By Andrew Eide
The Thunderbirds headed north to Kamloops Wednesday night with a great deal of excitement swirling around the club. The recent news concerning Ryan Gropp and more importantly their five game winning streak was the predominant chatter all day. That all faded away into the distance quickly however as they were shut down 3-1 by the Kamloops Blazers at the Interior Savings Centre.
Tim Bozon paced the Blazers with two goals and Bolton Pouliot made 31 saves as Seattle could not generate any energy or offense all night long.
“We got out worked,” Steve Konowalchuk said after. “We weren’t ready to play. They (Kamloops) stuck to their game plan and we thought it was going to be an easy game and that they were going to give it to us.”
Seattle (8-3-0-0) was not sharp from the beginning. They weren’t connecting on passes and struggled to get into their forechecking game – which has been one of the big keys to their success so far.
“You turn the puck over in the neutral zone because you’re not in the game plan,” Konowalchuk said about his team’s struggles. “Then you can’t get into your forecheck, we weren’t skating with the purpose of forechecking.”
The T-Birds did manage to get on the board first with a Shea Theodore power play goal as he beat Pouliot with a nice slap shot from the point. From there the game slowed down into a slog as neither team was able to generate any sustained pressure. Kamloops (4-7-0-0) evened the game when Bozon out raced the Seattle defense to a puck on a four on four situation and beat Justin Myles on a breakaway.
Kamloops extended the lead in the second when they scored on two more odd man rushes. First it was Bozon, for his second, on a two on one after a Seattle drop pass was intercepted at the blue line. The third goal was scored by Chase Souto, on a Kamloops power play, as he got behind the defense to collect a stretch pass and had a clear path to the net.
The T-Birds were given a golden opportunity to get back into the game at the end of the period when Ryan Rehill clipped Keegan Kolesar with a high stick that drew blood – and a double minor penalty. The four minutes of continued power play carried into the third period but Seattle was unable to cash in. They had four more power play chances, including a minute of a two-man advantage, later in the period and went scoreless in all of them.
“We weren’t desperate enough, we waited,” Konowalchuk said of the power play. “If we did have a play we hesitated and it gave them a chance to get in the shot lane instead of just making a pass or shooting the puck.”
Seattle ended the night 1-for-8 with the man advantage and kicked away a chance to not only come back but to put the game away. The loss snaps their five game win streak and deflates some of the recent excitement surrounding the club.
The T-Birds have kicked games like this earlier in the year when they got blown out by Portland and then shut out by Tri City — after winning three in a row. Did they look past a Kamloops team that did not have a good record?
“It sure looked like we didn’t want to go out and fight for every inch of ice,” Konowalchuk said. “I’m not sure if it was because of the standings, I’m sure it was different for each individual.”
Seattle gets a chance to right the ship Friday as they host the Prince George Cougars at the ShoWare Center in Kent.
With as well as Seattle has been playing, one area that they have struggled on is the power play. It let them down on Wednesday and they are now 18th in the league at only 16.7 percent.
The loss combined with Spokane’s win on Wednesday dropped the T-Birds to second place in the U.S. Division behind the Chiefs.
Ryan Gropp was in attendance at the game and it was announced that he will wear number 12 when he does make his T-Birds debut. No word as to when that will be yet but with two home games this weekend there is a good chance he will see some action.
Connor Honey was a scratch again and has now been listed as ‘week to week’ as he continues to nurse an injury.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide