Seattle’s Connor Honey led Seattle to a 6-4 preseason victory over Spokane (photo Christopher Mast)
By Andrew Eide
EVERETT – The Seattle Thunderbirds completed a perfect preseason weekend Sunday as they hung on to beat the Spokane Chiefs 6-4 at the Comcast Center in Everett. Seattle built a seemingly insurmountable lead of 4-1 before getting into penalty trouble and seeing the Chiefs cut the lead to one. Seth Swenson ended the drama with an empty net goal to secure the victory.
Connor Honey seems to be in mid-season form as he scored two goals, added an assist and played a tough physical game. Rookie Keegan Kolesar also chipped in with a goal and an assist.
As they did on Saturday the T-Birds had one period in the game where they got in penalty trouble and found themselves short-handed for the majority of the period. Sunday it was the third period, when Spokane was able to cash in on two power play goals and get the game closer than perhaps it should have been.
“Penalties in the third again,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said afterwards. “We had two good periods of solid hockey and then those penalties. You can’t play with momentum with those penalties. It was just not being smart. We’ve got to work it out, we definitely let them back in the game when we didn’t have to.”
The T-Birds ended up giving Spokane four third period power plays which put goalie Justin Myles under pressure for the last 20 minutes. While the Chiefs scored twice Myles made several key saves down the stretch to preserve the lead for Seattle. It was another good performance by one of the four guys fighting to be the top goalie.
“The team really helped me out today,” Myles said. “They kept all the shots to the outside and those are a lot easier to control than the shots from the slot.”
Konowalchuk commented on how difficult the goalie decision is going to be with how well all four guys have been playing in camp. For Myles and the others they just need to keep playing hard and wait.
“I really just try to control what I can control,” Myles says. “I just have to play well, that’s all I can do. We all support each other, we all pat each other on the back when we play well.”
Sunday’s win completed a 3-0 weekend for the T-Birds which, despite the games not counting, is always good to see. Winning games helps build the kind of atmosphere and mentality that Konowalchuk wants with his club.
“You want to win every game you play,” he said. “We’v talked about if you’re competitive, be competitive. If you put the skates on you have to go out and play the right way and play to win.”
While returning player Connor Honey was the offensive star of the game, Sunday gave the T-Birds a glimpse of the future as once again some of the younger players stepped up. 15 year-old Nolan Volcan got his first goal in the second period and 2012 first round pick Keegan Kolesar continued his impressive weekend with two points.
“It feels pretty good,” Kolesar said. “Last year I was up in the bleachers watching so it feels good to be playing. It feels even greater to go 3-0 this weekend and being a part of that.”
With the Everett Preseason Tournament in the books the T-Birds will now head to Kennewick for another preseason tournament in Tri-City. They will take on the Tri City Americans Friday evening and then take on the defending WHL Champion Portland Winterhawks on Saturday.
Honey played on a line with Alex Delnov and the young Nolan Volcan. They were Seattle’s best line Sunday as they combined for six points and were a collective plus-8 on the game.
Defenseman Jerret Smith ended the day with a big plus-4.
Spokane’s first goal came off the stick of Liam Stewart who is the son of music legend Rod Stewart.
Seattle and the Everett Silvertips were the only teams that won all three games over the weekend. The Silvertips closed out the tournament with a 3-0 victory over Portland.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide.