T-Birds snap losing streak with 5-3 win over Spokane
KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds showed that having five days off can do wonders for your game.
Seattle snapped a four-game losing streak Friday by beating the Spokane Chiefs 5-3 in front of 3,454 fans at the ShoWare Center. The T-Birds got two goals from their captain Justin Hickman and three points from Mathew Barzal. Hickman added two assists for a career-best four-point night.
“It was good to get the first one of the season,” Hickman said afterwards. “After that you have a little less pressure on yourself, stop gripping the stick so tight.”
Seattle erased a one-goal deficit in the second frame, where they erupted for three goals to build a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. After outshooting Spokane 14-8 in the first, the T-Birds found themselves down a goal after Justin Fram scored from the point for the Chiefs.
It was the same script that had been plaguing Seattle all year – out playing its opponent but falling behind.
“It felt kind of the same,” Steve Konowalchuk said. “We didn’t get the goals early … We kept going. For the most part we played a strong 60-minute game.”
Spokane was unable to get a two-goal lead as Seattle tied it up eight minutes into the second period on Mathew Barzal’s sixth goal of the year. Barzal is not known for a booming slap shot but after Scott Allan’s slapper was blocked, the puck rebounded to Barzal, who fired a hard and accurate shot that beat Spokane goalie Garrett Hughson.
“I don’t even know really,” Barzal said about the play. “The puck just bounced out and I said ‘screw it, I’m just going to shoot it.'”
That goal energized the Seattle bench and it would go ahead less than a minute later when Jerret Smith scored from the point on the power play. The T-Birds built on that lead seven minutes later when Hickman slid a rebound back into the net past Hughson for his first goal of the night.
Seattle has had problems cashing in on chances but Saturday night it finally was able to find the net.
“This year we haven’t been quite as offensively keen as we’d like to,” Hickman said. “A lot of guys haven’t put up the numbers they want, but every game is a new game and every day is a new start.”
The Chiefs refused to go away, however, and cut the Seattle lead to one with two minutes left in the second period when Kailer Yamamoto stole a puck in low and walked out in front of the Seattle net to beat Taran Kozun.
Clinging to a one-goal lead the T-Birds wasted no time in the third to get their three-goal lead back. Just 29 seconds into the period Bazal made a nice play to keep the puck in the attacking zone. He skated down low, flung a pass that hit the side of the net and bounced to Hickman, who scored his second of the night.
Spokane would cut the lead back to two on Fram’s second of the night but Scott Eansor would get the insurance goal late in the game after scoring on a nice feed from Nolan Volcan.
The win got the T-Birds off the mat at home, where they had gone without a win in five attempts. With the first win under their belt, the T-Birds hope to build on Friday’s momentum.
“We’ve got to make this a tough building to come into,” Hickman said. “So definitely, getting the first one in front of the fans is nice, and we’ll just keep going from there.”
Seattle has a quick turnaround as it will head up to Everett to take on a tough Silvertips squad Saturday. There will be a big, loud crowd, and with the T-Birds featuring a number of rookies who have yet to play a regular season game at the Xfinity Arena, they will have to play a strong game.
“Every time you go to Everett it’s a game that’s circled on the calendar,” Hickman said. “They fill the barn and they’re loud, the cowbells up there so its going to be fun.”
• The T-Birds had some success on their power play Friday night, going 2-for-7 on the night while killing off five of Spokane’s six power-play chances.
• Goal scoring has been an issue for the T-Birds but with nine goals in their last two games, perhaps they have turned a corner? The Barzal line was strong again on Friday but the T-Birds also got a goal from Eansor and Jerret Smith. Getting scoring from guys other than Barzal, Ryan Gropp and Hickman will be key moving forward.
• Hickman now has a three-game scoring streak with two goals and four assists over that stretch. Since returning from a shoulder injury in the preseason he has picked up points in six of the seven games he’s played in.
• Seattle got Ethan Bear back on the ice Friday after missing the three previous games with an injury. The defenseman picked up an assist.