T-Birds come up short in 5-4 overtime loss to Portland

Nov 20, 2016, 9:28 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. – Late in the third period Saturday night in Portland, Thunderbirds’ forward Keegan Kolesar had the game on his stick.

With the score tied at four, the big winger got the puck in low and it looked like he had a lot of net to shoot at. He took the shot but Winterhawks’ goalie Cole Kehler somehow scrambled over to make the save.

“We had the game on the line and their goalie made a big save on Keegan,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “That’s the game right there.”

The save preserved the tie and Portland would go on to win the game 5-4 in overtime on Ryan Hughes’s second marker of the night. Kehler made 42 saves as the T-Birds were able to throw a lot of rubber in his direction by out shooting Portland 46-28. Seattle had goals from four different players in a loss that snapped its mini three-game winning streak.

While Hughes ended the game in overtime, the T-Birds may have lost it in the first period.

Seattle (10-8-1-1) came out of the gates in fine fashion. They hemmed Portland (10-12-0-0) in their own end and created several scoring chances. The problem is that the T-Birds didn’t beat Kehler early on and the second half of the period the tide changed.

Midway through the period the T-Birds started turning the puck over in their zone. That resulted in shots the other way and two turnovers would lead to goals for the Winterhawks. First it was Colton Veloso who redirected a Hughes pass past Seattle goalie Rylan Toth to make it 1-0. Then, with ten seconds left in the period, another Seattle turnover was converted into Hughes’ first of the night.

“The frustrating part was the last ten minutes of the first period,” Konowalchuk said. “We came out good but couldn’t score. The last ten of the first we weren’t very good.”

Down 2-0 after one period, the T-Birds would bounce back in the second.

A string of Portland penalties allowed the T-Birds to get their power play cranking. Scott Eansor would tip a shot past Kehler for Seattle’s first score. It was Eansor’s 10th of the season and fourth goal in his last four games.

Turner Ottenbreit would tie the game midway through the period when he pinched down and received a seeing-eye pass from Sami Moilanen. Nolan Volcan would then give the T-Birds a 3-2 lead when he banged home a puck that had rebounded off the end boards for a power-play goal.

Seattle would give that lead back when Portland again scored late in the period. With just 30 seconds left on the clock, Joachim Blichfeld was left alone in front on a Portland power play. He buried it for his seventh of the season.

Two goals at the end of a period can influence the momentum, but the T-Birds shook them both off.

“I don’t think it affected us too much” Konowalchuk said. “We came out and kept playing. We were in position to win the game.”

Alexander True would help the T-Birds grab the lead back. After a flurry of shots on Kehler early in the third period, True was able to put back a rebound for his 10th of the season. It was True’s fifth goal in his last three games as the big Danish Import has been on fire of late.

With a lead, the T-Birds started taking penalties.

In all, they were whistled down four times in the third period which put Portland’s dangerous power-play unit in position. The Winterhawks would use one of those chances to get the game even on a goal by Keegan Iverson.

It was the second power-play goal for the Winterhawks who ended the night 2-for-7 with the man advantage.

“You knew when they gave us power plays early and we capitalized they’re just going to call it the other way,” Konowalchuk said. “It’s so predictable.”

Seattle did get two late penalty kills which set up Kehler’s dramatic save on Kolesar late.

In the three-on-three overtime period, Hughes made a nice move off the half boards to free himself up and get a shot off. Toth got a piece of the shot but couldn’t close his pads on it and it trickled over the goal line.

“You get to overtime and it can go either way,” Konowalchuk said. “We were in position to win a game on the road and we knew it would be a tough fought game… You want that other point but three out of four points this weekend, we can build on some things and move on.”


• Seattle broke an 0-for-12 slump on the power play Friday night against Lethbridge and Saturday they went 2-for-5. They had a different look to their unit by having Mathew Barzal start at the point which allowed him room to maneuver. The power-play was dangerous all night and Barzal helped set up Eansor’s score with an assist.

• The Portland power play continues to feast on the T-Birds. With two more conversions Saturday, the Winterhawks have now scored nine power-play goals in four games with Seattle.

• Moilanen had a strong outing in this game, picking up two assists. It’s the second straight game the Finn has had two helpers.

• True is turning into a goal-scoring machine for Seattle. He has 10 on the season, in 20 games, and is close to matching his career high 14 that he scored all of last year.


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