By Andrew Eide
The Seattle Thunderbirds stormed into the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge Saturday night and exploded for a four goal first period as they sailed to a 6-2 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. The T-Birds were led by a four point night from rookie Mathew Barzal and a hat trick from Roberts Lipsbergs as they picked up their second road win in as many nights.
Seattle (5-2-0-0) showed no ill effects from the big come from behind win Friday night as they jumped all over the Hurricanes early.
“It was an important win for us,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said after. “To come back from an emotional game last night and win tonight is a big step for us. We stuck to the game plan and played north and south hockey.”
Barzal, coming off a night where he scored a late game tying goal, was excellent on Saturday night – playing perhaps his strongest game of the young season. He sparked the T-Birds, made crisp passes and set up his teammates all night. He got Seattle going in the first period when he stole the puck at center ice and exploded into the Lethbridge zone ahead of everyone. As he broke in on net he slid the puck back to the trailing Roberts Lipsbergs who beat Hurricanes goalie Corbin Boes through the five hole.
“It’s (passing) his strength,” Konowalchuk said of Barzal. “He is so puck smart and his hockey intelligence is exceptional. If he gets it in open space he makes special plays.”
Seattle added to their total a couple of minutes later as Alex Delnov tipped in a point shot from Shea Theodore and then Barzal struck again. He got that room Konowalchuk talked about on the power play as he carried the puck along the half-boards and deftly fed Lipsbergs in the slot with a pass that ended up in the Lethbridge net.
That pair was not done however as four minutes later the two teamed up again on a shot that Lipsbergs fired so quickly that it was originally awarded to Justin Hickman who knocked in what appeared to be a rebound. The goal was changed however giving Lipsbergs a hat trick in the first period.
The T-Birds power play had struggled early in the season but they picked up two power play conversions in the first period and were 2-for-6 on the night. Konowalchuk was happy to see the power play start to click for his team.
“We came out and buried our chances in the first period,” he said. “The power play and special teams were our key to the game tonight.”
Lethbridge (1-4-0-1) got on the board in the second period where they enjoyed their most success. Seattle put the game out of reach for good in the third period on goals by Delnov and Michal Holub. For the most part the T-Birds were able to put the game into cruise control after the opening 20 minutes.
Seattle now will play their third road game in three nights as they take on the Kootenay Ice on Sunday at 5 P.M. The benefit of having a big lead like they had on Saturday is that they could rest players. Konowalchuk juggled his lines and sat key players like Branden Troock and Connor Honey late in the game.
Seattle has been getting solid goaltending by it’s two main guys. Justin Myles made 27 saves Saturday night and played a strong game. When asked Konowalchuk said he might go back to Mumaugh on Sunday as he clearly has confidence in both players.
The hat trick was Lipsbergs first this season and third in his career – he had two hat tricks last season.
The Lethbridge Hurricanes have not beat Seattle since 2007.
Shea Theodore continues his strong start as he added three assists on Saturday night. He now has eight points in six games this season.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide