For the third time in four games, the Thunderbirds would be done in by a late goal.
Wednesday night in Kamloops it would be with 29 seconds left as the Blazers’ Jermaine Loewen raced around the Seattle defense to pick up the game-winner and send Seattle to its fourth straight defeat, this time by a 4-3 score.
The Thunderbirds had fought back to erase an early 3-1 deficit but once again were done in by late game mistakes.
“I like how our guys battled back and responded,” Seattle coach Matt O’Dette said. “We went down and tied the game so we showed some character. Just right now our guys are obviously deflated and disappointed in the room.”
Dillon Hamaliuk had brought Seattle (11-12-2-1) back when he got behind the defense at 2:17 of the third period and beat Dylan Ferguson to tie the game at three. It was the second of two unanswered goals for the Thunderbirds and it looked like they had solved their third-period struggles, for at least one night.
It would not be however, as Loewen’s speed got him around the defense and in on Dorrin Luding where he swept in his 12th of the year to give Kamloops (12-13-0-0) it’s fifth win in a row.
“I don’t have an answer to explain it,” O’Dette said about the third period struggles. “It’s like Murphy’ Law right now for us and we’re not getting any bounces to go our way. But, we’ve got to make our own luck and we’ve got to find a way to soldier on here.”
Seattle cashed in on a chance 1:29 into the game after Nolan Volcan walked the puck in front of the Blazers net and started banging away. He was joined by Sami Moilanen, who found the loose puck and flung it past Kamloops’ goalie Dylan Ferguson for his team-leading 14th goal.
That would be the end of the good feelings for Seattle in the first period.
The Blazers would tie the game at 7:58 when Garret Pilon wired a shot past Luding for his 13th marker.
Pilon would set up Kamloops again after a strong rush deep into the Seattle end. He worked the puck to the point where Joe Gatenby’s point shot was deflected in by Carson Denomie at 11:08. Just 58 seconds later, the Blazers made it 3-1 on a screened point shot from Ondrej Vala.
It was a four-minute stretch that saw the Blazers crash the net, get traffic on Luding, and score three goals.
“They kind of beat us at our own game there,” O’Dette said about the first period.
Down two goals, the Thunderbirds got their feet under them again in the second period and would cut the lead. At 2:04 of the second, Donovan Neuls drove to the side of the net and sent the puck in front where big Tyler Carpendale was parked. The rookie winger got his stick on the puck and would score his first WHL goal to pull his team to within one.
After Hamaliuk tied it on a third-period power play, the game appeared to be heading into overtime and the Thunderbirds were looking at least picking up a big road point. Instead, they climb back on their bus trying to figure out how another one got away from them late.
“It’s frustrating, our play isn’t being rewarded,” O’Dette said. “I think we’re still waiting for bad things to happen instead of making things happen.”
The silver lining may be that the Thunderbirds have been in all four of the losses on their current road trip. All four were one-goal games and they created opportunities in all of them. They’ll now have to find a way to fight through a tough stretch, and may have to lean on their veterans to do so.
“They’ve been through adversity,” O’Dette said of his leadership group. “They have experience. We lean on these guys a lot and they have to show the way for the younger guys.”
• Wednesday’s game was the seventh straight one-goal game that Kamloops and Seattle have played.
• Seattle got a power-play goal when Hamaliuk scored, which was a good sign after struggling with the man advantage. The Thunderbirds were 1-for-4 on the night.
• Luding made 31 saves in his second start with the T-Birds and picked up an assist on Hamaliuk’s goal. It was the first point in his WHL career.
• The Blazers got off to a franchise worst 0-9 start to the year but have found their stride. Since then, they are 12-4 and have climbed back into the early season playoff race.