Seattle’s Roberts Lipsbergs celebrates a late goal that allowed the T-Birds to win in overtime (Thunderbirds photo)
By Andrew Eide
KENT — There’s an old adage in hockey that good things happen when you shoot the puck. Sometimes the game is really that simple.
Seattle picked up a dramatic 4-3 overtime win over the Spokane Chiefs Saturday night in front of 4,625 fans at the ShoWare Center. After coming back to tie the game late, Seattle got the game winner from Alex Delnov with just over two minutes played in the overtime. It was Delnov’s second goal of the game and secured the T-Birds’ third straight win.
“Shoot the puck, that’s it,” Delnov said with a smile afterwards.
Delnov’s heroics would not have been possible if not for a big goal from his fellow European import, Roberts Lipsbergs. Lipsbergs also had two goals on the night and his second one brought the T-Birds back from the brink of what would have been a frustrating loss. With goalie Danny Mumaugh on the bench, Lipsbergs fired a shot over Spokane’s Eric Williams shoulder with just over two minutes left in the game.
Once in overtime, Delnov took his shot just inside the blue line to give the T-Birds a big win against a team that was a point ahead of them in the standings.
“Its huge, we know they have two games in hand going into these two against them,” defenseman Shea Theodore said. “Coming back with that late goal and winning in overtime, there’s nothing better.”
While they ended up getting the win, the T-Birds managed to make this one harder than perhaps it should have. They controlled the tempo of the play for most of the night but the Chiefs managed to take advantage of a few T-Birds mistakes.
“We played, I thought, a pretty solid game,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “That first part of the third period, casual moments that almost cost us the game. Good resilience to get the win, give them credit, they found a way to get the win, that’s the bottom line.”
Seattle (25-14-2-3) started the game strong. They had the better of the territorial play and out shot the Chiefs 10-4 in the first 20 minutes. They did everything but get the puck past Williams and Spokane (26-13-1-2) would score late when Mike Aviani knocked in a rebound on a power play goal.
It was Aviani’s 30th goal of the year and went against the flow of the play.
The T-Birds got the equalizer in the second period after Theodore drew a penalty with an explosive rush up ice. With the man advantage Delnov struck for the first time of the night after potting a rebound of a Lipsbergs shot.
With the score tied one of those casual moments that Konowalchuk mentioned allowed the Chiefs to go back in front. After some sloppy play in their own end the T-Birds gave up the puck which went to the point. Cole Wedmen took a shot that was deflected in by Connor Chartier in front of Mumaugh.
Seattle, showing some resiliency, got that back however later in the period on the power play. After a pretty passing play between Adam Henry and Ryan Gropp the puck ended up on Lipsbergs stick at the side of the goal. He roofed a shot over a helpless Williams to even up the game.
Seattle’s power play struck twice on the night and despite struggling in the first period, looked good for most of the night.
“I didn’t like the first couple where we didn’t take advantage of them, that could have come back to haunt us,” Konowalchuk said of the power play. “We weren’t shooting early but later we started getting pucks down low to the net. All we want to do is out number people at the net and we found a way to do that.”
With the game tied and with some momentum the T-Birds shot themselves in the foot again. Just under seven minutes into the final frame a bad turnover in the Seattle end allowed the Chiefs to steal the puck and get it to Chartier who beat Mumaugh for his second goal of the night. More importantly, it gave Spokane the lead.
“It’s upsetting,” Konowalchuk said about the turnovers. “When the guys see that on the bench, when we see it as coaches, for the most part you’re playing well, its upsetting.”
The T-Birds kept plugging though and got the late game-tying goal from Lipsbergs to keep this one from slipping away. While they still have some fine-tuning to do, Seattle seems to have righted the ship a bit from last week. They finished their road trip with two wins earlier in the week and now have won three straight and are recapturing some of the momentum they had earlier in the season.
“Yeah, we’re catching our feet,” Shea Theodore said. “We’re slowly starting to get some of our injured guys back, filling out our line up and all the guys are playing their roles and we’re feeling good right now.”
The T-Birds next game will be a rematch with Spokane, on the road Tuesday night.
Saturday was a big night for Delnov and Lipsbergs. The two European imports combined to score all four of Seattle’s goals and chipped in three assists. With Seattle still short-handed it was a much needed offensive showing. ” Its huge, they’re offensive talents. They need to step up their game with guys out and they did that. Good for them,” Konowalchuk said after.
Newly acquired Russell Maxwell made his T-Birds debut Saturday and played well. Konowalchuk liked how hard he competed and praised his 200 foot game.
The T-Birds got Jaimen Yakubowski back from injury. He played limited minutes due to a lack of practice time but was a welcome sight as the team is slowly starting to get guys back. Konowalchuk felt that the other injured players were close to getting back but he wasn’t sure if they were “next game close”.
Seattle is now 4-0 against Spokane on the year. A key part to that is how they have played against the league’s leading scorer, Mitch Holmberg. Holmberg, who has 42 goals on the year, picked up an assist Saturday night but was kept quiet for the most part. In the four games with Seattle he has only scored once.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide