Seattle’s Sam McKechnie fights off Everett’s Jujhar Khaira to get a shot on goal (Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT — The Seattle Thunderbirds let one slip away Saturday night, losing 4-3 in overtime. The Everett Silvertips erased a two goal lead and won the game in the extra time on a Brayden Low goal, giving the two teams a split in their big home-and-home weekend series.
Low, who was in training camp with Seattle last year, broke into the Seattle zone at 3:26 of the overtime period and threw a shot towards the net. The puck hit the post and rebounded off of T-Birds’ goalie Danny Mumaugh and in the net to empty the Silvertips bench onto the ice in celebration.
While it may seem like a bad bounce cost the T-Birds the game, the loss may come down to just ten minutes.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part,” Seattle’s Justin Hickman said. “I think 50 minutes of the game we played really well. Ten minutes we let slip away and it cost us tonight.”
That ten minutes took place in the second half of the second period when Everett (23-11-4-0) fought back from a two-goal deficit to tie the game. They started forcing Seattle (22-10-2-3) to turn the puck over which generated pressure for the Silvertips.
It also caused the T-Birds to take a couple of penalties.
“We were going good, we had tempo and momentum and we got away from it,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Veteran players were turning the puck over and that led to a couple of power plays and they capitalized. The bad break’s not in overtime, its a 60 minute, 65 minute game and you have to play that much. ‘Til it’s over it’s not over.”
Everett cashed in on their first power play with just under six minutes left in the second when Jujhar Khaira skated around the net and fired a wrist shot that Mumaugh could not find. It was the second power play goal in as many nights for Khaira and his ninth goal of the year.
Four minutes later the Slivertips found themselves on the power play again and Carson Stadnyk banged home a loose puck to get the scoreboard even.
Everett went ahead by a goal early in the third period as Stadnyk fought off a check from Jared Hauf and managed to get a shot over Mumaugh’s shoulder. From there the T-Birds got going and pushed back.
“We got complacent there at the end of the second,” Konowalchuk said. “They tied it and then got the go-ahead goal and we had urgency again, got going. They really got on their toes and really generated some scoring chances.”
Seattle out shot Everett 21-11 in the third period with many coming close to scoring. They finally got the game tying goal just before the ten minute mark when Branden Troock picked up his 18th goal of the year, deflecting in a shot past Everett goalie Daniel Cotton.
“We kind of knew as a group, they went up 3-2 in the third you’ve got to have an answer,” Hickman said. “I think we had a really good answer to that, and we kind of pushed the pace in the third. It wasn’t enough tonight.”
That push got the T-Birds a point as the game headed into overtime where Low won it for Everett.
Seattle had built a two goal lead behind two power play goals, the first from Roberts Lipsbergs who notched his 22nd of the year. Early in the second period Ryan Gropp scored on a another power play with his sixth goal of the year as he banged home a loose puck in the Everett crease.
In the end the T-Birds got a point and picked up three of the four possible points on the weekend. While that mitigates Saturday’s loss to some extent, in the eyes of the players it wasn’t enough.
“Obviously we’re not satisfied just because we got three out of four,” Hickman said. “We should have won the game, we didn’t play good hockey for ten minutes and it cost us so you can look at it that way. We are excited for the second half still.”
Seattle now closes out the month of December with a New Year’s Eve tilt against the struggling Kamloops Blazers. The Blazers are in last place in the Western Conference but that doesn’t mean the game, and the two points at stake, are not big for the T-Birds.
“They are big,” Konowalchuk said. “We treat every game like its the most important game of the year, its the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals. If you want to be a good team then every two points is important.”
After struggling a bit last season against his former team, Everett’s Daniel Cotton is now 2-0 against the T-Birds this year. He was in net during Everett’s 5-0 shut out win in Everett back in November.
Both teams scored twice on the power play, both going 2-for-3 on a night that was relatively penalty free. The two teams were only called for six penalties, all minor ones, during the game.
Along with his first period goal, Lipsbergs also picked up an assist on Seattle’s second goal. He continues his bid for a ‘Cy Young’ season (a lot of goals with few assists) as he now has 22 goals with eight assists.
Both games this weekend had a playoff vibe to them with good games and big crowds, making for a fun rivalry weekend.
Seattle’s 42 shots on the night is pretty impressive when you consider how few shots the Silvertips normally allow. Coming into the game they were the WHL’s best with allowing just under 25 per game.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide.