Seattle’s Branden Troock carries the puck during the T-Birds 5-4 loss Friday (photo Seattle Thundberbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT – The Thunderbirds kicked one away Friday night. Leading 4-2 with under three minutes left in the game they allowed the Prince George Cougars to score two goals to tie it and go on to win in the shoot out 5-4. This is one that Seattle should have had.
“We gave two points away and lost a point for ourselves,” Steve Konowalchuk said of the loss. “Tough way to lose it when you’ve got a two goal lead there in the last couple of minutes in the game.”
Seattle scored what appeared to be the game clinching goal with just over three minutes left when Justin Hickman fed a pretty pass to rookie Ethan Bear on the doorstep to beat Cougars goalie Ty Edmonds. It was Bear’s first career WHL goal and gave Seattle (8-3-0-1) what should have been the winner.
The Cougars didn’t relent however.
Prince George (6-6-0-1) scored less than a minute later when Klarc Wilson chipped the puck over Seattle goalie Danny Mumaugh to cut the lead back to one. With Edmonds out of the net for the extra skater the Cougars attacked the Seattle zone and Troy Bourke’s managed a shot that was initially stopped by Mumaugh but trickled just over the goal line to tie the game.
“You know they’re going to come at you,” Steve Konowalchuk said after the game. “You’ve got to be smart and know your assignments, we should do a better job of closing out the game. You have to give them (Prince George) credit, they didn’t quit playing.”
Seattle started the game much the same way they played in Kamloops – sloppy. The Cougars controlled the early play and picked up the first eight shots of the period. They also got the early goal when rookie Jansen Harkins put back his own rebound for an early 1-0 Prince George lead.
The T-Birds tried to get some energy back into the period with some big open ice hits from defenseman Evan Wardley who was back after missing four games with an injury. That gave Seattle a little bit of life back but it wasn’t until they got a couple of power play chances before they picked up their tempo.
Seattle was on their first power play when Brandon Troock stick handled through the Prince George defense and drew a second penalty. On the resulting five-on-three Shea Theodore hit Roberts Lipsbergs with a laser pass on the door step. Lipsbergs doesn’t miss from there and collected his ninth goal. More importantly he gave Seattle some life.
“We did start slow,” Justin Hickman said. “I thought we found our legs and we picked it up in the second ten. I thought we carried the play for most of the first after the ten minute mark. Another start, mental errors, not being prepared.”
In the second period the T-Birds came out strong led by Troock who was physical and plowed his way in on the net but lost the puck. The puck went to Erik Benoit in the slot who fired it past Edmonds to give the T-Birds the lead.
Seattle was feeling good at that point but one shift changed the momentum. Prince George had Seattle’s fourth line trapped in their own end for what felt like an eternity. The shift ended with a Seattle penalty that the Cougars cashed in on when Chase Witala fired a shot past Mumaugh.
Suddenly the T-Birds found themselves back on their heels.
Riley Sheen got the momentum back in their favor late in the period when his pass attempt was blocked and rebounded right back to him. He whistled a wrist shot past Edmonds to give the T-Birds a lead just before the end of the second. It was a strong night for Sheen as he played with a lot of energy and got rewarded with the goal – giving the T-Birds a one goal lead going into the third period.
After the third period dramatics the teams went to the shoot out and both goalies made things tough. Edmonds and Mumaugh matched each other as it took six shooters to settle the whole thing with Jordan Tkatch converting for the win.
Seattle now has dropped two games in a row to teams that are below them in the standings. That is not a trend that they want to continue with moving forward.
“We’ve got to have a short memory loss here,” Hickman said. “We still got away with the point but we’ve got to be better tomorrow. Swift Current is a good team and they’re going to come in and not give us anything so we’ve got to come out prepared to get the two points tomorrow.”
The T-Birds won’t have long to wallow in this loss as the Swift Current Broncos come to the ShoWare Center Saturday night. The Broncos have been an early season surprise and will be another tough match up for the T-Birds.
After a tough loss like Friday night, getting to play the next night may be the perfect fix.
“It will be good to get right back at it,” Konowalchuk said. “I think guys are ready to get going and get jumping in there.”
Seattle and Swift Current face off at 7:05 Saturday night.
The two teams combined to put 95 shots on goal Friday night. Ty Edmonds made 40 saves while Mumaugh stopped 46 shots.
Seattle’s power play had been scuffling a bit for them but Friday night they went 2-for-4 and looked like they had some good chemistry.
The overtime game was the third time in four games at home that have gone to a shoot out. It is also the second time that Seattle has surrendered a game-tying goal late at home. It was also Seattle’s fifth overtime game on the season – tops in the WHL.
Swift Current lost at Portland Friday night by a score of 5-4. Like Seattle they now have lost two in a row setting up a game Saturday between two desperate teams.
The anticipation of seeing Ryan Gropp make his T-Birds debut will have to wait a bit. He is still nursing a lower body injury and most likely won’t play Saturday against Swift Current.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide