KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds offensive struggles continued Saturday night as they hosted their rivals from Portland.
Cody Glass scored a power-play goal seven seconds into the second period, giving the Winterhawks momentum that they rode to score two more times in the middle frame.
Seattle was unable to overcome the period, couldn’t get its offensive game going, and would end up dropping a 4-1 decision at the accesso ShoWare Center.
“Obviously that goal at the start of the second isn’t how we wanted to start the second there,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “It kind of deflated us for the first half of that period and bang, bang, bang, it’s 3-0. We felt sorry for ourselves a little bit there and we snapped out of it in the third and pushed back but it was too little, too late.”
The goal by Glass extended his point streak to nine straight games and Portland (33-18-1-3) was also paced by a goal and an assist from both Ryan Hughes and Keoni Texeira.
Seattle’s lone goal came off the stick of Graeme Bryks, who had just been recalled to the team. It was his first WHL marker and was the only offense the Thunderbirds generated on the evening.
Goal scoring continues to be a problem for the Thunderbirds.
In its last seven games, Seattle (27-19-6-2) has been credited with 10 goals but two of those were goals given to them for a shootout win. The four games prior to that, Seattle was averaging over six scores per game.
“It’s tough to put a finger on it,” O’Dette said of the offensive struggles. “We don’t’ have a high-flying team as it is and we have to rely on our work ethic and grittiness. Sometimes the pucks go in and we rely on capitalizing on rebounds and bounces and sometimes they’re going in and sometimes not.”
The night was made tougher for Seattle as it lost leading goal-scorer Nolan Volcan in the second period.
Parked in front of the net, Volcan was struck up high with a slap shot and dropped to the ice in discomfort. He was taken to the Seattle dressing room but did not return. The Thunderbirds are already playing without 19-goal scorer Sami Moilanen and saw their depth take another hit on Saturday.
“When we’ve got everyone in our lineup we do have some decent depth,” O’Dette said. “But we are relying on some young guys right now so if one of our key guys goes down, the depth really takes a hit.”
After a scoreless first period, the Winterhawks struck early in the second. Finishing a power play that started at the end of the previous period, Glass would bang home a pass from Dennis Cholowski just seven seconds into the period.
That goal gave Portland the momentum.
“They caught us on a set play off the faceoff there,” O’Dette said of the play.
The Winterhawks would add to their lead at 8:37 when Hughes spun around the Seattle zone before feeding Texeira. The big defenseman fired a wrist shot past Liam Hughes from the faceoff circle for his eighth goal of the season.
Another power play would extend the lead as Texeira and Hughes teamed up again. This time it would be Hughes who blasted a one-timer for his 10th of the year to give Portland a commanding three-goal lead.
After having a strong string of games killing penalties coming into Saturday, the Thunderbirds would give up one and another just as the penalty ended.
“On the second PK, Hughes got preoccupied with the guy in front of the net and wasn’t quite ready for the shot,” O’Dette said. “Our PK has been good and is a staple of our game and in order to beat these guys, you have to be good on the PK.”
The Thunderbirds played a stronger third period and cut the lead to 3-1 as Bryks scored while flying down the wing on a rush. That was as close as the Thunderbirds would get however and Sklyer McKenzie would end all doubt when he scored a late, empty-net tally.
Seattle will complete its busy weekend with a rematch with the Winterhawks Sunday in Portland. O’Dette hopes that his team comes out with more energy and emotion — something he didn’t think there was enough of on Saturday.
“That was one of our keys tonight, to come back out and be physical with a lot of energy,” he said. “I thought our first was good but it definitely went away when they scored that second goal. We kind of deflated a bit and that needs to be there.”
• Liam Hughes started in net for Seattle and stopped 24 of 27 shots. Cole Kehler backstopped the Winterhawks and kicked out 28 Seattle bids.
• O’Dette wasn’t willing to commit on a goalie for Sunday but said that the team would assess. If Hughes gets the nod, it will be the third straight start on the weekend. That could mean that Dorrin Luding will get the call.
• Bryks was recalled from the Spruce Grove Saints where he had recorded 11 goals and 19 points in 30 games.
• The loss is Seattle’s third in its last four and lost pace to both Portland and the Everett Silvertips in the U.S. Division standings.