THUNDERBIRDS

Late goal sinks T-Birds in Prince George

Dec 11, 2016, 9:37 AM | Updated: 11:55 am

The Thunderbirds battled back on Saturday and were just seconds away from giving themselves a chance to win in overtime at Prince George.

It was 12 seconds left in the game, to be exact, but that’s when Prince George defenseman Brendan Ghule struck to break a 4-4 tie. He got the puck, a step on the Seattle defense and threw it towards the net, where it hit one of the Seattle players and rebounded past goalie Rylan Toth.

The goal wiped away a Thunderbirds comeback that saw them score twice in the third period, including a Keegan Kolesar goal to tie the game with just over a minute left. They couldn’t complete the comeback, however, and after the Cougars added a late empty net score, Seattle fell 6-4.

“It’s tough,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Its a tough emotional loss for sure. We battle that hard to keep going and keep going and to get back to be in a position to win the game in overtime. Its tough to lose that way, but that’s hockey and it’s a long season and sometimes that’s going to happen.”

The game-winning goal was the second on the night for Guhle, who had just returned to the Cougars after a three-game emergency call-up in the NHL with Buffalo.

Seattle was led by a two-goal, three point night from Sami Moilanen.

The T-Birds battled hard but came up short in the end.

“When you tie it up at 4-4, it’s right there,” Konowalchuk said. “But we got caught, their D made a nice play jumping up. We have to sense danger and make sure we have D back. Their guy made a nice play on the game-winning goal, give them credit.”

It was a back and forth contest that really got going in the second period.

The Cougars struck first on a goal from Josh Curtis. It was Teddy Bear Toss Night in Prince George and the Curtis goal brought a deluge of teddy bears thrown on the ice by the CN Centre fans, causing about a 15-minute delay.

When the play resumed, both teams scored at will.

The two teams would combine to score five times over the next five minutes of action. Unfortunately for the T-Birds, three of those goals came off Prince George sticks.

“We didn’t have everybody going, we had some guys going,” Konowalchuk said. “When the guys who weren’t going got out on the ice, we got scored against. That’s not good enough.”

Josh Maser was the first to score as he notched his first career WHL goal, playing in only his second game. That made it 2-0 Prince George, but the T-Birds would answer right back 12 seconds later on Moilanen’s first of the night.

Any momentum gained from that goal was quickly erased, however, as Guhle struck for the first time of the night on a point shot to make it 3-1. That goal came just over a minute after Moilanen’s.

Seattle’s Finnish import would answer the Guhle goal with his second just 37 seconds later. Again, Prince George would have an equal answer with a Brad Morrison goal 26 seconds after that.

When the dust settled, it was 4-2 in favor of the home team as the two clubs headed to the second intermission.

The T-Birds kept pushing, however, and got to within a goal midway through the third when Ethan Bear found Scott Eansor on the doorstep for his 15th of the season. Then, with the clock working under two minutes to play and Toth on the bench for the extra skater, Kolesar would score to tie it.

With overtime looming, Guhle would score the dagger just before the final buzzer. With only four seconds left, Morrison scored on the empty net to make it 6-4 and send the T-Birds home with a tough loss.

“It’s a frustrating game,” Konowalchuk said. “I don’t know why we didn’t have a couple veteran guys going and we had some breakdowns that shouldn’t happen in the D-zone. We weren’t getting hemmed in or anything but we had some breakdowns that can’t happen.”

Seattle has three more games before the holiday break starting with a Tuesday night match up with U.S. Division rival Spokane.

Notes

• Seattle outshot the Cougars 41-30 and forced Prince George goalie Nick McBride to make 37 saves on the night.

• The T-Birds were playing without Mathew Barzal, who left the team to join Team Canada’s World Junior camp. It is expected that Barzal, who played for Canada last year, will make the squad. If he does, he will be out until early January.

• Eansor’s 15th goal set a new career high for the Colorado native. He added an assist on the Kolesar score and leads the team in scoring with 33 points in 30 games.

• Moilanen’s fine rookie season continued with his first career two-goal game and second three-point night.

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