By Andrew Eide
Just when it looked the the Thunderbirds had found their competitive path again they took a step back Friday night at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver. The Vancouver Giants erupted for four goals in the second period to break open a tie game and never looked back on their way to a 6-3 laugher. Vancouver got goals from six different players and picked up 24 saves from Jared Rathjen in the win.
“It started off OK, we got the first goal,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “I thought we started a little tentative and then we kind of started backing off and we didn’t have the jump we needed tonight.”
That first goal made it feel like perhaps Seattle would be in for a good night. The goal came two and a half minutes into the period when Jared Hauf floated a wrist shot from the blue line that beat Rathjen. The Giants did manage to came back and tied the game on a Rob Trzonkowski deflection sending the two teams to the dressing room tied at one.
The second period is where things got ugly for Seattle (12-9-1-3) as they gave up a four-spot and never recovered.
It started from the first shift when Vancouver got the puck in deep and had several close chances on Seattle goalie Danny Mumaugh. While the Giants didn’t score on that first shift, it set the tone for the rest of the period — one that would see Vancouver score four times.
“There were a few moments tha showed me that we didn’t have the jump and the tenacity to get back to that compete level that we needed to win the hockey game,” Konowalchuk said.
The goals came quick and furious in the second. It started with Trace Elson picking up his first WHL goal and ended in fitting fashion, with 12 seconds left, when Joel Hamilton’s shot was stopped by Mumaugh but the puck deflected high into the air, landing behind the Seattle goalie and slid over the goal line. When the horn sounded the T-Birds were down three goals and were out shot 21-9 in the second.
Vancouver also got goals from Brett Kulak and Luca Leon in the period and were sandwiched around a Jaimen Yakubowski goal for Seattle.
When the third period started Mumuagh was replaced by Justin Myles but Seattle’s fate would not change. Jackson Houck scored his 12th goal seven minutes into the period to put the game further out of reach. The T-Birds had extended power play opportunities in the third, including two five-on-three advantages but could only cash in once, on a Roberts Lipsbergs goal.
Coming off one of their strongest performances on Tuesday against Kelowna, Friday night seemed like a disappointing step back to the way the team was playing during their six-game losing streak.
“It is (disappointing),” Konowalchuk said. “I was surprised to see us not have that same jump we had. I thought that was a little disappointing but we have to get back at it tomorrow and get our compete level back up.”
Things don’t get easier for the T-Birds as they host the Portland Winterhawks Saturday night a the ShoWare Center.
Konowalchuk said that Justin Myles will start in net Saturday night against the Winterhawks. That decision had nothing to do with the results Friday night however as Konowalchuk said giving Myles the start was the plan going into the weekend.
Despite the results there were a couple of positives Friday. Seattle scored a power play goal for the third straight game and Roberts Lipsbergs scored a goal for the third straight game.
The second period was bad for Seattle as they gave up four goals and were heavily out shot. They out shot Vancouver 18-15 in the other two periods combined.
Portland comes to town Saturday after hosting, and beating, the Spokane Chiefs 6-4 Friday night.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide