By Andrew Eide
PORTLAND, Ore – The Thunderbirds losing streak reached eight straight games Monday night at Portland’s Rose Garden as the first place Winterhawks handed Seattle a 5-0 loss. Seattle was without their top two scorers and got little to no punch from the rest of their roster.
It was apparent pretty early that Seattle did not have it Monday night as they came out turning the puck over and struggling to get the puck into the Portland zone. Even though they ended the period only down a goal, which would have been worse if not for the fine play of goalie Brandon Glover, the tone for the night seemed to have been set.
“Certain key guys weren’t ready to play,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “In the first period we didn’t follow the game plan and certain guys didn’t compete.”
Seattle (16-19-2-1) showed a bit of life in the second period as they dictated play a bit and got some good scoring chances. They were not able to beat Portland goalie Mac Carruth however and struggled on the power play for the third straight game.
Clearly upset with his team’s performance, Konowalchuk decided to sit guys he felt were not playing within the team’s system. Of those players, the most notable was Shea Theodore, who found himself at the end of the bench. Alex Delnov also saw his ice time limited as the game wore on.
“You’ve got to get upset, you got to bench a couple of guys,” Konowalchuk said of the second period. “Other guys decided to pick it up and play but it was too late.”
Despite some good play in the second the T-Birds had several defensive lapses and Portland seemingly had breakaway after breakaway which was highlighted by Brendan Leipsic scoring a short handed goal that seemed to break Seattle’s back.
On the night the T-birds were 0-for-5 on the power play and now has not scored a power play goal in three straight games.
“On the power play, because certain guys didn’t get ice time we had to mix it up and didn’t really get a chance to get in sync,” Konowalchuk said. “Key guys aren’t playing, they’re the ones that are supposed to make the power play go.”
The lone bright spot for the T-Birds was the play of 2012 first round draft pick Keegan Kolesar, who was making his WHL debut. While he didn’t score he played hard and had several good chances. His most memorable play came on the power play when he bullied his way between two Portland defenders and ripped a hard shot that Carruth had to make a tough save on.
“I thought he played good,” Konowalchuk said of his young winger. “I guess that kind of says where we’re at tonight when he is one of our better forwards.”
The going does not get any easier for Seattle as they now have to travel to Kamloops to take on the Western Conference’s second best team on the road.
“We better start competing,” Konowalchuk said. “And we better get competing within the game plan. That’s what we have to do, if guys don’t want to get serious real quick about competing every night, not just on night’s they want to, no matter who we’re playing it’s going to be a long second half.”
Despite the losing streak the T-Birds are still in seventh place in the Western Conference and are five points out of sixth place and ten out of fifth. They will need to get going if they wish to cement the playoff spot they currently hold.
Connor Honey was a scratch Monday night as he suffered an upper body injury at Everett on Saturday night.
Kolesar was impressive Monday night and look like he will be a good power forward next year and beyond for Seattle. He has good size, impressive hands and a nose for the net.
Yahoo’s Kelly Friesen posted an article Sunday night that indicated a source has informed him that first overall pick Mathew Barzal would be signing with Seattle. Friesen’s detailed it as “just a matter of time” before he signed and his source also hinted that 2011’s first round pick Ryan Gropp may follow suit. Stay tuned.
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