T-Birds goalie Danny Mumaugh stretches to make a pad save during Seattle’s 5-4 loss (photo Christopher Mast)
By Andrew Eide
EVERETT – The Seattle Thunderbirds skated out to a first period lead Friday night only to watch as the Everett Silvertips stormed back with a four goal second period – which was enough for a 5-4 preseason victory at the Comcast Arena. Seattle scored two late third period goals to make the game interesting but in the end could not find the equalizer.
“We weren’t good enough all night,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “I thought we kind of got going in the second half of the first period but we fell off our game. For 60 minutes they worked harder than us and were smarter than us.”
The Thunderbirds struggled in their own end for much of the night as Everett pinned them down and won most of the puck battles. After Everett got on the board first with a power play goal the T-Birds seemed to find their stride as the play evened out. They tied the game on a Mathew Barzal goal and took the lead a minute later as Alex Delnov beat Everett goalie Austin Lotz.
For most of the first period the T-Birds gave us a glimpse of what their top two lines might look like. Barzal played with Justin Hickman and Roberts Lipsbegrs while Connor Honey played on a line with Alex Delnov and Branden Troock. Those two lines combined for ten points in the game, which might have been the lone positive of the night.
“We know they’ve got some talent and they can score goals,” Konowalchuk said about his forwards. “But we still have to work harder defensively and at times they were good and other times they weren’t. Puck management was not good enough tonight.”
For Justin Hickman, he is back after serving a three game suspension (he will still have to sit out the first three regular season games) but he is looking forward to what his line can produce.
“Obviously Lippy is a pure shooter so anytime he gets the puck in the middle he’s a big threat,” Hickman said. “Barzal is a special player everywhere on the ice so with those two guys it’s pretty easy to create offense. I just try to chip in where I can, winning battles down low to give those guys more room with the puck is something I feel I should be doing. We’ve been pretty successful so far but we still have some work to do.”
In the second period everything unraveled for Seattle.
It started with a short handed goal scored by the WHL preseason leading scorer Manraj Hayer and just seemed to get worse from there. After the Hayer goal the Silvertips struck two more times on goals by Micheal Zipp and Tyler Sandhu. With a two-goal lead the Silvertips would score what, for Seattle, was the ugliest goal of the night.
With the puck down low the Seattle defenders seemed to stand and watch as Everett players took several whacks at it before a helpless Danny Mumaugh could not stop Ivan Nikolishin from depositing the puck in a wide open net.
When the dust settled Everett led the game 5-2 and out shot the T-Birds 18-5 in the period.
“Winning battles, we have to win more battles,” Konowalchuk said. “We have to be smarter in the neutral zone and in that way we weren’t playing.”
Seattle played a little more steady in the third period but still were guilty of some sloppy play in their own end. If it weren’t for some stellar saves by Mumaugh the game may have become even uglier.
The T-Birds did manage to make the game interesting down the stretch.
After Roberts Lipsbergs cut the lead to two early in the period the T-Birds pulled the goalie for the extra skater as time was winding down. With 1:25 left in the game Connor Honey got a pass from Brandon Troock in the slot and beat Lotz and give Seattle life. Seconds later Honey found the puck on his stick again, at the door step, where he got two good chances to tie the game but was robbed by Lotz.
Seattle’s preseason record falls to 4-2 with one game left before the games start counting. One problem that has plagued the T-Birds so far is that they seem to find one period in the game where they struggle. Friday night it cost them as the Silvertips put the game out of reach. It’s something that they will have to shore up before they host the Portland Winterhawks next weekend.
“We’ve got a lot of new guys on our team,” Hickman said. “But, we are a pretty veteran team so it might be preseason jitters while we get back into the swing of things but I think we like the team we have, we’re all excited to be a good team this year and get on track.”
Seattle can work on getting back on track Saturday night as they close out the preseason with a rematch game with the Silvertips at the ShoWare Center in Kent – game time is 7:00.
Seattle’s goaltender picture is still something that is up for grabs. The club sent 16 year-old Logan Flodell home before the game so it appears that the competition is down to the three remaining guys. Konowlachuk stated that Justin Myles will get the start in net for the team on Saturday.
There has been a lot of anticipation to see how good Mathew Barzal is going to be this season. So far he has not disappointed. He has appeared in six preseason game and has four goals and six points.
Seattle’s defense struggled Friday night and was missing its three top players. Shea Theodore is still in camp with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks and Jesse Forsberg and Jared Hauf were scratches on Friday night. Despite missing those guys Konowalchuk felt there were no excuses — “If you’re out there you’ve got to be able to play,” he said. “We believe our guys can play and as a team we’ve got to be better.”
After ending up as the lowest goal scoring team in the WHL last year the Silvertips continue to show an improved offense. After their five goal out put on Friday night they now lead the league in scoring and are averaging over five goals per game.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide