Jaimen Yakubowski’s two goals were not enough as Seattle lost 6-4 Sunday (Thunderbirds photo)
By Andrew Eide
KENT — The Seattle Thunderbirds probably would like to throw Sunday’s game into the dust bin.
After jumping out to an early three goal lead the T-Birds sat back and watched the Prince George Cougars score six unanswered goals and win 6-4. The Cougars were led by Zach Pochiro’s two goals and 39 saves in relief from goalie Ty Edmonds to secure the win and keep their slim playoff hopes alive.
“That team there (Prince George), they’re playing for their playoff lives,” Justin Hickman said. “We just took them too lightly and didn’t play our game and they got the two points and we didn’t.”
It looked like Seattle was going to skate to an easy two points early in Sunday’s game. They erupted for three goals, all scored within a minute and a half of each other as they chased the Cougars starting goalie Adam Beukeboom after only nine shots — he was replaced by Edmonds after the third goal. It was then that the T-Birds let their foot off the gas, started turning the puck over and gave the momentum back to Prince George.
“We let off the gas and a little too casual obviously,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Started worrying about points, guys thought it was an easy night to get points when we were up 3-0. Started turning pucks over, started playing for themselves and not the team, it caught up to us…our game has got to get cleaned up here.”
After the Seattle goals by Jaimen Yakubowski, Alex Delnov and Calvin Spencer in the first, the Cougars struck back.
Still in the first, Seattle turned the puck over behind their own net and Prince George took the puck and fed it to Troy Bourke in front of the net where he beat Danny Mumaugh. Later in the first another Seattle turnover led to a break away for Todd Fiddler, who walked in alone and scored his 39th goal of the year.
Despite the hot start, the T-Birds only had a one goal lead after the first twenty minutes of play.
“We just started getting over confident, trying to do too much individually,” Hickman said. “I take responsibility, I had a couple turnovers there in the first. Just kind of snowballed from there, we got off our game and it cost us.”
Prince George tied the game early in the second after another turnover, this time about ten feet in front of the Seattle net. Pochiro scooped the loose puck up and scored his first goal of the night to even the score.
From there it got out of hand quickly for the T-Birds.
Jansen Harkins gave the Cougars the lead shortly after Pochiro’s goal when he flew into the Seattle zone and ripped a wrist shot that Mumaugh couldn’t handle. Trying to change the momentum and give his team a spark, Konowalchuk made a goalie change and inserted Taran Kozun into the game.
The change didn’t alter the way the game was going however as Prince George scored twice more, on goals by Klarc Wilson and Pochiro, in the period to build a 6-3 lead heading into the third.
“The first ten minutes we were the better hockey club,” Konowalchuk said. “We had everybody on board, everybody playing the way they needed to, that’s why we got the lead. Then some bad habits, guys started to do their own thing. It’s got to be corrected and has to be corrected long term here if we want to be successful for a long time.”
Edmonds was big for Prince George as well. Seattle, desperately trying to get their game back again, started generating offense. They were getting shots and ended up out-shooting the Cougars 49-28 on the night. They could not however, solve Edmonds.
“They did a good job protecting the house so it was hard to get clean shots a lot of the times,” Konowalchuk said. “Their goalie did make some big saves, no doubt about it, if we score one there maybe we get more pressure. But, when you give up six straight goals, that’s tough to overcome.”
Seattle got another goal in the third period from Yakubowski to give them a glimmer of hope, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
“We have to clean up how we’re playing for 60 minutes,” Konowalchuk said. “Are we playing for the team for 60 minutes or are we playing for ourselves? There’s some things with penalties, there’s things with puck management, there’s things on the power play where guys want to put themselves ahead of the team at times, and that’s not part of a winning hockey team.”
With a playoff spot secured for Seattle, they still have work to do in order to secure home ice for the first round. The loss, combined with Spokane’s victory over Everett, drops the T-Birds to six points ahead of the Chiefs. Seattle also lost an opportunity to pick up ground on third place Victoria, and trails the Royals by five points.
Seattle now has the rest of the week to recover from this loss before heading back up to Everett Friday night to take on the Silvertips.
The T-Birds had some chances Sunday on the power play but could not score. For the night they were 0-for-5 and had many close calls. Prince George was 1-for-6 with the man advantage.
Prince George’s Wil Tomchuk had an interesting evening. When the teams were skating on the ice to start the game he fell as he was having some sort of skate issue. He left the ice and tried to return about ten minutes later, only to suffer from the same skate issue. By the time he was able to join the team and play in the game the Cougars were down 3-0. He ended up picking up an assist on the Cougars second goal and ended the night plus-4.
The T-Birds have now dropped two home games to the Cougars after blowing leads. On October 18th they allowed two late third period goals to Prince George to tie and would go on to lose 5-4 in overtime. In a tight Western Conference race, those three points lost could turn out to be costly.
The line of Yakubowski-Sam McKechnie-and Russell Maxwell was one of the lone bright spots for the T-Birds Sunday. They accounted for two of the T-Birds goals and continue to play with some good chemistry.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide.