KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds lost more than just their Game 3 match up with the Everett Silvertips Tuesday night.
After starting the game with a flurry, the Thunderbirds would lose Sami Moilanen late in the first period when he was hit by Everett’s Matt Fonteyne. The Finnish import left the game favoring his wrist, did not return, and his loss was felt by the Thunderbirds.
With Moilanen, the Thunderbirds peppered the Everett net with 24 shots in the first period, but without him could only muster 10 shots the rest of the way. The Silvertips would take advantage, clamp down, and take the game by the score of 3-1.
“We got off our game plan a little bit,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “We got into some penalty trouble there, weren’t doing things that made us successful in the first period. Some of our key guys going into the box for minors. Obviously, losing Sami was not ideal, but we regroup and get ready for the next game.”
Carter Hart kicked out all but one of the first-period shots from the Thunderbirds and ended with 33 saves to bounce back from a Game 2 that saw Seattle score five on him. Everett’s Matt Fonteyne chipped in with two markers for the Silvertips, who took a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven opening round series.
Moilanen was a big part of Seattle’s start. The Thunderbirds had the better jump, were winning puck battles and dominated the pace of play.
Nolan Volcan would get Seattle on the board at 1:38 of the first when he banged home a rebound while on a Seattle power play. It was his first of the playoffs and got the 5,600 fans at the accesso ShoWare Center revved up.
Seattle took the game’s first seven shots and 11 of the first 16 but only had the one goal to show for it. Hart was up to the task and kept the Silvertips from getting blitzed early.
“That was one of our better periods of the year,” O’Dette said. “(Hart) stood tall there. It would have been nice to come out of there with more than one. He’s a good goalie, we didn’t sustain that the rest of the game.”
Despite the flow of the play, the Silvertips would tie the game when Reece Vitelli tipped a point shot past Liam Hughes at 8:56 of the first period for his first career playoff goal.
Seattle would then lose Moilanen and the momentum.
Late in the period, Fonteyne caught Moilanen with a big hit as the Seattle forward sped into the Everett zone. He hit the ice hard and needed assistance to leave the ice with an apparent upper-body injury.
“It’s tough,” Volcan, who plays on a line with Moilanen, said. “I mean, Sami’s a big part of the team. But we’ve got guys who can step up. We believe in our group and if one guy goes down we have two, three others who can fill the void. Hopefully Sami is doing good.”
Without Moilanen, O’Dette had to juggle lines and the Thunderbirds weren’t able to generate the same offensive attack that they had to start the game.
Everett would capitalize in the second period and take the lead on a power play. Hughes would make the initial save but the rebound lay in the crease where Fonteyne would win the race to it and score his first of the playoffs at 4:58.
Seattle would be outshot 25-10 the rest of the way and never really get a dangerous look at Hart.
“Penalties,” Volcan said about the reason for Seattle’s power outage. “And we stopped putting pucks on net. I don’t know why we changed that but it’s something we have to stick to. Obviously, it works, 24 shots in the first. Against a goalie like Hart you’re not going to score on just one good chance.”
As the Thunderbirds frustration rose, they started taking penalties which didn’t help their cause.
All five of Everett’s power-play chances came in the game’s final 40 minutes. Seattle would end the night 1-for-4 with the man advantage.
“I thought our composure got away from us a little bit,” O’Dette said. “We got frustrated by the way the game was going and maybe got off our game a little bit.”
Fonteyne would wrap up the scoring with an empty-net goal with just over 30 seconds to go, to seal the victory for the Tips.
The two teams will now have a couple days to regroup and get ready for what will be a pivotal Game 4 on Friday night.
“Obviously no need to worry,” Volcan said. “When you put 24 shots up against a team in a period I don’t think there’s any need to push the panic button. They’re a great team and if you take your foot off the gas they’re going to capitalize. We’re going to get ready to bounce back Friday.”
• O’Dette did not have an update on the severity of Moilanen’s injury. “I have to see the video but I don’t know that there was much there as far as a penalty,” O’Dette said of the play.
• Hughes would make 34 saves on the night and kept the Thunderbirds in it, especially in the third period when he made two spectacular saves while killing off a five-on-three penalty.
• Everett was without Riley Sutter Tuesday. Sutter was serving a one-game suspension for his kneeing major on Jake Lee in Game 2.
• With Moilanen out, Blake Bargar was moved to the Volcan-Matthew Wedman line.