Seattle’s Erik Benoit fights for room in front of the Tri City net during the T-Birds 5-4 win (Photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds found themselves in another home shoot out on Friday night as they defeated the Tri City Americans 5-4 in front of 3,240 at the ShoWare Center in Kent. Roberts Lipsbergs was the only player to convert in a shoot out that went five players deep to secure the two points and give Seattle a 3-0 record to start the season.
Seattle made this game tougher than perhaps it should have. Leading 4-3 late in the period Scott Eansor attempted to clear the puck from his zone only to have it sail over the glass. He was called for delay of game which allowed Tri City to pull their goaltender for two extra attackers. Less than ten seconds later Beau McCue banged a puck past Justin Myles to tie the game.
“They’re a relentless team, they didn’t give up,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said about Tri City. “I thought in the third period there we had it rolling pretty good, we were hemming them in and doing what we should. We got a little bit scrambled at the end and made a couple mistakes but we found a way to get the win.”
This is the kind of game that Seattle may have dropped last year and the fact that they were able to recover from a potentially devastating late goal is big moving forward.
Starting the season with three straight wins is even bigger and is building confidence in the team.
“It (the start) feels great,” Connor Honey said. “We’ve been working really hard, even in preseason, Just trying to work hard every shift, getting the puck deep and playing simple.”
Honey’s line, along with Branden Troock and Alex Delnov has been the catalyst for the T-Birds so far. Friday night the trio combined for three more goals and six points. Konowalchuk feels that their success is due to them paying attention to the finer parts of the game.
“They’re veteran players,” he said of his top line. “They’re smart players and they’re trying to do the right thing. They’re playing to the details and when you get your skilled guys playing with detail that helps you have success. It’s a start, they still have more in them, they can still play better without the puck.”
Seattle (3-0-0-0) got on the board first after a nice play started by Shea Theodore. Theodore got the puck up ice where Honey fed it to Delnov who made a quick pass to Troock who scored at the side of the net. It was Troock’s third goal of the year as he continues to show no ill affects of his shoulder injury last season.
“I’m feeling really good,” Troock said. “I feel strong, the shoulder has been giving me no problems, the doctors have cleared me so I’m going to play my game.”
Tri City (1-2-0-1) got the goal back as Brian Williams continued his strong start to the season with a break away goal that beat Myles. Connor Rankin scored later in the first period to give the Americans the lead.
A minute later the T-Birds struck on the power play as Troock and Theodore worked to the puck to Honey who beat Comrie through the five hole.
In the second period Seattle seemed to find their groove and got the lead back as Alex Delnov picked up a deflection off of a Jared Hauf shot and deposited the puck into a wide open net for his third goal of the year.
Williams struck again on a strange play. Williams took advantage of a Seattle defenseman who had his stick knocked out of his hand to beat Myles and get the game even again. Seattle scored again late in the second to take the lead after a nice two-man play between Seth Swenson and Mathew Barzal as they worked the puck deep. Barzal got in close, was knocked off the puck which slid to Swenson who was able to pick it up and score.
The third period saw no scoring until McCue’s late game heroics.
For Justin Myles, he picks up his second straight win, both in the shoot out. Friday night he had to stare down five Tri City shooters plus one of the game’s best young goalies in Comrie.
“He played a heck of a game,” said Konowalchuk. “Big in the first period and he made a save late in the four on four, a kick save and he won the shoot out.”
The T-Birds now head out for a six game road trip that starts Saturday night in Portland. Starting with three straight wins gives the team confidence but they know they still have work to do.
“It’ a nice start, that’s what we want to do,” Konowalchuk said. “Tomorrow is going to be tough, Portland’s sitting and waiting for us with a week of practice after two losses. We have to bring our A+ game.”
Seattle’s 3-0 start is the best start in 18 seasons for the T-Birds.
When Rankin scored in the first period it was the first time the T-Birds have trailed in a game this year. They only found themselves behind for 42 seconds before Honey tied the game up again.
Seattle gave up their first power play goals Friday night as Tri City went 2-for-5 on the night. Seattle was 1-for-2 on their attempts.
Seattle will get Justin Hickman back in the fold Saturday night in Portland.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide