T-Birds slide past Cougars 2-1 in a shoot out
By Andrew Eide
A night after combining for 16 goals certainly there would be another goal fest between Seattle and Prince George on Wednesday right?
Not quite. The T-Birds out lasted the Prince George Cougars in a tight checking, low-scoring 2-1 affair that required an overtime and shoot out to determine the winner. Sam McKechnie was the only skater to score in a shoot out that had to go to four shooters to get a decison.
After losing five straight games the T-Birds now have won two in a row and finally get to return home after one of the most grueling road trips in recent memory. A night after everybody scored, suddenly nobody could.
“I guess you have to find ways to win them all, both teams had a defensive mind set,” Steve Konowalchuk said after. “I thought both teams clogged the house, it was hard to get shots through.”
The star of the night for the T-Birds was goalie Danny Mumaugh. Mumaugh was forced to start all three games over the past weekend and with little to no help from his mates in front of him, got shelled. Wednesday night he was nearly unbeatable thanks to a quick glove hand, better play from his teammates and a competitive fire.
Mumaugh stopped 28 shots, allowing only one goal and was huge in the third period. Prince George managed a couple of good chances to take a late lead but Seattle’s goalie was there. Most notably was a play with about five minutes left in a tie game when Todd Fiddler got behind the Seattle defense. He raced in alone and made a nice move to get a shot off but Mumaugh made a spectacular glove save to preserve the tie game.
“It was really nice (to see),” Konowalchuk said. “Guys were blocking shots, protecting the house, much better on the odd man rushes and when we needed it he was there. I’m really happy for him. I know he’s harder on himself than anybody and he should be proud of the way he battled.”
The T-Birds made life a little difficult on themselves in the first period. They started a bit sluggish, were chasing a lot and started to get into penalty trouble. They handed the Cougars five first period power plays and the game could have gotten away from them from the out set.
“I thought we passed up some shots but I thought we had a slow start,” Konowalchuk said. “I didn’t like our first period at all. Our penalty kill in the first period probably won us the game. They had five power plays before we woke up, but ‘Mums was really really good.”
Mumaugh was good and so was the penalty kill for Seattle.
The T-Birds killed off all five first period power plays, as well as two more later on in the game, and kept the game scoreless after a lack luster first twenty-minutes. Seattle’s penalty killers were all over Prince George power play. They won face offs, got clears and gave the Cougars very little room.
“I think we did a better job of reading and pressuring,” Konowalchuk said of his special teams unit. “And Mumaugh made some saves.”
By keeping the Cougars off the scoreboard the T-Birds were able to come out in the second with more life. They got the games first goal just under six minutes into the frame when Alex Delnov cruised into the zone and fired a deadly wrist shot over Ty Edmonds shoulder.
For a long time it looked like Delnov’s 18th goal of the year would be enough for the T-Birds.
Mumaugh continued to keep Prince George at bay into the third but the Cougars did manage to tie it with just under eight minutes left in the game. A point shot was stopped by Mumaugh but the rebound came right to Klarc Wilson who was alone in front. He got Mumaugh down and swept the puck in for the equalizer.
Both teams got some good chances down the stretch and into overtime but both Mumaugh and Edmonds stood tall. In the shoot out both teams saw their three shooters fail to beat the two net minders and the game went into ‘extra shooters’. First Mumaugh stopped Jordan Tkatch from Prince George and then it was McKechnie’s turn.
McKechnie skated with a deliberate pace, deked Edmonds with a backhand-forehand-backhand move to get him down and then lifted the puck over his pad. The T-Birds rushed the ice to celebrate a big win to wrap up what had started as a nightmare of a road trip.
The T-Birds now can enjoy their long bus ride back home and will get a few days to rest and hopefully get some guys healthy before their next game on Saturday. After playing five games in six nights, in four different cities, the T-Birds can now get back to a more routine schedule.
After a rough start, they get to do that with two straight road wins.
“It will be nice,” Konowalchuk said. “I think this was a trip that you circle on your calendar at the start of the year. It was a lot of travel and we had to weather the storm. It didn’t start out the way we liked but we finished with two wins. You have to attribute the help along the way from the young guys (Kaden Elder and Nolan Volcan), we got to play some bodies and that helped keep some energy to get these wins.”
Seattle will next be in action Saturday as they host the Spokane Chiefs at the ShoWare Center. Faceoff is at 7 P.M.
Coming into the game Mumaugh had been a tough luck loser in his three previous shoot out matches this season, including an early season loss to Prince George. Like he was during the game, he was unbeatable, stopping all four attempts.
Delnov got the lone Seattle goal and now has six points in his last three games.
Konowalchuk was not sure which injured players, if any, would be ready to go on Saturday. He thought some of them might be ‘close’ but since they were back in Seattle he had not seen where they were in their recovery.
The win allowed Seattle to leap frog over both Everett and Spokane in the clogged Western Conference Standings. They now sit in fourth place, one point ahead of both teams.
Wednesday’s win was Seattle’s 24th win of the season which matches their win total for all of last year. They were able to accomplish that in only 43 games this year. Their 53 points is only five off of their total from last year.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide