KENT – Things started rough for the Seattle Thunderbirds in Friday’s Game 4 against the Everett Silvertips and didn’t improve.
Trailing 2-1 late in the first period, the Thunderbirds started pushing the pace and drew a penalty for what could have been a momentum swinging power play. A bad pass to the point however led to a breakaway for Everett’s Connor Dewar. He was brought down and awarded a penalty shot that he would convert on to make it 3-1 and break the backs of the Thunderbirds with just 34 seconds left on the clock.
“We had an opportunity with the power play with a minute left and an opportunity to potentially to tie the game,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “They get the breakaway and penalty shot, that was a momentum swing. We’ve talked about late in periods and taking care of those situations, that was a big factor in that game.”
From there the Thunderbirds were chasing and the Silvertips would not be caught as they took a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 7-3 win at the accesso ShoWare Center.
Seattle was playing with some key players out of the lineup. Sami Moilanen was out due to an injury he suffered in Game 3 and before the game it was announced that defenseman Jarret Tyszka would miss Friday’s contest with an illness.
To make matters worse, Donovan Neuls would miss most of the game after taking a hit in the back from Riley Sutter on the first shift.
“It’s obviously tough,” O’Dette said about losing Neuls. “He’s a key guy for our team. He does everything for us. A hit from behind, I guess that’s allowed. A couple of hits that they get away with but it was a dangerous hit.”
There was no penalty called on the play. It was just one of those nights for a Thunderbirds team that now is on the brink of elimination.
Everett took a lead at 12:10 on a Patrick Bajkov power-play goal. The call that put Everett on the power play was a confusing one. Matthew Wedman was called for a slash but the official on the scene appeared to call and embellishment penalty on Bajkov as well.
After deliberating with the other officials, the call was changed and Wedman got the only penalty and Bajkov ended up scoring on the power play.
“It got overruled, I guess,” O’Dette said. “I thought that was a coincidental penalty but it ended up not being that.”
Kevin Davis would then score 38 seconds later to give Everett a 2-0 lead and gain some early momentum. Seattle was able to push back and Nolan Volcan would cut the lead to one when he put back a rebound less than a minute later.
Seattle kept buzzing and drew the fateful penalty that Dewar would end up scoring on the short-handed penalty shot.
“It’s a 2-1 game there and they get that,” Turner Ottenbreit said. “It’s deflating, especially at the end of the period.”
The Silvertips would add two more goals in the second period off the stick of Sean Richards and the first career playoff goal by Ethan O’Rourke to build a 5-1 lead heading into the third period.
Down four goals the Thunderbirds started the third period strong and would get closer when Dillon Hamaliuk would find the back of the net at 1:36 of the period. Wedman would bring Seattle to within two at 5-3 when he made a nice play through the zone to score his first of the series at 6:41.
Everett put down the Thunderbirds uprising under four minutes later when Sutter would score after getting a feed from Garrett Pilon. Matt Fonteyne would then find the empty net for the second straight game to end the scoring.
“We made some mistakes,” O’Dette said to sum up the game. “This time of year obviously those mistakes will cost you games and there were a couple individual mistakes that led to some of those goals. Guys played with a lot of heart, that’s for sure. We were faced with a lot of adversity.”
With their backs to the wall, the Thunderbirds will now have to travel to Everett for a do-or-die Game 5 Saturday night in Everett.
It’s the first time that Seattle has faced elimination since Game 5 of the 2016 WHL Finals against Brandon.
“It sucks our backs are against the wall,” Ottenbreit said. “We’ve been here before and we just need to throw everything at them tomorrow and bring our lunch box and play our style, see what happens. That’s all you have to say. You work this hard all year and we’re here. It’s not the spot you want to be in but its where we are. We don’t have another day or wiggle room. Its everything you’ve got.”
Game 5 is at Angels of the Wind Arena Saturday night at 7 p.m.
• Neuls came back for a few shifts late in the first period and in the second period but did not return to the ice in the third period. O’Dette did not have an update on Neuls’ status for Saturday’s game. As a 20-year-old, Saturday could be Neuls last game in the WHL.
• Liam Hughes made 29 saves in the loss while Carter Hart kicked out 28 Seattle shots.
• Dewar’s penalty shot counts as a short-handed goal and was the second one the Silvertips have scored in the series.
• The game didn’t feature a lot of penalties and the two clubs only combined for five power-play chances. Everett went 1-for-3 while the Thunderbirds were 0-for-2.