THUNDERBIRDS

Thunderbirds flat in 6-1 loss to Kelowna Rockets

Dec 7, 2016, 10:07 PM

Wednesday nights have not been good to the Seattle Thunderbirds of late.

For the third straight Wednesday night, the T-Birds found themselves on the road and for the third straight time, they skated away with a loss.

This one came at the hands of the Kelowna Rockets who beat Seattle 6-1 at Prospera Place. The Rockets were led by Calvin Thurkauf who scored twice in the first period as the T-Birds started slow for the first time in a long time. Thurkauf would score again in the third period to pick up his first career WHL hat trick.

“We weren’t ready to play tonight,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Right from the start you could tell we weren’t ready to go.”

On Kelowna’s first shift of the game, it got Seattle pinned in its own end and began to cycle the puck. After holding it in the zone for a good minute, Thurkauf came out of the corner and was able to sweep the puck past goalie Rylan Toth.

That shift came against the Seattle line of Scott Eansor, Nolan Volcan and Sami Moilanen, who have been a strong line for the T-Birds this season. It was strange to see them on their heels early.

“That’s a top line and our line didn’t play their best game,” Konowalchuk said. “They’re a good line for us and they’ll bounce back but they weren’t ready to go.”

Nine minutes after that, Thurkauf was left alone in the slot and Nick Merkley fed him from behind the net for an easy conversion. It was the second of the night for Thurkauf and 11th on the season and it put the T-Birds in a hole that they couldn’t climb out of.

Kelowna extended their lead in the second period to 3-0 on a goal by Tomas Soustal and it was starting to look like one of those nights.

The T-Birds would show some life and got on the board to make it 3-1 after Ryan Gropp scored his ninth on a second-period power play. However, in a further confirmation of how the night was going, the Rockets would get that goal back 19 seconds later when Jake Kryski was allowed to walk right in front and beat Toth to make it 4-1.

“It’s a big goal,” Konowalchuk said of the exchange. “In a game where you’re not playing well you finally get a goal and maybe can get your feet going but then to give one up right away hurts.”

Rodney Southam would then tip a point shot past Toth to make it 5-1 and leave no doubt to outcome.
Toth would be replaced by Matthew Berlin to begin the third period after making 18 saves on 23 shots.

Seattle was out shot 14-5 in the second period and 31-22 for the game. It was the first time that the T-Birds have been on the short end of the shot clock in the last nine games. The six goals allowed were the most since a 6-3 loss at Regina on Oct. 30th.

The road doesn’t get any easier for Seattle as they will now travel further North for two games this weekend with the B.C. Division leading Prince George Cougars. The T-Birds will have to face the Cougars without Mathew Barzal, who will be preparing with Team Canada for the upcoming World Junior Championships.

Konowalchuk said his message to the team after the game stressed on preparing to be ready to start the game strong. That, and play with emotion.

“We didn’t have anybody willing to step up, maybe (Turner) Ottenbreit at the end,” Konowalchuk said. “You can do that a bunch of different ways, block shots, fight, make a hit, but we didn’t do any of that..I would have liked to see us play with more emotion.”

Notes

• Gropp’s goal extended his point-streak to six games and while Ethan Bear’s goal-scoring streak came to an end, he also has a six-game point streak as he picked up an assist on the Gropp goal.

• Ottenbreit got into a fight with Kelowna’s Southam in the third period. It was the first fighting major assessed to a T-Bird’s player in 12 games.

• After sweeping Kelowna in last spring’s Western Conference Finals the T-Birds have dropped two in a row to the Rockets by a combined score of 11-2. Kelowna beat Seattle 5-1 at the ShoWare Center back on Oct. 22nd.

• The previous Wednesday losses came on Nov. 30th in Kamloops and Nov. 23 in Everett. Seattle next plays a Wednesday road game on Dec. 28th in Spokane.

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