KENT – With just under six minutes left in Saturday night’s game with Victoria, the Seattle Thunderbirds seemed to be in control.
They had a two-goal lead over the Royals and had the advantage on the shot clock but before they knew it, Victoria would score twice to tie and go on to win in overtime on a short-handed goal.
Seattle was on the power play in overtime but got caught down the ice as Victoria’s Tyler Soy and Matthew Phillips were off on a two-on-one break. Goalie Liam Hughes made one save but the puck got back to Phillips who potted his second of the night to give the visiting Royals a 3-2 win in front of 5,356 at the accesso ShoWare Center.
“Our guys took the two-minute shift on the power play, which is unacceptable,” an upset Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “We didn’t have enough gas in the tank to defend. Its selfishness.”
The overtime winner wasn’t the only thing that had O’Dette frustrated.
With a 2-0 lead the Thunderbirds allowed Victoria (32-18-3-1) to get behind their defense twice late in the third period and it cost them.
“It’s unacceptable to let guys behind you there,” O’Dette said. “We know they like to fly the zone and that first goal we got caught and obviously that got the ball rolling for them. Big mistake there.”
It would be Phillips who struck first in the comeback as he picked up a long stretch pass and was behind the Seattle defensemen. The Calgary Flames prospect attacked the net and chipped in what would be his 37th of the year at the 14:43 mark.
Just over a minute later it was Jeff de Witt who was able to get in deep, crash the net, and knock in his 10th of the season.
In what felt like a blink of an eye, Seattle (26-18-5-2) saw its lead evaporate.
“They’re flying guys out of the zone and flipping pucks out and our D got beat, twice,” O’Dette said. “We know what they’re trying to do there. They’re going to push in the third. Can’t let guys behind you, plain and simple.”
It was the fourth straight home game that would be decided in overtime for Seattle and is the third loss in the last four games for the club.
The loss spoiled a 31-save performance for Hughes while his counterpart at the other end, Griffen Outhouse, turned away 38 Seattle bids. It would be Outhouse’s 28th win of the year and gives the Royals their ninth win in their last 11 contests.
Seattle started strong and took nine of the game’s first 12 shots. The Thunderbirds would cash in on that momentum when a Turner Ottenbreit shot was tipped in by Matthew Wedman on a power play. It would be the 12th of the season for Wedman and came at 8:25 of the first period.
The Thunderbirds would end the night 1-for-8 on the power play.
Austin Strand would extend the Thunderbirds lead in the second period when he cut across the Royals zone and potted his 17th of the year at 16:36.
Seattle generated a lot of shots but as it did in two November losses at Victoria, couldn’t get enough past Outhouse.
“We wanted to get more traffic in front of their net, not sure if we did that enough,” O’Dette said. “We could have cashed in on our power play. I know we got one but none after that. Then in overtime it’s frustrating.”
It would be a frustrating night all around for the Thunderbirds who end the season series with Victoria by losing all four. While the team picked up a point in the standings, it probably shouldn’t have come to that.
The schedule continues to be tough as Seattle will next play host to a hot Tri-City Americans squad on Tuesday night.
“We have to respond,” O’Dette said.
• O’Dette added a wrinkle to the Seattle power play by putting big Mike MacLean on one of his units. Standing at six-foot-six and 236 pounds, MacLean does make an effective screen. “Just simplifying a little bit,” O’Dette said. “Just trying to get pucks to the net and create some traffic. I thought he did some good things there.”
• The loss drops Seattle into a tie for Spokane at the bottom of both the U.S. Division and for the last Western Conference playoff spot.
• Ottenbreit’s assist gives him 31 points on the season which is one shy of his career high, set last year.
• Victoria’s Soy came into the game needing one goal to tie the franchise record for goals scored with 140. Ryan Howse holds the current mark which was set while the franchise was still in Chilliwack.