THUNDERBIRDS

T-Birds continue to struggle in 3-2 loss at Everett

Oct 16, 2016, 9:38 AM | Updated: 11:22 am

EVERETT – All of the issues that the Thunderbirds have struggled with to start this season were on display Saturday night in Everett.

Seattle fell behind early to the Silvertips and wasn’t able to capitalize on a number of chances to get back in the game, falling 3-2 at the Xfinity Arena. The Silvertips were led by Riley Sutter’s two goals and 23 saves by goalie Carter Hart.

The trouble for the T-Birds started right away.

Seattle has fallen behind in five of its seven games so far, and on Saturday night it gave up three first-period goals to dig a rather large, Hart-size 3-0 hole.

“We weren’t ready to play,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Guys pushed and were desperate at the end there but we weren’t ready to play and it cost us the game.”

Chasing a game is tough under normal circumstances, but when you do it against the best defensive club in the league – with the CHL’s top goaltender – it’s deadly.

Everett’s Bryce Kindopp opened the scoring for the Silvertips when he crashed the net after a faceoff win and was able to pot a rebound after an initial Rylan Toth save.

Down the one goal, Seattle started to take penalties, and its struggling penalty kill unit continued its problems.

The Silvertips took a 2-0 lead when Connor Dewar was left alone down low after the Seattle penalty killers got caught up high in the zone. Dewar sent the puck to an equally wide open Sutter, who buried it for his first on the night.

Two minutes later Everett was back on the power play and again Sutter would cash in. He threw a puck at the Seattle net from a tight angle, hitting Toth and somehow squeaking through.

Just like that, 12 minutes into the game, the T-Birds were buried.

Seattle’s penalty kill, which was the best in the WHL a year ago, is now dead last in the league, killing off under 60 percent of its chances. The T-Birds have allowed 11 power-play goals in seven games and 44 percent of their goals allowed have come on opponent’s power plays.

The T-Birds would get a little momentum back when Sami Moilanen fired a wrist shot past Hart on a Seattle power play. It was Moilanen’s second goal in as many nights and his fourth straight game with a point.

Seattle was outshot in the first period 11-6 but would find a way to stop the bleeding.

The T-Birds got back into their game in the second period. They controlled the puck and created a number of scoring chances but either would just miss on passes or would be turned away by Hart.

“A little bit of our passing was off,” Konowalchuk said. “A little bit too cute and we’ve got to get uglier and greasy goals, not worry about the cute goals. We did have some chances, their guy made some key saves at the end but we were chasing.”

The T-Birds would end up outshooting Everett 19-12 the rest of the way but it wasn’t enough.

By controlling the flow of play, the T-Birds also started drawing penalties. They ended up with eight power-play opportunities, which should have been enough to get them into the game. They got the one goal from Moilanen in the first period but failed on the remaining seven chances.

Seattle’s power play is now just 3 for 32 on the young year and needs some work.

“We didn’t execute on the power play,” Konowalchuk said. “We’re going to keep working at it. I know we can do better, I know we can. We have a lot better players than that. At times it looks OK and others it doesn’t, but we’re going to keep working at it.”

The T-Birds made a late comeback bid when Turner Ottenbreit banged home a loose puck with just over a minute left and the extra attacker on the ice. Seattle had one last chance to tie it up with five seconds left when it won a faceoff in the Everett zone. But as it seemed to do all night, the puck slid between two T-Birds and harmlessly out to center ice to end the game.

In the end it was a frustrating night for a team that is still struggling to find its way early on in this season’s campaign.

“We see the team we can be when we’re desperate and a serious hockey team,” Konowalchuk said. “We were able to push back, we didn’t quit. We were able to stop the bleeding and get back in to it. That’s a positive but I’m upset with the way we started the game.”

Notes

• Toth continues to take the brunt of Seattle’s penalty-kill troubles. He’s allowed 16 goals in his five starts with the club and eight of those came on the power play.

• Moilanen continues to be a bright spot for the T-Birds struggling offense. His first period goal was his second in as many nights and the future seems bright for the import from Finland. Not the biggest player, he is not afraid of contact and will go to the so-called ‘dirty areas’ on the ice with no fear. He generates a number of chances for the T-Birds as well.

• In the NHL on Saturday night, Mathew Barzal made his debut with the Islanders. New York lost 2-1 to the Washington Capitals and Barzal got himself on the score sheet, although not in the way he would have hoped. The 19-year-old center took three penalties in his limited playing time, including one where he played the puck while still standing in the penalty box.

• The T-Birds are off until next Friday when they will host the Portland Winterhawks. Portland has been on fire to start the season and Seattle struggled killing off penalties in its two lopsided losses to their rivals so far. It will be a good test to see if some of the issues are corrected with a week of practice.

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