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Kamloops uses power play to down Thunderbirds 6-3

Looking to build off of Friday night’s win the Seattle Thunderbirds ran into a hot Kamloops Blazers power play Saturday night.

The Blazers, who boast the fifth best power-play unit in the league, scored three times with the man advantage, which ended up being the difference at the Sandman Centre. It would be two such goals late in the second period that spoiled a valiant comeback effort from Seattle.

“Their special teams got it done,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “They won the special teams battle over us. We didn’t do a good enough job on either special team.”

Orrin Centazzo would score twice on the power play in the last four minutes of the second period to lead the way for a 6-3 Kamloops win. The scores from Centazzo, his seventh and eighth of the year, came after Seattle (9-13-3-0) had erased a 3-1 deficit. Kamloops (11-11-1-1) would end the night 3-for-5 on the power play.

Instead of heading into the final frame tied, the Thunderbirds were in a hole

“I thought they took over the momentum, after we tied the game, at the end of the second,” O’Dette said. “A mental mistake on a line change, we took a too-many-men penalty and that was the difference in the game. As far as managing the game flow and knowing when important times of the game, in terms of momentum, we didn’t manage that well enough.”

As has been the norm for O’Dette and the Thunderbirds over the last month, they were forced to play with a young defense. Reece Harsch was not able to play Saturday after getting injured Friday night. That forced 16-year-old Luke Batemen to be called up to play and left the Thunderbirds with four rookies and no player over 18 on their blue line.

Jake Lee was on defense for Seattle but he was dealing with an illness. Despite that, he played a ton of minutes.

“I think sometimes when you’re asking a lot of 16 and 17-year-olds, it can catch up to them,” O’Dette said. “Especially on the back end, this is an 18, 19 and 20-year-old league and we don’t have many of those on the back end. We’re dealing with some growing pains and asking a lot of your young guys. Guys like Jake, and (Simon) Kubicek and (Tyrel Bauer) are logging a lot of minutes. It’s a lot for these guys but they’re doing well, but it is a factor.”

The back breaker Saturday came off Centazzo’s stick late in the second period. He first scored at 18:25 during a five-on-three power-play attempt on an easy tap in at the back door. Seattle would go short handed again three minutes later and Centazzo would convert to build a 5-3 lead for the Blazers heading into the third period.

Centazzo’s work came after Andrej Kukuca had cut the Kamloops lead to 3-2 at the 7:08 mark of the second period when he scored from in close. Nolan Volcan would then get a feed from Simon Kubicek and make a nice move to beat goalie Dylan Garand for his sixth at 12:49.

The Thunderbirds weren’t able to capitalize on the momentum from the comeback however as they shot themselves in the foot with the penalties late in the period. Seattle pressed in the third, recording 12 shots on goal, but couldn’t get one past Garand and Kobe Mohr would find the empty net late to seal the victory for Kamloops.

While the Blazers were cashing in on power plays, Seattle went 0-for-3 on the night.

“We had some chances, a couple off entry,” O’Dette said of his power-play unit. “(Dillon Hamaliuk) had one where he had the goalie beat but put it wide. I thought we generated some shots…obviously we need to be better on the power play. We’re having some trouble finding some continuity there, with guys going in and out that are on the power play.”

Tyler Carpendale had given Seattle a lead early in the first period with his second in as many nights but the Blazers came back on first-period markers from Zane Franklin and Jermaine Loewen, who scored the first power-play goal of the night.

At 3:13 of the second period, Quinn Schmiemann put the Blazers out in front 3-1 with his third of the year.

While the Thunderbirds lost Saturday night, it feels that some of their goal-scoring troubles have faded. In the last three games, Seattle has scored 13 times — a far cry from earlier in November when they had a hard time potting more than one a game.

“It feels like we can generate some offense now,” O’Dette said. “With (Noah) Philp back it’s been a big boost. I think we’re close. Like I’ve said before, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel. Hopefully we get some health back in the lineup here and once we get our full lineup, we’ll continue to make some progress.”

Seattle will get a week off to try and get some of its key players back before playing again, next Friday, in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans.

Notes

• Zack Andrusiak had his goal-scoring streak snapped at seven but he did add an assist on Saturday to extend his point streak to eight games.

• Lee played a lot while dealing with the flu that has worked through the club. O’Dette praised his effort on Saturday. “Great job by him, sucking it up and playing,” O’Dette said. “We need everybody, all hands on deck right now. A lot of credit goes to Jake for fighting through it. He gave it everything he has. When we are short on the back end, that was a great effort by Jake.”

• Liam Hughes was in net for Seattle and stopped 30 Blazers shots. Garand picked up his fourth win of the year by making 26 saves.

• Philp picked up two assists on Saturday, giving him four points in the two games he’s played since returning from injury.