The third period has been a struggle for the Seattle Thunderbirds this year, and Tuesday night in Vancouver it cost them a point in the standings.
Seattle gave up a game-tying goal to the Vancouver Giants with just over a minute left and would lose 4-3 when Tyler Benson scored in overtime. The Thunderbirds never trailed during the game at the Langley Events Centre but would be outscored 2-1 in the third period by the Giants as they dropped their third straight game.
Ty Ronning tied the game for Vancouver (11-12-2-2) to set up the Benson winner as once again, Seattle (11-11-2-1) came up short in a game it had the advantage in shots and chances.
“That’s a game that we should have had,” Seattle coach Matt O’Dette said. “As a whole we didn’t play as well as we had been. We weren’t sharp enough, we didn’t find a way to execute plays, and right now we’re not closing games out.”
Seattle’s Jarret Tyszka and Noah Philp each had a goal and an assist while Matt Berlin stopped 22 shots in the defeat. Special teams were also key, as the Giants were 2-for-3 on the power play while the Thunderbirds were 0-for-4 on the night.
“The power play wasn’t sharp again tonight,” O’Dette said of his power-play unit that is 1-for-16 in the last three losses. “We had some opportunities to get a goal on the power play and we weren’t sharp tonight, didn’t execute our plan.”
The big blow came on Ronning’s goal to tie the game and send it to overtime. Seattle took a late penalty and the Giants pulled goalie Todd Scott to make it a 6-on-4 advantage. The Giants buzzed the net, forcing Berlin to make several big saves but he was unable to make the last one, as Ronning found the puck and scored at 18:34 of the third. It was the Giants’ star’s 25th goal of the season and made the score 3-3.
“We didn’t stay tight enough in the house area,” O’Dette said. “We got extended on the outside and they out-numbered us at the net. I think we were a little too aggressive on the puck in the corner.”
In overtime, Benson picked up the puck in the neutral zone and weaved into the Seattle zone before firing a wrist shot at 3:33 of the extra frame that beat Berlin and send the Giants bench on to the ice to celebrate.
Seattle took a 1-0 lead at 1:42 of the game when Tyszka kept the puck in the Vancouver zone and flung it to Zack Andrusiak in front of the net. Andrusiak had time, moved the puck to his backhand and slid his 12th marker of the season under Scott.
As it has at times this season, a turnover would cost the Thunderbirds and allow Vancouver to tie the game at 10:52 of the opening period. Aidan Barfoot was able to cash in as he knocked a loose puck past Berlin for his second.
Playing in his home town rink, Tyszka would give the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead 8:33 into the second period when he flipped a backhand past Scott for his third of the season.
The Thunderbirds entered the third period with a lead but Vancouver squared the game again at 5:24 of the third period when Milos Roman would redirect a crossing pass on the power play.
Seattle would respond to that goal however, as Philp snapped a shot from the high slot for his fifth at 8:34. That made it 3-2 but the Thunderbirds could not find that insurance goal — something that has eluded them at times this season.
They had their chances, but once again, couldn’t cash in on the opportunities they created and lost another game in the third period.
“I think it’s a mental thing,” O’Dette said about the third period struggles. “Guys are thinking about what might happen negatively, instead of going and playing with confidence to make good things going. I think it’s something that’s in the back of our head’s right now, we have to correct it.”
That allowed Vancouver to score the two late goals and skate away with the victory. The Thunderbirds will stay on the road now and move on to take on the Kamloops Blazers Wednesday night.
Seattle had a frustrating weekend in Victoria where it played well but didn’t get rewarded and lost a winnable game Tuesday night in Vancouver. The Thunderbirds will now look to right the ship Wednesday.
“We felt good about the way that we were playing,” O’Dette said about coming off the weekend. “I think we weren’t at that level tonight, we weren’t sharp enough. That was a winnable game and we didn’t play well enough.”
• There was some good news in T-Bird land as Monday it was announced that Austin Strand had signed a three-year entry level contract with the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings. Strand leads the T-Birds in scoring with 26 points.
• Seattle sent defenseman Cade McNelly back to Fort Saskatchewan Rangers on Tuesday. He had played in 12 games with the Thunderbirds without registering a point.
• Donovan Neuls had his seven-game point streak snapped on Tuesday.
• Philp has goals in two consecutive games to go with a five-game point streak that has seen him pick up six points in total.