KENT – In a surprise to nobody, the Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips met in another tight, highly contested affair Saturday night.
Seattle fell behind by two goals in the first period and that would prove costly as it was unable to make up that early deficit. Despite the Thunderbirds cutting the lead to one in the second period, the Silvertips would lean on two goals from Bryce Kindopp and 32 Carter Hart saves to skate away with a 3-2 win at the accesso ShoWare Center.
In what could potentially be a first-round playoff match up, it would be the third straight game between the two decided by one goal and eighth overall in the season series.
“We just fell short,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “There are some details we can clean up…that was a good hockey game, real intense battle. For the most part the effort was there. We just needed to clean up some details.”
A key moment in the game came as time was winding down in the second period and Everett’s Ondrej Vala cross-checked Zack Andrusiak into the boards. He would be assessed a major penalty for that and after a minor penalty was given to Seattle’s Turner Ottenbreit, the Thunderbirds would get an extended three-minute power-play chance early in the third period.
Despite already cashing in on one power-play opportunity earlier in the game, Seattle (32-26-8-2) could not do so again.
“They have a good penalty kill obviously,” O’Dette said. “Sometimes when you have those extended power-play opportunities the PK gets ramped up for it and they can cycle their killers on quickly and gain some momentum…give them credit on that.”
The power-play chance could have been five minutes but Ottenbreit, who got into a scrap with Vala, was given an additional two-minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
O’Dette categorized the hit as ‘dirty’ and Ottenbreit says he will always stand up for his teammate.
“I guess I’ll take it for a hit like that, I’m sticking up for teammates,” Ottenbreit said about the extra two minutes. “We’re brothers in there. When something like that happens, we’re not going to let that fly.”
Everett (45-18-2-3) took the lead early when Matt Fonteyne scored his 33rd on a Silvertips power play. That goal came at 3:41 of the first period.
The Silvertips would add to that lead after a turnover in the neutral zone resulted in a two-on-one that Kindopp scored on for his first of the night. The Thunderbirds found themselves in a tough, two-goal hole against one of the best goalies in the WHL.
“First period wasn’t our best,” O’Dette said. “They came out with some jump. It took us a little bit to get our legs going and implement what we needed to do against these guys. We started to do that in the second and carried it into the third.”
In the second period, the Thunderbirds got their game plan working and would outshoot Everett 16-8 and cut the lead in half with a power-play marker of their own. Nolan Volcan walked the puck out of the corner and slid his 31st goal of the year through Hart at 11:03 of the period.
The Thunderbirds generated chances in the third period but Hart would have an answer at every turn.
Kindopp would score a dagger of a goal at 15:02 of the third when he tipped a shot past Liam Hughes from right in front of the Seattle net. Hughes ended the night with 34 saves in defeat.
Down 3-1, Austin Strand would fire his 24th of the season with the extra skater on to cut the lead with just over two minutes left to give the 6,039 in attendance some hope. They weren’t able to get one more past Hart to force overtime.
“To be honest, this was may be one of our better showing against these guys, despite the result,” O’Dette said. “The shots were 35 or so, that’s tough to generate against these guys. That’s what you’ve got to do to solve Hart, shot volume and several second opportunities. I thought we created a lot more of that than we have against these guys.”
The loss drops the Thunderbirds to three points behind Tri-City for the first wild card in the Western Conference. With four games left in the regular season, Seattle has some work cut out for it over the season’s final week.
“Anytime you can jump up in the standings, that’s the focus,” Ottenreit said. “That’s what we’re looking at with these last few games here, to try and catch Tri.”
Seattle’s next game is Wednesday at Spokane.
• Andrusiak was helped off the ice after the hit from Vala but did return to the game in the third period. He was held off the scoresheet however, which snapped his six-game point streak.
• Volcan scored his fourth goal in five games and has a four-game point streak working.
• Strand has scored in three straight games for four goals total over that stretch.
• Donovan Neuls added two assists Saturday, giving him 51 on the season. The 20-year-old only had 41 points all of last season.