T-Birds complete weekend sweep of Prince George with 3-0 shutout

Feb 1, 2015, 7:16 AM | Updated: Feb 2, 2015, 10:31 am

The Seattle Thunderbirds completed a weekend sweep of the Prince George Cougars with a commanding 3-0 shutout Saturday night.

Goaltender Taran Kozun stopped all 20 Cougar shots he faced for his second shutout of the season and second in his last three starts. Offensively the T-Birds picked up goals from Calvin Spencer, Ryan Gropp and Cory Millette. It was Seattle’s second win in a row and it extended Prince George’s losing streak to 12.

A night after having their way with the Cougars and scoring nine times, the T-Birds had to work a bit harder Saturday night.

“It was a good effort but a much different game,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “(The Cougars) were very controlled. They had guys in the neutral zone all night long so we really had to grind it out to get the lead.”

Neither team generated many scoring chances in the first ten minutes of the game but the T-Birds got on the board first when Donovan Neuls flipped the puck from behind the Cougar net to Spencer in the high slot. Spencer snapped a shot past Prince George goalie Patrick Gora for his fifth goal of the season.

That would be the only tally in the first period, but Seattle would strike with a dagger to start the second.

Only 15 seconds into the second period Ryan Gropp got the puck down low and scored a nice, quick wraparound shot. It was Gropp’s team-leading 20th goal of the year and gave the T-Birds the momentum.

“That’s a big goal for sure,” Konowalchuk said. “If they get a goal to tie it up it gives them some life. We get that second one against a team that’s struggling they start to get some doubt.”

Seattle’s defense choked down on the Cougars with the two-goal lead. It only allowed four Prince George shots in the second period and made life easy for Kozun on the back end.

Seattle would extend the lead with a power-play goal midway through the period. Millette was parked in front of the Prince George net and Shea Theodore found him with a good pass that Millette whacked at a couple of times to get the goal.

It was Millette’s fifth goal since joining the T-Birds at the trade deadline and he is providing a strong net presence that the T-Birds have missed since they lost Justin Hickman for the season.

With a three-goal lead the T-Birds were in control, and despite a third period push by Prince George, Kozun was not beat. After several games where he just missed the shutout he was able to slam the door shut to pick up his second in a week.

“Our team defense was good the first two periods,” Konowalchuk said. “I thought in the third period we got away from it a little bit and Kozun had to make some saves to preserve the shut out.”

The T-Birds end the weekend with all four points up for grabs and as the stretch drive of the season is underway, that’s huge. They also came out hard on back-to-back nights against a team struggling and there was no let up. Even a night after scoring nine goals, no Seattle player took Saturday off.

“A lot of guys had a lot of fun yesterday so you’ve got to really make sure that we buckled down,” Konowalchuk said. “Our leaders did a good job of getting ready and everybody else followed. We’ve been talking about consistency the last five, six games. Regardless of the game yesterday we wanted to play consistent hockey and we did that.”

Notes

• The Shea Theodore watch continues as he picked up an assist on Saturday night. The Anaheim Ducks prospect is now only one point behind former Seattle Breaker Craig Channell for the franchise’s all-time mark for points by a defenseman.

• Mathew Barzal also had an assist on Millette’s second period goal. The star center had five helpers over the weekend and is back to producing over a point-per-game.

• Calvin Spencer most love playing at the CN Centre in Prince George. The Minnesota product has appeared in four games there and has three goals. Spencer is the half brother of Winnipeg Jets star Dustin Byfuglien, who just happened to play his junior hockey in the same building with Prince George. Coincidence?

• The win Saturday pulled the T-Birds to within nine points of second place in the U.S. Division, behind the Portland Winterhawks. Seattle has three games in hand with Portland and will host the Winterhawks next Friday.

Follow Andrew Eide on Twitter @andyeide

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