T-Birds drop fourth straight with overtime loss to Blazers
KENT – The Thunderbirds keep finding ways to lose hockey games at home.
Saturday night Seattle dropped a strange 5-4 overtime decision to the Kamloops Blazers at the ShoWare Center. Ryan Rehill won it for the visitors with 14 seconds left in the extra period. The loss is Seattle’s fourth in a row and completes a tough week where the Thunderbirds dropped four games in five nights.
Seattle got goals from four different players, played well for most of the night but came up just short. Kamloops was led by star Cole Ully, who had four assists and Matt Needham, who added a goal and assist.
“I think we could of kept pushing the pace,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Good start, again we got behind the 8-ball but this time we were able to dig ourselves out and get a point out of it.”
It was a night of bouncing pucks and strange goals that victimized both teams equally. Seattle tied the game at four with a late short-handed goal from Keegan Kolesar. As was the theme of the night, the shot took a funny bounce after it hit a Kamloops defender.
As they did the previous night, the Thunderbirds started the game strong. They controlled the puck and peppered Kamloops goalie Connor Ingram with 14 shots, while only allowing five. And as the previous night, they did not score any goals.
Seattle suffered its own bad bounces in the second and quickly fell behind by two goals. Kamloops’ Devin Sideroff got behind Seattle’s defense but was stopped by goalie Taran Kozun. The puck rebounded back out in front where it hit defenseman Luke Osterman’s skate and in the net.
Seven minutes later, Patrik Maier took a shot for the Blazers from the point. It was an innocent looking dump in that hit Sahvan Khaira’s leg, changed direction and got past a surprised Kozun. As they’ve done most of the season, the Thunderbirds kept pushing. Less than 30 seconds after the Maier goal, Seattle cut the lead when Nolan Volcan blasted a shot through traffic, beating Ingram for his first WHL goal.
“You’ve just got to forget about it, it’s part of the game,” Taran Kozun said of the bad bounces. “Some days all the bounces will hit you, some days they won’t, so you’ve just got to move on.”
The Blazers wasted no time in building back their two-goal lead. On the power play, a cross-ice pass from Ully found Needham all alone for a back-door tally.
Unlike the night before when they generated chances but couldn’t score, the Thunderbirds started to find the net. On the power play with 5 minutes left in the period, Scott Eansor skated the puck into the slot and ripped a shot. The puck was tipped in front by Donovan Neuls and past Ingram to bring Seattle back to within one goal.
After the game Neuls indicated that perhaps the goal belongs to Eansor.
“I didn’t feel it,” Neuls said of the play. “I told Scotty on the bench, I said, ‘That’s all yours’. They can review it and do what ever they want, it didn’t matter to me.”
When the puck went in Eansor threw his arms up in celebration. He came into the game without a goal on the year, despite coming close on numerous occasions.
“It was definitely a monkey off my back,” Eansor said. “It took a while and I’ve had a lot of chances. I think that’s a good thing though, I think the flood gates are now open for me and my linemates.”
Eansor, Neuls and Volcan were strong all night. Matched up with the top Kamloops line of Ully, Needham and Sideroff, they managed to keep them in check and score goals themselves.
“I like their tenacity, they’re all smart players,” Konowalchuk said about his new shut-down line. “They’re very similar to Yakabowski and McKechnie. Volcan kind of plays that same in-your-face type of game and Neuls plays similar to McKechnie and then there’s Eansor. I think it could continue to be a line that contributes.”
Before the period ended the Thunderbirds would tie it with a fortunate bounce of their own. Barzal and Gropp broke into the zone on a two-on-one. Barzal took a shot that hit Ingram and rebounded high into the air before landing behind the goalie and bounced into the net. It was Barzal’s fifth goal of the year and was similar to a goal he scored in Portland earlier in the year.
When the horn finally sounded to end the second period, the two teams had combined for six goals, three flukey bounces and nothing had been decided.
“I think a couple guys should feel better about themselves,” Konowalchuk said of the goal scoring. “A couple guys got the goose-egg off.”
In the third period the Blazers took the lead early on when Ully took the puck along the boards, drawing Seattle penalty killers to him, before flipping the puck to Collin Shirley, who beat Kozun for his third goal of the season. After Kolesar tied it up the game went into overtime, where Rehill was the hero.
On the winner, the Thunderbirds let the Kamloops defenders beat them up ice, they jumped in the play, and Rehill banged home a rebound after an initial save by Kozun.
“They got a puck to the net and their D jumped in,” Konowalchuk said. “There’s a rebound there and their D beat us up the ice, scored a goal.”
The Thunderbirds now have a much needed week off before hitting the ice again, next Friday, when they host the Spokane Chiefs.
“We need to put the work boots back on,” Eansor said. “We lost quite a few in a row here and I think this next week we’ve got to get back to work and get back to the drawing board.”
• Ryan Gropp was held scoreless on the night and had his seven-game scoring streak snapped.
• After playing well at home last year the T-Birds have lost every home game to start the year, going 0-3-1-1. Last year Seattle was 23-9-1-3 at home. “It’s been a weird start,” Konowalchuk said. “I think the last two games we’ve come out good at home, just couldn’t get the puck in the net.”
• Coming into the night, both teams were sitting on three-game losing streaks. Kamloops, despite only winning 14 games all last year, won both its appearances in the ShoWare Center and with Saturday’s win has won three straight in Kent.
• Ully led Kamloops on Saturday night, setting up four of its five goals, including the game winner. His performance should come as no surprise. Ully is one of the most underrated players in the WHL and is off to a fantastic start with 20 points in his first 13 games of the year.