EVERETT – It was Pink the Rink night in Everett Saturday but the game on the ice left the Thunderbirds seeing red.
Seattle dropped a tough 2-1 decision to the Everett Silvertips in overtime at the XFINITY Arena on an Ivan Nikolishin power-play goal 41 seconds into the extra frame. Seattle was paced by 28 big saves from Taran Kozun and Scott Eansor’s third goal of the season. Everett got a solid effort from goalie Austin Lotz, who made 24 saves to get the win.
After the game, the talk was about the officials. Head coach Steve Konowalchuk was livid with calls that he felt were not warranted. Specifically, two high-sticking calls that led to both Everett goals.
“The officiating’s got to get better,” Konowalchuk said. “It’s atrocious, it’s [expletive] atrocious.”
The last high-sticking penalty was called on Seattle’s Justin Hickman with 1:21 left in the third period and the score tied at one. Seattle was able to hold off the ensuing Everett power play until the overtime period, when Nikita Scherbak fed Ivan Nikolishin with a cross-ice pass. Nikolishin, on the door step, banged the puck past a helpless Kozun.
“It’s tough, you’ve got to be ready for everything, I was just a split second behind or I would of had ‘er,” Kozun said. “They made a good pass, the guy made a good shot, you’ve got to hand it to them.”
Earlier in the third period, another high-sticking penalty was whistled on Alexander True. That set the Silvertips up on another power play and allowed them to tie the game at one when Cole MacDonald beat Kozun with a point shot through traffic.
Konowalchuk’s frustration boiled over after the game as he felt the Silvertips embellished the plays and the bad calls cost his players a hard-fought game and a chance at picking up the win.
“Two embellishments, I am so tired of the officiating in this league,” he said. “I can’t find it on the tape, I can’t find it. I asked my player, ‘Honestly, did you touch him?’ He said, ‘My stick was up but I didn’t touch him.’ The guy at the red line calling it, the guy in the corner doesn’t call it.”
The call stood and the T-Birds found themselves on the wrong end of the score. They end the weekend with three out of the four possible points but still left this one feeling burned.
“I thought the guys played a really good game,” Kozun said. “Just an unfortunate penalty there and they capitalized.”
Seattle looked like it might be on its way to earning a gritty road win early on Saturday. The T-Birds got on the board first after Scherbak turned the puck over and Nolan Volcan led a rush up ice. He fed it to Donovan Neuls, who found Eansor in the slot for the game’s first goal.
It was Eansor’s third goal in as many games as his so-called shut-down line is now producing goals of its own. They were Seattle’s best line of the night as they frustrated Everett, were scrappy and generated numerous scoring chances.
“It’s awesome playing with those two players,” Eansor said of his linemates. “They’re always good at getting the puck out, strong on the stick. It’s definitely great playing with them … sure, we produced one tonight, but we could have produced more.”
Lost in all the frustration with the officials was another strong performance by Kozun in net. The 20-year-old goalie kept Seattle in the game in the first period when Seattle was out-shot 12-4. There was a lot of contact between Everett’s forwards and Kozun, but he managed to keep his cool throughout the game.
“Against them I know it’s coming,” he said of the contact. “(Carson) Stadnyk is always coming to the net and trying to bump me. He did it last year and he’s doing it again so I’m kind of sitting there waiting for it. I can’t let it bother me too much.”
Saturday night was certainly frustrating for the T-Birds but they end the weekend gaining three out of the four possible points, which is a positive coming off of four straight losses. They have a few days to regroup now before taking on the defending Memorial Cup Champion Edmonton Oil Kings Thursday at the ShoWare Center.
“Whenever you get three out of four that’s helping us,” Kozun said. “But we would have liked the fourth point, so we’ve got to back and start working hard to get ready for the next game.”
• Seattle’s top line of Mathew Barzal, Ryan Gropp and Justin Hickman were kept off the score sheet Saturday, which snapped Hickman’s three-game scoring streak.
• As good as Eansor was, he was kicking himself after the game for an opportunity he missed just before Everett tied the game in the third. While killing the penalty on True, he stole the puck and raced up ice all alone. He was stopped by Lotz, got his own rebound and fired another shot that Lotz also managed to stop. Everett tied the game a few seconds later.
• There were 7,654 fans in attendance Saturday night and the XFINITY Arena had a bit of a playoff feel to it. Everett and Seattle played a hard-fought opening-round playoff series last year and it seems that whenever the two rivals face off, the game is tight. Seattle is 0-1-1-0 against the Silvertips on the year, losing by one goal in each contest.
• Seattle continues to get strong play from defenseman Turner Ottenbreit. Seattle picked up the 17-year-old from the Saskatoon Blades in return for Adam Henry. So far, the trade looks like an absolute steal for Seattle. Ottenbreit has stepped in, is playing top-four defensive minutes and Saturday night made several strong plays, including a nice rub out of Scherback in the Seattle zone.