KENT – For the second time in a week, the Thunderbirds were done in by Kamloops forward Jermaine Loewen.
Last Wednesday he scored with just 29 seconds left in the game to beat Seattle. Saturday it would be earlier in the third as his goal with just over eight minutes left to play put the Kamloops Blazers ahead for good on their way to a 2-1 win at the ShoWare Center. Seattle got a goal from Dillon Hamaliuk but could not generate any more offense.
It would be another loss late in a close game for the Thunderbirds, who were playing their fourth game in five nights.
“Honestly, if I knew I’d tell you but I don’t have an answer for you,” Captain Turner Ottenbreit said about his team’s third period struggles. “In Victoria, it started there and obviously again tonight. I don’t know what it is, but it seems like we’re not ready to play in the third period…its obviously not ideal.”
After playing Kamloops (13-14-0-0) even through 40 minutes, Seattle (12-13-2-1) would get outshot 12-7 in the third and surrender yet another late, game-winning goal.
“We didn’t have a lot of juice left in the third,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “I thought that if we played with a little more efficiency throughout the game we would have a little more energy. We didn’t.”
Loewen’s goal started on a play that looked innocent enough.
The Blazers had the puck but took advantage of some confusion in the neutral zone that sprung the big Blazers’ forward in on goalie Matt Berlin alone.
“Bad read on that line rush,” O’Dette said about the play. “(Austin) Strand came across, we had numbers on that rush and Strand came across to pressure them and that created some confusion with our defense. Bad read there.”
Berlin would end the night with 30 saves and played well, but didn’t get any offensive support.
Both teams were playing for the second straight night and at times on Saturday it showed as neither were able to grab momentum.
Seattle’s struggling power-play entered the game in a 2-for-26 funk but after missing on a shortened attempt would get a goal late in the first period. It came off the stick of Hamaliuk at 17:43 when he blasted a one-timer from the face off circle past Max Palaga for his fourth of the season.
The Blazers would strike back early in the second period after a turnover in the neutral zone.
Seattle thought that a penalty should have been called on the play to free up the puck but no call came. That allowed Brodi Stuart to pick the puck up, rush into the Thunderbirds zone, and score his seventh of the year at 6:17.
The Thunderbirds were officially 1-for-5 Saturday night on the power play but at least four of their attempts were truncated due to other penalties.
“At the very least we should be able to get some momentum from them,” O’Dette said. “We were rushing things with the puck and not getting in our sets.”
It’s been a hard stretch of six games for the Thunderbirds, one that saw them lose five games by one-goal, all scored in the third period.
The young team will have to find a way to fight through adversity and grind out some wins, starting Tuesday night when they host the Saskatoon Blades.
“It’s tough when you’re not scoring goals,” Ottenbreit said. “It’s just coming to play every night and play a full 60 minutes. Be willing to grind it out there and not being complacent with either not getting it in, or getting it out. Come ready and don’t take anything for granted.”
• Saturday was the eighth straight game that Kamloops and Seattle have played that was decided by one goal.
• While its still early in the season, these two teams are separated by one point in the Western Conference wild card standings. Seattle has a one-point lead but the Blazers have a game in hand.
• Sami Moilanen played again on Saturday with a full cage due to taking a high stick on Friday night that cost him some teeth.
• Hamaliuk’s goal was a good sign for the rookie forward. He has been generating chances each night but has struggled to finish. The goal Saturday was his second in his last three games.