By Andrew Eide
Seattle saw their losing streak grow to six straight Friday night after dropping a 2-1 overtime struggle against the Victoria Royals at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria. The Royals got the winner 52 seconds into the overtime period as Logan Nelson snapped home a shot from the slot to beat a game Danny Mumaugh.
Seattle gets a much needed point in the standings but in the end, still came up short.
“It was in some ways (a better effort),” coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “We had a better conscious effort on getting the third guy and limiting their offense but we’re still soft on the puck. We’ve got guys that still need to be hard on the puck.”
The Thunderbirds, coming off their worst effort of the season last week in Portland, did get off to a better start Friday night. For the first time during their losing streak they picked up the game’s first goal as Branden Troock deflected a Kevin Wolf point shot past Coleman Vollrath.
Falling behind early is something that has been constant during the losing streak and Friday night Seattle was able to improve in that sense. Where they still struggled was to generate offense. Konowalchuk mentioned being hard on the puck and by not being hard on the puck it was hard for Seattle to generate possession and scoring chances.
Konowalchuk juggled his lines again as the combination of injuries and fitting in new players has the team searching for some consistency and chemistry.
“Trying to get some chemistry for sure, trying to get a couple different lines going,” the coach said of Friday’s lineup.”We still aren’t there where we need to be to get our lines going, we need more guys going. Still not digging in and battling for the puck so then I need to switch it up.”
Seattle tried to cling to their lead and relied heavily on the shoulders, and glove, of Mumuagh. The 17-year-old goalie made 32 saves on the night and gave the T-Birds a chance to end their losing streak. Seattle was out shot 26-14 in the first two frames as Mumaugh stood tall for them.
The Royals managed to solve Mumaugh in the second period however as the hot Brandon Magee took the puck from the half boards and fired a wrist shot from the circle. Mumaugh managed to get a piece of it with his glove but could not keep it from beating him.
The third period was played tentatively by both clubs as neither seemed to want to make a mistake in a close game. Both clubs managed seven shots on goal but neither goaltender relented — sending the game into overtime.
In overtime Ben Walker had the puck behind the Seattle net and quickly got it to Nelson who fired an equally quick snap shot to send the T-Birds back to their hotel with their sixth straight loss.
“You can tell we’re don’t have a high confidence level right now, that happens when you’re going through something like this, ” Konowalchuk said of his team’s psyche. “I get that, but the only way you’re going to get confidence is to dig in a little harder for the puck. That’s what we’ve got to do tomorrow, we’ve got take the same approach as far as defensive hockey first but then we’ve got to dig in for pucks.”
The theme that has been laced throughout the six losses has been the level of competitiveness up and down the roster. Konowalchuk still has the hammer of taking ice time away but he says that the players also have to take the challenge upon themselves.
“You can take some ice time away and I’ll continue to do that but if you have to keep taking ice time away to try and motivate guys you’re going to be in for a long year,” he said. “Guys have to be self-motivated to work harder for the puck. The only time you should need to take ice time away should be one out of every 10-15 games where a guy gets a little complacent and needs a wake up call, but right now it’s too much and too often, it’s frustrating.”
The T-Birds will get a another shot at the Royals Saturday night as they play the second of a back-to-back game on Vancouver Island.
The Thunderbirds had been giving up a ton of goals during their previous five losses – giving up 30 over that span. Friday they turned in a much better effort with only allowing two however the Royals did get a lot of good chances and Mumaugh had to make great saves.
Evan Wardley returned to the ice Friday after serving his four game suspension. Ethan Bear was out again with an injury but Konowalchuk said that he is close to returning and may be a game time decision Saturday night. The same is true for Mical Holub who has also been out with an injury.
Konowalchuk has been rotating his two goaltenders all year. Justin Myles has struggled in his last two outings, getting pulled in both, and with Mumaugh’s fine play Konowalchuk said he will assess tomorrow whether or not to give Mumaugh a second straight start.
Magee’s goal in the second period was his fifth in his last three games.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide