Seattle comeback foiled by late Kelowna goal
The Thunderbirds were just over a minute away from pulling off an impressive comeback Friday night.
Down two late in the third period, Seattle fought back to tie the B.C. Division leading Kelowna Rockets at four and were headed towards overtime at the Prospera Place. As the clock moved under two minutes, Kelowna’s Kole Lind raced down the wing and fired a quick shot that got past goalie Dorrin Luding to give the home team a 5-4 lead.
Seattle pulled the goalie to try and desperately get the equalizer but would be unable to so so and dropped its third straight game. With Kamloops losing in Tri-City, the Thunderbirds also lost an opportunity to put some space between them and the Blazers for the conference’s last playoff spot.
“That was a massive point that we let go tonight,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after.
Lind picked up the puck in the neutral zone and raced into the Seattle end with a two-one-one advantage. The Vancouver Canucks’ prospect fired a quick shot at 18:39 of the third that ended the night in frustration for the Thunderbirds.
“We had an opportunity to get puck deep at the red line and we didn’t,” O’Dette said of the play. “We got stripped and it created a two-on-one and they scored. It’s disappointing, the guys battled hard to tie that game. It’s disappointing that we made a mistake there late in the game.”
The goal wiped away what was a gritty comeback by Seattle (28-23-7-2) late in the period after the Rockets had scored four straight goals to build a two-goal advantage.
The comeback started with just over five minutes left when Matthew Wedman fired his 15th of the season off the wing. Zack Andrusiak tied it up 29 seconds later when he tipped a shot past Kelowna goalie Brodan Salmond for his 24th of the season.
Wedman and Nolan Volcan had two point nights for Seattle while rookie Dillon Hamaliuk tied a career high with three points, picked up on a goal and two helpers.
It was the seventh loss in the last eight outings for the Thunderbirds as they continue to struggle with depth due to injuries and coming up just short in close games.
“We’re playing hard,” O’Dette said of his team. “This was a tough road game against a good team. We’ve got some guys out and some young guys are stepping up and filling in the minutes. We’ve just got to keep pushing forward. Being close right now is not good enough. We’ve got to find a way to finish games and secure points.”
Special teams were also a factor on Friday. Seattle failed on four power-play chances while Kelowna (37-18-4-2) converted on two of its three opportunities.
The Thunderbirds struggled to get the puck into the Rockets zone on the power play which led to them not being able to capitalize.
“The power play had a hard time,” O’Dette said. “Special teams were a factor in the game. We didn’t have the right amount of poise to get set up. I thought we had some opportunities to get set up but didn’t make the right play.”
Seattle came out of the gates hot and took a 2-0 lead in the first period on Donovan Neuls’ 20th goal of the year and Hamaliuk’s 14th.
The Thunderbirds took that lead into the second period but in a two-minute flurry would allow the rockets to tie it. First it was Cal Foote, who got Kelowna on the board 19 seconds into the period. Two minutes later, Dillon Dube would cash in for his 30th of the season to swing the momentum for Kelowna.
“We were a step late on the forecheck and got beat up ice,” O’Dette said of the goals. “Start of the periods are important and they were able to get two there and tie the game up. A couple of mistakes early in the period led to them tying the game.”
Tied at two in the third, the Rockets would cash in on their power-plays to take a lead. Leif Mattson scored first at 2:46 and that was followed by a Kaedan Korczak power-play marker five minutes later. The Thunderbirds fought back from that two-goal deficit but in the end, skate away frustrated.
They’ll get a chance to feel better Saturday night when they will host their Puget Sound rivals, the Everett Silvertips, at home.
“It will be nice to get in front of our home crowd,” O’Dette said. “A rivalry game, easy game to get up for. We’ll need a huge effort in response for a bounce back game.”
• While the Thunderbirds played again without Sami Moilanen and Blake Bargar, they did get Reece Harsch back in the lineup. The defenseman had not played since a Jan. 9th game against Portland.
• Luding got the start in net for the T-Birds and kicked out 24 Kelowna shots while his counterpart, Salmond, stopped 23 Seattle shots.
• Despite the loss, the Thunderbirds maintained their six-point lead over Kamloops. The Blazers will be in Kelowna Saturday to face the Rockets.
• Andrusiak’s goal broke a nine-game goal scoring drought for the winger. A streaky scorer, the struggling Seattle offense could benefit from him getting hot again.