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Second period penalties cost Thunderbirds in preseason loss to Spokane

Seattle goalie Eric Ward stopped 36 shots Sunday but it wouldn't be enough as the T-Birds lost to Spokane (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

EVERETT – The Thunderbirds closed out the first weekend of the preseason Sunday in the same fashion that they started with on Friday. Penalty troubles put them in a hole that they couldn’t get out of.

Against the Spokane Chiefs at the Angel of the Winds Arena the penalties came in the second period with Seattle holding a 1-0 lead. Seattle would give Spokane four power-play chances in the period, including a long five-on-three chance and when the period ended, the Thunderbirds found themselves down 3-1.

“Some guys need to be able to play without taking penalties, just plain and simple,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “You have to have some control out there and there’s some guys who don’t want to play under control, it cost the team.”

Spokane’s Adam Beckman would score his first of two goals on the night while on the two-man advantage to erase Seattle’s lead. That goal would be followed by a tally from Jack Finley to put Spokane ahead. Seattle had a late second-period power-play chance of its own but Beckman would intercept a bad clearing pass and move in on goalie Eric Ward to score short-handed. That would be all the scoring Spokane needed as the Chiefs would edge Seattle by a 3-2 score.

“I didn’t like the middle part of the game, the second period,” O’Dette said. “We were doing just fine five-on-five and I think out-playing them and then the penalty trouble hit. When you’re killing all kinds of penalties you’re over extending your guys.

Then in the second half of the game you don’t have much juice left in the tank. It’s kind of a snowball effect when that happens.”

Simon Kubicek would score his second goal in as many days in the third period to pull Seattle to within one but that would be as close as the score would get. Owen Williams also scored for Seattle, in the first period, to give the Thunderbirds the early lead.

Lost in the penalty trouble was a strong outing by Ward.

Ward is in a battle with Cole Schwebius for the club’s back up spot and gave Seattle a chance by making 36 saves.

“It felt pretty comfortable,” Ward said of his first preseason start. “I was pretty excited at the start, just once I got the feel for the puck I thought everything went well after that.”

Both Ward and Schwebius played well over the weekend and with Liam Hughes headed to rookie camp with the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers this week, both would-be back ups will get more chances to play in the preseason.

“He played well,” O’Dette said of Ward. “Made a lot of big saves and kept the game close…he did what we would ask of any goalie to give us a shot to win and he did that. We’ll keep evaluating and they’ll have more opportunity as the preseason goes along.”

Ward was at his best while Seattle was short-handed. The old saying is that the goaltender needs to be a team’s best penalty killer and Ward fit that bill Sunday. Spokane only converted on one of its seven power-play chances, and that came on a two-man advantage.

“Just stop the puck by any means necessary,” Ward said of making saves while short-handed. “If I have to throw my glove over there, that’s just something I have to do.”

The Thunderbirds end the weekend with a 1-2 record and will now head to Kennewick where they will open the Red Lion Preseason Tournament with a Thursday rematch with the Chiefs. You can bet that the focus of practice in the meantime will be playing with more discipline.

“It’s something that needs to be addressed and we’ll do that,” O’Dette added. “It will get fixed.”

Notes

• Seattle played with a young lineup on Sunday. The scratched players included Tyler Carpendale, Noah Philp, Jaxan Kaluski, Payton Mount, Zack Andrusiak, Dillon Hamaliuk, Nolan Volcan, Jarret Tyszka, Reece Harsch, Jake Lee, and Liam Hughes.

• Mount missed all three games over the weekend due to an illness. O’Dette said after Saturday’s game that they were hopeful that Mount would be able to play in Kennewick.

• Both Seattle goals came via the power play and the Thunderbirds ended the night 2-for-5.

• The Thunderbirds averaged seven power-plays against over the weekend and allowed five power-play goals.