Kootenay puts T-Birds on Ice with 5-2 win
KENT – A night after ending a four-game losing streak the Thunderbirds turned as cold as the weather.
The T-Birds struck for two early goals only to be outplayed by the visiting Kootenay Ice, who would score five unanswered goals to win 5-2.
Kootenay (12-15-0-0) was paced by Luke Philp’s goal and two assists along with two points from Sam Reinhart.
After Seattle (10-12-2-2) posted its two goals early, the story line turned out to be the same it’s been over the last several weeks – too many penalties and not enough offense.
“I thought in that first period we were a little flat,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Maybe with that big win yesterday and coming right back we didn’t have emotion.”
Penalties became an issue Saturday night again as Seattle was short-handed five times.
Over the T-Birds’ last four games they have been short-handed 21 times, and seven of the 12 goals they’ve allowed over that period have been power-play goals. Seattle is playing well in five-on-five situations, but the continued parade to the penalty box is starting to hurt them each game.
“Its a mental thing at this point,” Justin Hickman said. “As a leadership group we’ve got to take over the room. It’s a mental mistake just as not getting your guy in front of the net or a back check.”
Seattle’s penalty kill had been strong earlier in the season but has struggled of late. Kootenay has one of the top power-play units but overall Seattle has been burned by power-play goals. Kootenay ended the night 2-for-5 with the man advantage.
“I think we have to bear down, really,” Hickman said. “We go over penalty kill before every game, I don’t think it’s an X’s and O’s thing. We’ve got to bear down and really make that a focus of our game.”
Danny Mumaugh stepped in for Taran Kozun Saturday night and played well despite allowing four goals. Many of the Kootenay goals were the result of pin-point passing that left Mumaugh little chance. And, of course, two were on the power play.
“Its frustrating, especially when they get a power play and seem to capitalize each time,” Konowalchuk said. “I think if you’re on your game you’re not putting yourself in that situation.”
The night started well for the T-Birds and it looked like they wouldn’t need to worry about the power plays. Seattle got on the board 37 seconds into it when Ethan Bear fired a slap shot that beat Kootenay goalie Wyatt Hoflin. The T-Birds would add to that lead half-way through the period when Nolan Volcan stole the puck in deep, turned, and fired a wrist shot that found the net.
The Ice stormed back in a hurry to take the game over. Zak Zborosky got the ice on the board when no Seattle player checked him in the slot. He had all kinds of room and beat Muamaugh easily.
Tim Bozon would then cash in on a Kootenay power play to tie the game, and Philp scored just before the end of the period to give the Ice the lead.
“I think we let our foot off the gas there and you can’t do that,” Hickman said. “You have to play a full 60 minutes in this league to win. We just weren’t ready and they took advantage.”
Kootenay extended its lead in the third period on a Reinhart power-play goal and then ended it with an empty net score by Jordan Descheneau.
Seattle will complete a three-in-three weekend with a Sunday evening game against the Spokane Chiefs at the ShoWare Center. A night after they played flat and with little emotion, they should have no trouble getting up for a division rival.
“I want to see some emotion charge back up,” Konowalchuk said. “Really big division game last night, real big division tomorrow night. Lets look forward, put this one behind us right away and get going.”
• Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart was selected by the Buffalo Sabres with the second overall pick in last year’s NHL Draft. It all was assumed that he would stay with the NHL club this year and did play in nine games with the Sabres at the beginning of the year. Since being returned to the WHL he has played in ten games and scored 22 points.
• Seattle’s penalty kill has been scuffling of late but are its still 12th in the WHL in penalty kill percentage. Seattle has short handed 109 times and given up 22 goals.
• Ethan Bear’s first period goal gave him five on the year. He is one behind his total from his rookie year last season. It was also his second goal in as many nights.
• Bear’s goal was also a quick one. How quick? Just 37 seconds, the fastest goal the T-Birds have scored to start a game this season.
• Shea Theodore did not play Friday night as he was out ill. That moved Evan Wardley back to the blue line to start the game, but he didn’t stay there long. Konowalchuk moved Wardley back to forward midway through the first period trying to find some spark.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide.