T-Birds lose in disappointing fashion on New Years Eve
Branden Troock had Seattle’s lone goal as the T-Birds dropped an ugly game to Kamloops ( Seattle Thunderbirds photo)
By Andrew Eide
KENT — The Seattle Thunderbirds played in front of their biggest home crowd of the year Tuesday night, and played perhaps their worst game.
Hosting a Kamloops Blazers team that had only won nine games previously and is the lowest scoring club in the WHL, Seattle played a sloppy, mistake filled game — losing 7-1 in front of a sold out ShoWare Center.
“It was not a good game at all,” said Steve Konowalchuk. “Maybe in the first five minutes we had some decent chances but after that there wasn’t anybody who played a good game and that’s the result.”
The result was astonishing considering where the two teams are in the standings.
“We weren’t working hard enough, plain and simple,” Justin Hickman said. “Weren’t finishing our checks, back checking hard enough, it was pretty obvious tonight.”
Despite the final score, Seattle actually started the game strong. They generated several scoring chances early but were unable to get anything past Blazers goalie Taran Kozun. Seattle shots either missed the net or found Kozun’s body.
Things started turning for the worse just past the nine-minute mark.
Seattle was on a power play and as defenseman Shea Theodore began to move the puck up ice his stick broke in half, leaving the puck free in the slot in front of his own goal. It was picked up by Mitch Lipon who easily beat Justin Myles to get the Blazers on the board.
“If we get a first goal maybe that game changes, but you’re not going to some times,” Konowalchuk said. “You’re going to hit adversity, a stick breaks and they get a chance, they score.You’re going to hit adversity and you should be able to keep going and a lot of times this year we have been but tonight we just couldn’t get it going.”
The Blazers would score again late in the period after the Seattle defense failed to clear bodies out of the crease and Collin Shirley fired a shot past Myles. The night would end for Seattle’s starting goalie after the first as Danny Mumaugh started the second period in a move that Konowalchuk hoped would spark his club — it didn’t.
Down two goals, any hope for a Seattle comeback was dashed when Evan Wardley was called for a five-minute major checking to the head penalty against Jordan Thomson. That gave the Blazers five minutes of power play time and seemed to take some energy out of the T-Birds.
Seattle managed to kill off the penalty but the Blazers went up three goals shortly afterwards when Cole Ully was left all alone in the crease to pick up a rebound and deposit it in the Seattle net.
What should have been a momentum pick up for Seattle turned into the complete opposite.
“That’s big,” Konowalchuk said. “I think if we kill that we probably get some life from it but then they score. Definitely it was tough after that.”
The Blazers would score two more times in the third to build a five-goal lead. Giving up five goals in two periods is bad, when it happens against at team that is the lowest scoring team in the league, it’s disastrous.
Down five in the third the T-Birds got on the board when Branden Troock scored his 19th goal of the year, but it was too little too late for Seattle as Kamloops added two more goals and their lead was never in danger.
The T-Birds have been playing with a short-handed roster for a couple of weeks now, a situation which was made worse by Scott Eansor being a scratch Tuesday night. With that many games played missing key players, was Seattle out of gas?
“That game wasn’t because of that (being short handed),” Konowalchuk said. “In the third period if we were running out of gas maybe but early in the game it had nothing to do with that.”
The T-Birds now embark on a grueling road trip through the Eastern Conference that will see them play five games in seven nights. Dropping a home game that was winnable on paper certainly will leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Seattle will start the eastern swing by playing three games in three nights starting this Friday in Red Deer. They’re going to have to forget this game and get back to their game plan.
“Just respond, get back to basics,” Hickman said about moving on. “I mean just working hard, that’s the biggest thing tonight. We didn’t work close to hard enough and that’s going to be the main thing in these games.”
With another five-minute major and game misconduct there is a very likely chance that Evan Wardley will hear from the league and be suspended for his second period hit.
Coming into the game Kamloops was 27 points behind the T-Birds in the standings, they are now somehow 2-0 against Seattle.
Seattle’s power play was bad early, failing to score on two early chances and gave up the short-handed goal. For the night they were one-for-seven with the man advantage.
Eansor was scratched due to an injury sustained in practice this week. It was believed that the injury was not serious.
Konowalchuk felt that for the short term the team was still going to be short-handed, which will make this up coming road trip that much more difficult.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide