Rookie Elijah Brown bounces back during T-Birds’ 4-3 win
Sep 4, 2016, 3:29 PM
EVERETT – Seattle rookie Elijah Brown just missed a chance to score in the first period Sunday afternoon in Everett. Seconds later he was parked in front of the Spokane net and banged home a rebound to give Seattle the lead.
“I got one,” said Brown, the Thunderbirds’ 2015 first-round draft pick.
Brown’s goal opened the scoring for the T-Birds, which would go on to win a back-and-forth, 4-3 affair over the Spokane Chiefs at Xfinity Arena. Scott Eansor, Ethan Bear, and Brandon Schuldhaus added goals for Seattle, while both Keegan Kolesar and Alexander True chipped in with two assists.
For Brown, Sunday was a welcomed bounce back from a couple of games where he didn’t play his best.
“I kind of struggled the first two but the third one was a really good experience,” Brown said of the weekend’s three games. “I got a load of ice time today, which was really good. The team helped me out every time I was out there.”
Head coach Steve Konowalchuk used Brown on several different lines and played him at both center and on the wing. Brown scored a goal, forced a penalty with a strong rush later in the game and was out on the ice late while the Chiefs were pushing.
“It was the best he’s played so far in camp,” Konowalchuk said of Brown. “It was good to see. You could tell he was ready to play on the first shift.”
Ryan Gilchrist started in net for the T-Birds on Sunday and, after a couple early goals he’d probably like back, settled in to make 25 saves and pick up the win.
“It felt really good,” Gilchrist said after the game. “I was a little rusty at the start but (the) first game is always nice. As the game progressed I started to feel more comfortable.”
With Seattle clinging to a one-goal lead, Gilchrist made his best save of the day when the Chiefs had the extra skater on the ice. With a mob of players in the crease, a Spokane player pushed the puck at the net and, somehow, Gilchrist saw it and kicked a pad out to steer it to safety as the horn sounded.
Gilchrist is battling with Carl Stankowski for the backup role in Seattle, a decision that seems to have no clear answer at the moment.
“I’m just trying to go one day at a time and not going too far ahead,” Gilchrist said about the camp competition. “One puck at a time.”
After Brown opened the scoring, the Chiefs tied the score in the first period after Gilchrist got tangled up behind the net. The puck came out front, allowing Taylor Ross to fire a shot into the open Seattle goal.
In the second period, Bear put Seattle back on top with a big slapshot from the point while on a power play. That lead didn’t last long, however, as Spokane stormed back with two goals from rookie Eli Zummack, who also had an assist on the afternoon.
Schuldhaus tied it for the T-Birds late in the second period with a wrist shot from the point. On an early power play to start the third period, Eansor wheeled through the high slot and fired a deadly accurate wrist shot that beat Spokane goalie Matt Berlin for what would be the game-winning goal.
Gilchrist shut the door the rest of the way as the T-Birds finished the weekend preseason tournament with a 2-1 record.
“I thought, for the most part, more guys are playing closer to the level we needed them to,” Konowalchuk said. “There were still some mistakes but the mistakes came from still trying to do the right thing … and it’s always good to get the win.”
The T-Birds travel to Kennewick for two more preseason games next weekend. On Friday, they will play the Kootenay Ice at the Toyota Center and finish on Saturday with a game against the host Tri-City Americans.
• Overall, the weekend seemed like a success for the T-Birds. They won twice and there was a lot to like about the play of their veteran players. “Not too bad,” Konowalchuk said about the weekend. “At times we pushed the pace with our veteran guys and there are still some areas to improve. But overall, I guess I’m not ecstatic but we are where I think we should be at.”
• Sunday’s game saw Seattle rookie Dillon Hamaliuk face his older brother Dalton, who is a defenseman for Spokane.
• Center Mathew Wedman played in his first game of the weekend.
• Spokane used two goalies on Sunday. Donovan Buskey got the start and gave way to Berlin midway through the game.