Rebels oust T-Birds 6-3
Seattle’s Adam Kambeitz is stopped by Red Deer goalie Patrik Bartosak (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds fell to the Red Deer Rebels Friday night at the ShoWare Center by a score of 6-3. The Rebels picked up three goals from Rhyse Dieno and leaned on goaltender Patrik Bartosak who made 47 saves in the win. The T-Birds fell behind early, fought back to tie before giving up three unanswered Rebel goals and drop the game.
“Individual execution, I think that’s what it boils down to,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said about the game. “We had some guys playing hard, I thought we had some guys trying to play the system. It’s some individual execution on their goals, we have to be better there, we’ve got to find a way to score a little more, we’re getting chances but guys that are supposed to defend have to defend and guys that are supposed to score need to score.”
Seattle out-shot the Rebels on the night by a tune of 50-40 on the night, but Seattle could only muster three goals against Bartosak. The T-Birds continue to get chances but have had struggles cashing in on them.
The Rebels got the lead early in the first just as a power play chance was ending and Dieno had the puck deflect to him, alone in the slot. He wasted no time in ripping a wrist shot that beat Brandon Glover. They struck again four minutes later as Mathew Dumba, the seventh overall pick in last year’s NHL Entry Draft, rocketed a slap shot from the point, through traffic and in.
For the third game in a row the T-Birds found themselves down by two goals.
“We’ve got to be ready to go right away,” defenseman Jesse Forsberg said. “I think for the most part we start pretty well, just an unlucky bounce here and there and it’s in the back of our net. I took a penalty right away, we killed it off and then get a bad bounce into the slot. I think we’ve had good energy off the start here though.”
Unlike the last two games in Victoria, Seattle fought back. They got on the board on a power play as Jerret Smith sent a bouncing puck across the ice to Riley Sheen who was able to get good wood on it and in, beating Bartosak high. Seattle scored again, on a two-man advantage as Roberts Lipsbergs notched his team leading 20th goal as he sprawled on the ice to poke the puck in.
Seattle was feeling it then, but the Rebels struck back.
Red Deer took the lead at the nine minute mark when a Tyson Ness wrist shot found it’s way past Glover. The real back breaker however came with 28 seconds left in the second. Rhyse Dieno took the puck into the Seattle zone, undressed Griffin Foulk, causing him to fall down and then roofed a shot over Glover for a 4-2 lead. As if that goal didn’t hurt enough, the Rebels put the game away early in the third when a dump in hit the stanchion on the glass and ricocheted out in front of the Seattle net. Glover had skated to the back of the net anticipating the shot, got trapped, and could only watch helplessly as Brooks Maxwell picked up one of the easiest goals of his life.
“Yeah, it’s 3-2 then you’re going in (to the dressing room) 4-2 and it’s a big change in the game,” Konowalchuk said of the game’s turning point. “I thought our guys came out (in the third) with some energy and enthusiasm on the bench and then right away it hits the stanchion, we can’t do a lot about that.”
That Gave the Rebels a 5-2 lead that they were able to hold onto. Seattle did score a late power play goal as a Shea Theodore blast was tipped in by Andrew Johnson with seven minutes left in the game. Seattle could not get closer to that and Dieno put them out of their misery with an empty netter to make it 6-2.
In the middle of a tight race for the Western Conference’s last playoff spot Seattle needs to find a way to start picking up points in these games. The good news is that they are generating shots on offense, they need to find a way to start having those shots go in. Seattle now is winless in their last five games and will need to find their confidence again.
“You’ve got to be confident in this league,” Forsberg said. “If you’re not confident things don’t work out so you have to be confident, we are and just display it to the rest of the team here and move forward. We just have to make the playoffs and we’ll be fine I think. We’re a really good team and if we get into a series we’ll do well.”
Seattle is back in action Saturday night as they host the Calgary Hitmen at the ShoWare Center, game starts at 7 pm.
Red Deer came into the game sporting the league’s third best penalty killing unit. The T-Birds cashed in on three power play goals which is a positive moving forward. Konowalchuk really liked the Sheen unit and is considering starting them as the first power play unit on Saturday.
Konowalchuk reunited the Alex Delnov, Connor Honey and Lipsbergs line Saturday night after breaking them up. He felt they played somewhat better, but would still like to see them take shorter shifts.
Lispsbergs became the first T-Bird to crack the 20 goal mark Saturday and now is second in the WHL in rookie scoring behind Portland’s Oliver Bjorkstrand.
In the playoff races Seattle stays four points behind seventh place Everett who lost Friday night but now has the Prince George Cougars breathing down their necks. The Cougars came back from a 3-1 deficit against Vancouver Friday night to pick up a 6-4 win and is now only one point behind the T-Birds for the eighth playoff spot.
Justin Hickman and Evan Wardley were both scratches Friday night as they were both nursing injuries suffered against Victoria. Konowalchuk felt Wardley would return quickly but that Hickman may miss a couple of games.
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