grind it out team and on this little losing stretch, even in the Tri-City game, I thought we dominated them but gave up Grade A chances. We’ve got to eliminate those.”

• Donovan Neuls left the game in the second period after taking a slash to the hands. He returned for a few shifts in the third but his status for this coming weekend is still unknown. O’Dette said that Neuls had trouble gripping his stick when he returned so they were going to have to wait and see how he progressed.

• Scott made 26 saves to pick up his sixth win for the Raiders.

• Miske’s empty-net goal was a short-handed goal as Seattle was on the power play. It was the third short-handed marker on the night.