By Andrew Eide
KENT – A night after letting a lead slip away against Prince George, the Seattle Thunderbirds learned from their mistakes and held on to beat the Swift Current Broncos 6-3 on Saturday night at the ShoWare Center in Kent. Seattle built a three-goal lead only to see the Broncos cut it to one before Seattle put the game away in the third period with two goals.
Seattle picked up goals from six different players, and Justin Myles made 24 saves to pick up the win.
The win was a nice rebound from Friday night when the Thunderbirds gave up two goals in the last three minutes to Prince George en route to a shoot-out loss. After building a 4-1 lead in the second period the T-Birds saw Swift Current strike twice to cut the lead to one – this time Seattle buckled down and held on for the win.
“It was huge,” Shea Theodore said. “We kind of let that one slide in the third period against P.G., so our goal going into today, especially the third period, was to to hold that lead. We did the right things and got the win.”
The two teams only play once a year and in the first period it seemed like the two clubs were feeling each other out. Steve Konowalchuk called it a “chess match,” and despite the Broncos scoring first on a Colby Cave goal Seattle played pretty well.
In the second period, however, the T-Birds poured on the pressure. Justin Hickman got into a fight with Bobby Zinkan a minute into the period and that seemed to spark the team. The T-Birds started controlling the play, got their forecheck going and tilted the ice.
“I thought at the end of the first period we got a few big hits that I think carried over into the second period,” Konowalchuk said. “I thought physically we paid a price, we finished our checks, were hard on pucks and I think we wore them down throughout the game.”
Seattle tied the game up when Riley Sheen deflected a Jerret Smith shot past Swift Current goalie Landon Bow. It was the second game in a row that Sheen has scored as he has played well this past week – even getting promoted to the Brandon Troock-Alex Delnov line.
“I just got back to basics,” Sheen said. “Kind of kept things simple and pucks are just starting to fall my way. I’m finding the net and my teammates out there.”
Seattle didn’t relent after that goal as it scored three more times in the second on goals by Seth Swenson, Troock and Roberts Lipsbergs. It seemed like the game was all wrapped up until Julius Honka’s slap shot beat Myles with less than a minute in the second to cut the lead.
The Broncos pushed the play early in the third and picked up another goal by Coda Gordon nine minutes in, and suddenly the strong sense of deja vu was in the air.
Saturday night was different, though, as Seattle got back into its game and four minutes later Jared Hauf blasted a shot from the point that found net and gave the 3,269 fans in attendance reason to cheer again. Justin Hickman potted a goal from the slot a minute later and the game was clinched.
“Our guys stayed composed,” Konowalchuk said about the game getting close. “We went back at it. You could hear it on the bench from guys (saying) ‘we’re fine’. When it’s that soon that something like that (Friday’s game) happened, it’s in your mind a little bit but the guys kept playing. It was good, a little bit of adversity there but the guy’s buckled down, it was a good learning experience.”
Like they have for a majority of the young season, Seattle got contributions from up and down its roster. Its six goals were scored by six different players, which speaks to their depth. Theodore didn’t score but picked up two assists and was plus-3 on the night. Since returning from the Anaheim Ducks camp he has been strong for Seattle and is off to a start that could lead to a monster season.
“Coming from an NHL camp I’ve felt stronger,” the defenseman said. “I’ve really tried to build off my start and I’m still going strong.”
The T-Birds ended the weekend on a good note and after dropping Friday night’s game are back on track. It was a solid bounce-back win against a good team from the Eastern Conference and Seattle ends up picking up three of the four possible points this weekend.
“We had a good week here of practice,” Konowalchuk said. “We’re still working on some stuff, but it makes it much more enjoyable to come to the rink.”
Seattle’s next game is Friday, Oct. 25, in Tri City for the fourth meeting already between the two clubs.
Mathew Barzal picked up an assist in the game and now has an eight-game point streak going for himself. He continues to lead the club in scoring, which is impressive for a 16-year-old rookie, and is plus-10 on the season.
Coming into the game it was thought that special teams might play a big role in the out come. Swift Current has one of the best power plays in the league but has struggled killing penalties. However, as the game played out there were very few power-play chances for either team – both had two power plays and did not convert.
Saturday’s game was the return of former T-Birds Connor Sanvido and Andrew Johnson. Sanvido played three full seasons for Seattle and picked up an assist in the game.
With its six goals scored on Saturday Seattle is now averaging more than four goals per game, and only the Portland Winterhawks have scored more goals on the season. Seattle has found the twine 53 times.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide