THUNDERBIRDS

Thunderbirds manage to get a point in wild 5-4 overtime loss in Kamloops

Mar 1, 2017, 10:30 PM

Playing three-on-three in overtime, the balance of a hockey game can change in a hurry.

The Seattle Thunderbirds were on the wrong end of that formula Wednesday night in Kamloops as they found themselves in overtime for the fourth time against the Blazers. Donovan Neuls had a chance to win it for Seattle when he broke in on goalie Connor Ingram all alone. It wasn’t to be however as the Tamp Bay Lightning prospect got a pad on the shot and kicked it out.

On the ensuing rush down the ice, Devon Sideroff fired a wrist shot that Seattle’s goalie Rylan Toth couldn’t handle and the game was over just like that – The Blazers would win 5-4.

“It was a good save,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said of the overtime. “I mean, that’s the overtime right there. We don’t score on our chance and they score on their chance…that what happens on three-on-three.”

Seattle gets the point in the standings which pulled it into a tie with the Everett Silvertips for both the U.S. Division lead and the Western Conference lead. The T-Birds managed to earn the point despite missing a quarter of their goal scoring that was out with injury.

“It’s a good point, again we’re down 2-0 and battle back to get a lead,” Konowalchuk said. “We had a chance in overtime but it was good to get a point. It wasn’t as smooth and as crisp or as clean a game that we would like at times. We have to get ready for the next game.”

Defenseman Ethan Bear joined the injured list so Seattle had recalled 15-year-old Jake Lee, who played in only his third WHL game. Ian Briscoe also was recalled and thrown into action as the T-Birds keep finding a way to compete despite a lengthy injury list.

With guys out, the top guns came alive for Seattle. Both Ryan Gropp and Keegan Kolesar scored twice while Mathew Barzal added three more assists.

Sideroff was the hero for Kamloops as he notched the game-winner along with a big go-ahead tally in the third period.

That goal broke a 3-3 tie and it looked like the Blazers would skate away with the win in regulation. But with time running out, and Toth on the bench, Seattle would tie it on Kolesar’s second goal with just 12 seconds left.

It’s the second time in a couple of weeks that Seattle has tied a one-goal game in the waning seconds of a game.

“I think guys know that if we get it down there with our top guys, we’re confident that we can get one or two more looks at the net,” Konowalchuk said. “Then it’s a matter of whether they get in or not.”

The game started in a strange way for Seattle.

Gropp, who hails from Kamloops, began an eventful evening for himself midway through the first period. While back-checking he attempted to clear a Garret Pilon pass but he accidentally knocked it into his own net to give the Blazers a 1-0 lead.

“It’s tough,” Konowalchuk said of the play. “He’s back-checking and hits his stick and goes in. It’s nothing that you’d point fingers at. Guys kept fighting, that’s the bottom line.”

Kamloops would score a more traditional goal a minute later when Luc Smith would beat Toth from the slot. Just like that, Seattle was down 2-0 in the first ten minutes of the game.

Gropp would get his own-goal back later in the period when he tipped an Austin Strand point shot past Connor Ingram to cut the Kamloops lead to 2-1.

The Kamloops’ native would strike again late in the second period.

After taking an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for shooting the puck at the boards in frustration, Gropp watched while his mates killed off a Blazers’ power play. As the penalty ended, Gropp skated out of the box, picked up a loose puck and was off to the races.

He would beat Ingram for his second of the night, and 31st of the year, to tie the game at two late in the period.

Seattle took the lead early in the third period after a pretty passing play between Gropp and Barzal and ultimately Kolesar. Gropp got it to Barzal in front of the net and he appeared ready to shoot. That’s what Ingram assumed and the goalie came out to challenge him. But Barzal didn’t shoot, he saw Kolesar parked at the side of the net and got the puck to him for an easy bang-in for the big winger.

The T-Birds couldn’t hold that lead however.

Dallas Valentine would tie the game at three a couple of minutes later when he scored on a back hand and then Sideroff would finish off a nice two-man passing play to give Kamloops the lead with just under 10 minutes to go.

Seattle will have a day off now before hosting a red hot Tri City Americans squad Friday night at home. The Americans are sitting on a seven-game win streak and have beaten the T-Birds on the two previous Fridays.

Getting the point was big, but the T-Birds had a chance to get the win. Losing in overtime is a strange feeling, it’s not quite a true loss, but it’s not a victory either.

“I think we’ll get on the bus and catch our breath and maybe realize that we got a point and it was good building,” Konowalchuk  said. “But at the moment, it feels like a loss.”

Notes

• The Thunderbirds ended the evening 0-for-3 on the power play which snapped a streak of 12 straight games with at least one power-play conversion. Kamloops went 0-for-4.

• Ethan Bear was listed as day-to-day on the WHL injury list. He suffered an undisclosed upper body injury during Sunday’s win against Everett.

• Seattle missed an opportunity to jump past Everett on Wednesday as the Silvertips lost at home against Spokane. The two clubs are tied for first place but Everett has two games in hand. That makes Saturday’s game in Everett even bigger. Of course, the T-Birds have to deal with Tri City first.

• Barzal now has 11 asssits in his last three games and 65 in 38 games played this season.

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