T-Birds lose third straight as offensive woes continue
KENT – The Thunderbirds were back in the friendly confines of the ShoWare Center Friday night and so were their offensive struggles.
Seattle got a lot of shots but still dropped its third straight game by a score of 2-1. This time it was at the hands of the Spokane Chiefs as once again the T-Birds lost a game that they probably felt was winnable. The offense continued to struggle and the T-Birds compounded that problem with some undisciplined play that led to six Spokane power plays.
The Chiefs’ Kailer Yamamoto scored twice on the power play to give Spokane all the offense it would need and rookie goalie Tyson Verhelst did the rest in stopping 35 Seattle shots.
“We can’t take six penalties,” a frustrated Steve Konowalchuk said. “It’s a bad mistake to constantly put your team short-handed … You can work hard but taking a penalty is casual in most cases.”
Special teams were the difference with the T-Birds failing on five power-play chances of their own. Seattle has struggled with the extra skater and it is beginning to cost the team games.
“We weren’t sharp on special teams, they scored two,” Konowalchuk said. “The power play has to come through for us.”
The 0-for-5 effort leaves Seattle without a power-play goal in its last 12 opportunities. The T-Birds have only scored three goals in their last 29 power-play chances. That drops them to 19th in the WHL in power-play efficiency with a 14.9 percent success rate. The return of Shea Theodore should help – he does have one power-play goal – but they are still struggling.
“I don’t know,” Theodore said when asked about the power play. “We just can’t put it in the net. We’re getting pretty good movement and shots on net. We could probably win a few more battles down low.”
The T-Birds fell behind Friday night in the first period after taking two penalties. That gave Spokane over a minute of a two-man advantage, and while Seattle’s penalty killers put up a good fight, they weren’t able to hold the Chiefs off the board. Yamamoto was stationed at the side of the net and when a point shot rebounded off of Taran Kozun, he was right there to fire a hard wrist shot to open the scoring.
Kozun had another solid night in net for Seattle, making 20 saves and was not beat while at even-strength. Seattle would take three more penalties in the second, including giving the Chiefs another minute of a 5-on-3 advantage. While the T-Birds managed to kill all the second-period power plays off, it disrupted their rhythm.
“We’ve got to be a more disciplined team than that,” Konowalchuk said. “If they can’t stay out of the penalty box then maybe we’ve got the wrong guys on the ice.”
The third period brought another Spokane power play and another Yamamoto goal to give the Chiefs a 2-0 lead that felt insurmountable. Calvin Spencer gave the 4,266 ShoWare Center fans some hope when he banged home a rebound for his third goal with just over 4 minutes left.
The T-Birds pulled Kozun with 2 minutes left and were able to generate more chances but could not beat Verhelst to tie it up. Theodore, who again played a lot of minutes, had several chances near the end himself.
“I’m pretty frustrated with myself,” the defenseman said. “I don’t know if somebody did something with my sticks, I don’t know. Just can’t put the puck in the net, I can’t find the right tuneage in them … just keep shooting, that’s all you can really do.”
The T-Birds have now lost five of their last seven games and have only managed to score seven goals in those losses. As it has been all year, scoring is an issue.
The T-Birds will be in action again on Saturday night as they host the Everett Silvertips.
• With his third-period goal, Calvin Spencer now has points in three out of his last four games. He has two goals and a couple of assists over that span.
His goal snapped a frustrating long scoreless streak for Seattle. Going back to their last game in Swift Current – where they scored in the opening period – the T-Birds went 95 minutes of hockey without lighting the lamp (stick tap to Tim Pigulski ).
• Thursday afternoon, NHL Central Scouting released its November “Watch List” for the 2015 NHL Draft. Four Seattle players appeared on the list. Mathew Barzal was given an A rating and Ryan Gropp was given a B while Ethan Bear was rated as a C prospect. Keegan Kolesar was the newcomer to the list as he showed up with a B rating. He had not been ranked previously.
• Seattle will get Evan Wardley back for Saturday’s game with Everett. The big defenseman was serving a five-game suspension for a hit from behind in Saskatoon.
• There will be two desperate teams at the ShoWare Center Saturday as Everett has lost two in a row after losing 3-1 in Victoria Friday night.