Thunderbirds lose discipline, allow five straight goals in second consecutive loss to Portland.
For the first 20 minutes Monday night, the Seattle Thunderbirds were flying.
They hit the ice at the Moda Center to take on the Portland Winterhawks and took a 3-1 lead in the first period behind two goals from Zack Andrusiak and one from Tyler Carpendale. That wouldn’t last however as the Thunderbirds would lose discipline the rest of the way to give up five unanswered goals as Portland would skate away from them in a 6-3 win.
Things would unravel quickly for Seattle (11-19-4-0) in the second period as they lost their sixth straight game while allowing five or more goals for the fifth time in six contests.
“In this building it’s a momentum game,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “We made a poor play early and they got one early in the period and got some momentum. I think penalties derailed us. We had two five-on-three’s that were very lengthy and we took two major penalties. They have a good power play and once they get the ball rolling in this building, things can change quickly.”
Joachim Blichfeld got the early one, 39 seconds into the period, for Portland and then Seattle took penalties. Portland (21-11-3-2) would go on to score two power-play goals in the period, one more even-strength tally and ended the period with a 5-3 lead.
As the frustration mounted, Seattle’s composure disappeared.
The biggest penalty was called on Cade McNelly who was assessed a five-minute major and game misconduct for a high cross check on Portland’s Michael Kvasnica. That resulted in a lengthy power play for the Winterhawks.
“It’s not being in control of your emotions” O’Dette said of the penalties. “Not a very smart penalty, there’s no other way to say it. It was a dumb penalty.”
The Winterhawks would end the night 3-for-6 on the power play and it gave them all the momentum they needed. Offensively, they were led by Blichfeld’s league leading 33rd and 34th goals of the year. After a first period that saw Seattle match Portland in shots, Seattle would get out shot 32-22 the rest of the way.
The loss wasted another big performance from Andrusiak who, with two more goals, now has six in his last two games and nine in his last three games against Portland. Both of his goals Tuesday came in the first period.
Seattle got off the game plan in the second and the contest opened up into a track meet, which played right into the Winterhawks strength.
“That’s what they want to do,” O’Dette said. “When you don’t maintain puck possession in their end or you turn it over in the neutral zone, they feed off that. Sometimes when the flow is going up and down the ice, it’s hard to stem that at the time. You need some quality shifts down low in their end to kill that flow of the game.”
Seattle would have to face another five-minute power play against in the third period as Matthew Wedman was called for kneeing, that also brought about a game misconduct.
“Penalties derailed us and yeah, it’s an emotional game when we play Portland,” O’Dette said. “You have to control it, channel it in the right way and we let some frustration get to us. At the same time, I thought we deserved a couple calls that were very similar to what they were getting. I thought we deserved a five-on-three, it wasn’t an even standard but we still weren’t disciplined enough.”
The Thunderbirds would get seven power-play looks of their own, but only converted on one of them.
With the major penalties on Wedman and McNelly there is the possibility that the league will take disciplinary action and hand out suspensions. Seattle is already without Dillon Hamaliuk, who was injured Saturday, and Andrej Kukuca, who is playing in the World Junior Championships. As they head out on their eastern road swing for seven more games away from home, they will be doing so short-handed.
After Monday’s game, the Thunderbirds hopped on their bus to make the long trek to Brandon for a Friday night game with the Wheat Kings.
• Andrusiak leads the Thunderbirds in goals and is close to matching his career high, set last year. He has 27 in 34 games and is only nine away from the 36 he scored in 72 games last season.
• Portland’s Matthew Quigley was not in the lineup as he is serving a suspension for the kneeing major on Hamaliuk Saturday night at the accesso ShoWare Center.