THUNDERBIRDS

T-Birds fall again in OT to Brandon, trail 2-0 in WHL finals

May 7, 2016, 11:52 PM

A day after losing in overtime on a strange, bad-luck goal, you would think the bounces would start to fall in the Seattle Thunderbirds favor Saturday night in Game 2 of the WHL Championship.

Instead, Seattle found itself in overtime again on Saturday, and again it skated off the ice after losing on a head-scratcher of a goal.

This time it was Jayce Hawryluk’s shot from below the goal line that hit a T-Birds skate in front and deflected past a diving Landon Bow. It gave Brandon a 3-2 win and puts Seattle in a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven series.

“That’s overtime hockey,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “That’s the way the playoffs are and we’ve won some overtime games to get here and now we’ve lost a couple. We’re two shots away from being up 2-0 in this series.”

The T-Birds will return home now for what they hope is the next three games as they try to get back into this series.

“We’re not going to hang our heads here,” Seattle’s Ethan Bear said. “We have to stick to our game plan… It’s still a good series.”

In what was a classic hockey game, both teams had moments where they took the momentum over only to have the other fight back. Seattle improved over the night before as it managed the puck better and limited the number of turnovers. Despite that, the T-Birds still have to feel like they could have won Saturday night.

“I thought we were much better managing the puck,” Konowalchuk said. “I thought at times we were dictating some of the tempo and I thought we weren’t hemmed in a lot and we were able to keep pushing back and make it a solid game. We just didn’t get that extra goal.”

Twice the Thunderbirds had a lead in the game, but both times weren’t able to hold it.

Bear put the T-Birds ahead midway through the third period when he blasted a slap shot on a Seattle power-play. That lead only lasted four minutes, however, as another unlucky break allowed Brandon to tie it.

With the puck deep in the T-Birds’ end, Bear tried to clear the puck from out in front of Bow. Brandon’s Tyler Coulter was charging hard and Bear’s attempt hit him and rebounded into the goal. It was the only kind of goal that it seemed could beat Bow on Saturday. The big goalie was huge making 36 saves and keeping Seattle in the game.

“I thought both teams were better tonight,” Brandon head coach Kelly McCrimmon said. “They’re close games, overtime games, so to get the win is important and being at home we want to win our games in our building. We’ve done that.”

The Wheat Kings held serve at home and the T-Birds leave Brandon wondering what could have been.

“I thought our guys played a pretty strong game,” Konowalchuk said. “I thought over the two games our guys played five pretty good periods of hockey. We know we have work to do. We came in here against a good team and a tough place to play and we’re right there with them. We’ve got to stay positive and regroup.”

After a scoreless first period, the T-Birds took their first lead a minute into the second period. Scott Eansor got the puck in deep, wheeled out of the corner and found Donovan Neuls in the high slot. The winger fired a wrist shot past Jordan Papirny for his second goal in as many nights.

Seattle went on a power play a minute later with a chance to build on that lead, but it was Brandon who struck back. Nolan Patrick stole the puck while short handed and led a two-on-one the other way. He held the puck and blasted an impressive shot for his 12th goal of the playoffs.

The game would stay tied until Bear’s goal in the third and the resulting Brandon equalizer.

Seattle appeared to have gone ahead in the second period when Keegan Kolesar knocked home a loose puck in the crease. The official had blown his whistle, however, as he lost sight of the puck. The play is not reviewable and clearly should have been a goal – another bad bounce for the T-Birds.

The second straight loss is the first time since Feb. 6 and 8 that the T-Birds have lost two games in a row.

“We talked to the team that at some point in somewhere in the playoffs you’re going to have your backs against the wall a little bit,” Konowalchuk said. “You’re not going to run the table so I don’t think it’s anything too unexpected, we just need to get ready for the next game.”

Game 3 is Tuesday night at the ShoWare Center.

Notes

• Bow was a target of the Wheat Kings on Saturday. Several times Brandon players made contact with him after the whistle which resulted in three Seattle power plays. The T-Birds weren’t able to capitalize, however, and ended the night 1 for 5 with the man advantage.

• One of the big positives for Seattle was its penalty kill. The T-Birds killed off all five of the Wheat Kings power-play chances thanks in large part to stellar saves from Bow.

• The Wheat Kings continue to do a good job shutting down Mathew Barzal. His line did generate more chances on Saturday night, and with the series shifting back to Seattle, where the T-Birds will be able to dictate the line matchups, look for Barzal and company to become more of a factor.

• Saturday was the third straight overtime game for the T-Birds and their fifth in the playoffs. They are now 3-2 in such games.

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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