EVERETT – In an ironic twist, the Thunderbirds were done in by a slash for the second straight time against the Everett Silvertips.
Last week it was a non-call that led to an Everett goal, and Saturday it would be one that was called that proved costly. The Thunderbirds’ Matthew Wedman was called for slashing in overtime at the Angel of the Winds Arena that put Everett on a four-on-three power play.
With the man advantage, Everett’s Patrick Bajkov fired a shot at 2:57 of overtime that was deflected past goalie Liam Hughes by Matt Fonteyne. That goal gave the homestanding Silvertips a 2-1 overtime victory.
“It was a gutsy point on the road in a tough environment,” Seattle coach Matt O’Dette said after. “We’re not satisfied that we didn’t get the second one but we’ll move on to tomorrow.”
The one point earned by Seattle (30-24-8-2) coupled with a Kamloops loss Saturday night in Vancouver reduced Seattle’s magic number for clinching a playoff spot to four.
Hughes was the star for the Thunderbirds Saturday as the goalie ended the night by makind 44 saves in the loss. It was in the third period where he was at his best.
With the game tied at one, Everett (43-18-2-3) kept the Thunderbirds pinned in their own zone for the majority of the third. They would end the frame outshooting Seattle 20-1 but could not get any of those shots past Hughes.
“He was huge,” O’Dette said of his goalie. “A lot of big saves. He kept us in the game, kept that game close. (Carter) Hart was pretty good too, we had a couple flurries where he made some big saves.”
Bajkov led Everett with the game-wining assist as well as the Silvertips first goal, at 7:08 of the first period, when he scored his 30th as the puck deflected off his skates in front of Hughes.
Seattle’s best period was the second.
The Thunderbirds were able to get 10 shots on Hart and would even the game when Noah Philp scored his second goal in as many nights. The goal came at 13:54 and was set up Zack Andrusiak who dropped the puck to Philp from the half-boards.
“I thought we played a good 40,” O’Dette said. “A good second and had it tied. We got into some penalty trouble in the third and we had relied on some guys to play heavy minutes. I think it took its toll in the third.”
The Thunderbirds would have to kill off two Everett power plays in the third period and that led to momentum for the Silvertips.
Hughes made a number of key saves as the Thunderbirds struggled to make clean passes and clear their zone. They didn’t register a shot until under five minutes left in the period and that shot was a dribbler from center ice.
“They turned it up a notch,” O’Dette said of the third period. “Once they get that momentum there we needed to sustain some O-zone time to nullify what they were doing. Every time we seemed to do that we ended up with a penalty and used our top guys on the kill a lot.”
Seattle starts its three-in-three weekend with picking up three of the possible four points and will hope to gain more Sunday when Portland comes to the ShoWare Center.
The Thunderbirds have not won a game in regulation since Jan. 19th, but at this point of the season, points in the standings are more important.
“Obviously we’d like to win games in regulation,” O’Dette said. “But wins are the most important thing. We’ve had some wins in the shootout or overtime. The points count the same whether we win them in regulation or not.”
• While Seattle hosts Portland Sunday, the Kamloops Blazers are idle, so the Thunderbirds won’t be able to clinch a playoff spot. Seattle also has pulled to within three points of the Tri-City Americans for the seventh seed in the West.
• O’Dette says the team is focused on their schedule and not what other teams are doing. “We’re trying not to scoreboard watch,” he said. “Trying to take care of our own business. To get three points in our first two games of the weekend, in tough buildings like Portland and Everett, we’ll definitely take that and create some momentum.”
• Andrusiak’s assist gives him eight points in his last three games.
• Hart made 17 saves for Everett but was denied setting a new WHL record for career shutouts. He’s currently tied with former Vancouver Giant Tyson Sexsmith with 26