Evan Wardley and Roberts Lipsbergs fight off an Everett player during Saturday’s game (Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT — With the WHL Playoffs a week away, the Seattle Thunderbirds suddenly find themselves in a slump.
They lost their third straight game Saturday night as they dropped a tough 5-2 decision to the hot Everett Silvertips. Everett was paced by two goals from Josh Winquist as he established a new franchise record for goals in a season with 42. The T-Birds gave up three goals in the second period to dig a hole that they couldn’t find a way out of.
“We quit playing,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Really disappointing second period and start to the third. We weren’t moving, some key guys that aren’t playing the way they need to. It was a really lackluster second period and effort.”
The game turned in the second period when Everett choked the T-Birds into turning the puck over and then capitalized.
After a scoreless first the Silvertips got on the board first when Patrick Bajkov deflected the puck past goalie Taran Kozun. That was a big goal as Everett is deadly this season when they score first. The Silvertips are now 25-6-1-1 when they get the game’s first goal.
Seattle was able to get the equalizer however when Jaimen Yakubowski took a big shot that rebounded to Shea Theodore. Theodore blasted the puck past Everett’s Austin Lotz for his 20th goal of the season. The T-Birds could not build on that momentum however and allowed Everett to take the game over.
Seattle got out of their game plan, started taking penalties and ultimately lost the game.
Winquist picked up his first goal shortly after Theodore’s equalizer and then, just as Friday night, the T-Birds took a costly penalty.
Breaking in on a three-on-one rush the Silvertips came close to scoring. On the play however, Roberts Lipsbergs was called for knocking the net off its moorings. The referees determined that he did it without being pushed or forced into it, which resulted in a delay of game penalty.
The Silvertips took advantage and Dawson Leedahl deflected a shot past Kozun to give Everett a commanding two-goal lead with only twenty minutes left.
“The penalties we took the whole second period,” Konowalchuk said. “They out worked us in our own end, we were standing around in our own end, not taking time and space away.”
The third period started in the same fashion as the second period. The T-Birds came out flat, threw the puck around and after another turnover gave up a fourth goal as Zane Jones fired a slap shot past Kozun.
Konowalchuk called timeout after that goal and had some direct words at the bench for his team. He also decided to make a goalie change to try and flip the momentum. All of that worked to a point as Seattle started playing their game and with some much needed urgency.
They out shot Everett 19-4 in the third period and picked up several good scoring chances. Unfortunately they only were able to turn one of those chances into a goal as Russell Maxwell scored on a power play. In the end, the third period was too little, too late.
“We didn’t get to playing our game until it was too late in the game,” Adam Henry said. “By then it was too late. They were playing more desperate than we were and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Winquist ended the drama by scoring his record setting goal into the empty net, sending the sold out crowd back out into the rain. The T-Birds now find themselves in the middle of a three game losing streak, in jeopardy of losing home ice advantage in the first round and maybe losing some confidence.
“Frustration coming off of yesterday and we’ve lost three games in a row,” Konowalchuk said about the team’s mood. “A couple guys are hanging their head’s a little bit. You don’t get through things like that. So it was good to see that some guys buckled down in the third period and at least got a little closer to how we need to play.”
Seattle plays their third game in three nights Sunday when they host the Vancouver Giants at the ShoWare Center. The game is big as Seattle’s lead on fifth place Spokane is down to just two points, and only three over Everett. If the T-Birds don’t find their game quickly, they could be looking at dropping down to sixth place.
“Everyone’s a little frustrated but at the same time you have to take the positives out of it,” Henry said. “In the third period tonight we took it to them. We know we can play that way…we know we can do it. We know we have the guys in this room to go and win a championship. We just need to do it on a regular basis, it can’t be a switch, it just needs to be like clock work.”
The T-Birds will try to build on their play in the third period Sunday and into the last week. After two tough losses this weekend, they are happy to be able to get right back to it.
“I think its good to get back at it tomorrow,” Konowalchuk said. “Get back at it and have a real good workman game, get some positive momentum going, one shift at a time.”
Winquist’s 42 goals sets a new Everett franchise record for goals in a single season. He eclipsed the mark set during the 2009-2010 season by Shane Harper.
Everett is almost impossible to beat when they have a lead, especially if that lead is after two periods. They led Saturday’s game 3-1 after two periods and by holding on to win they are now 29-1 when they go into the third period with a lead.
Shea Theodore’s second period goal was his 20th on the season and he now has 43 in his Seattle career. That puts him one goal behind Deron Quint for most career goals by a Seattle defenseman. Quint played for Seattle from 1993-1996.
Theodore’s 20 goals is fourth best for a single season. Quint scored 29 goals in 1994-1995 to set the team mark. Theodore trails Jason McKee (23 goals in 1999-2000) and Tomas Mojzis (21 goals in 2002-2003). Theodore has five more games left and could get into second place, but scoring nine more times seems unlikely.
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