VICTORIA, British Columbia – The late goal, the big play, or the missed opportunity. However its best labeled, it cost the Thunderbirds Friday night in Victoria.
After dominating most of the game at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena, the Thunderbirds allowed two goals in the final three minutes to drop a frustrating 4-3 decision to the Victoria Royals.
First, they allowed the game to be tied at 17:55 of the third when Igor Martynov won a puck battle behind the Seattle net and scored on a wrap around. Seattle still looked like it was going to earn a point by steering the contest into overtime but a misplay in the neutral zone freed up Victoria’s Jared Legien. He walked in on the Thunderbirds goal alone, got Matt Berlin down and slid the puck between the goalie’s legs with just 18 ticks left on the clock.
“I’m kind of speechless right now,” a frustrated Matt O’Dette said after.
Martynov scored twice in the win while Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse was spectacular. He kept the Royals in the game by making 43 saves as Victoria (17-8-1-0) was on its heels for most of the game and got outshot 46-23.
That shot disparity was thanks to Seattle (11-10-1-1) controlling the puck and crashing the net all night long. It’s what made the outcome all the more frustrating.
“We’ve talked about these games and having composure in the third,” O’Dette said. “Especially on the road, sometimes you have to play it safe there. I mean one line can’t give up a breakaway at that point.”
One did however, and a valiant effort from the Thunderbirds was wasted. Seattle got goals from four different players and tilted the ice for the majority of the night
Seattle started Friday’s game with a lot of energy and took the first six shots of the game. The last of those attempts would find the net at 5:04 when Sami Moilanen tipped a shot from defenseman Turner Ottenbreit past Outhouse.
The Royals responded however, and evened the contest at 6:39 when Berlin got a piece of a Martynov shot but couldn’t quite corral it.
Zack Andrusiak continued his hot play of late at 11:34 when he put back his own missed shot to make it 2-1 for Seattle. It was Andrusiak’s 11th of the year and third in two games.
Victoria began to chip away at the momentum in the second period and did so with the speed of Matthew Phillips. The Calgary Flames prospect drew a penalty midway through the middle frame with a nice stick-handling play through the Seattle zone. He would then convert on the power play at 9:44 when he scored his 20th of the year off a scramble play in front of the Seattle net.
As it did Wednesday night in a win against Regina, Seattle responded.
With just 34 seconds left in the period the Thunderbirds crashed the net with both Dillon Hamaliuk and Donovan Neuls banging away. It would be Neuls who would find the puck and slide it past Outhouse for his sixth score and second in as many games.
The goal would send Seattle to its dressing room after 40 minutes with a 3-2 lead.
Up a goal, the Thunderbirds would continue to take the play to Victoria but either Outhouse would make a save, or Seattle would just miss a chance. It kept the Royals hanging around until the final three minutes.
“I thought this third period was going fine,” O’Dette said. “We were creating all kinds of chances, we give up the big play. They had us hemmed in on the tying goal, but the big play at the end there. Bottom line you can’t give up that play.”
Not only did Seattle not capitalize on its third period five-on-five chances, but it missed on all five power-play opportunities earned during the evening. Outhouse was at his best when the Thunderbirds were on the power play, making some of his toughest saves of the evening.
“The goalie played well, he made some big saves,” O’Dette said. “Our goals were going to the net and getting greasy, finding rebounds. He made a couple of huge desperation saves.”
After a tough loss, the Thunderbirds will get a chance to get right back on the horse as they will play the Royals again on Saturday night. After the way Friday’s game played out, their mission is clear.
“Play the full 60,” O’Dette said. “I mean you’ve got to play 60, not 58. Not many adjustments need to be made, we generated a ton of chances. Obviously, we’d like to cash more in.”
• Berlin went the distance for Seattle in net, stopping 19 of the 23 shots he saw.
• Newly acquired goaltender Dorrin Luding was in uniform as the back up after meeting the team at the Victoria Ferry terminal Thursday.
• Seattle’s third goal was officially awarded to Hamaliuk but the replays clearly showed that it was Neuls who should get credit. Look for a correction to be made.
• Neuls also added an assist on Friday to extend his point streak to six games.