T-Birds fall to Portland 4-2
By Andrew Eide
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Thunderbirds’ struggles against the Portland Winterhawks continued Saturday night as they dropped a 4-2 decision in a sold out Rose Garden. The Winterhawks got two early goals from Taylor Leier and held down the T-Birds offense for most of the night.
“We still have way too much respect for them,” Steve Konowalchuk said. “They’re a good team but there are five or six guys who are afraid to make mistakes again, and that’s the difference in the game, even with some of their guys missing, and it’s disappointing.”
Portland (27-5-1-0) was without top players like Ty Rattie, Seth Jones, Tyler Wotherspoon and Oliver Bjorkstrand who are all off to compete in the World Junior Championships. They still iced a stacked roster and got the jump on the T-Birds early in the first period.
Leier scored his first goal three and half minutes into the game as he somehow got the puck through Brandon Glover’s pads. It was Portland’s teddy bear night and the goal brought a rain of teddy bears on the ice from the sold out crowd. The game was delayed for 15 minutes as the Portland players gathered the nearly 11,000 bears that were being collected for charity.
After the delay Leier struck again two minutes later as he walked in front of the net and beat Glover with a backhand-forehand move. That was the end of the night for Glover who, because of injury to his back up, had been playing every game the past three weeks.
“He’s played a lot of hockey for us,” Konowalchuk said. “With Myles banged up he’s played a ton of hockey and I thought it was a good chance to see the other goalie and I thought he played well and we’ll go from there.”
Seattle (16-16-1-1) was not able to gain any offensive pressure or consistency in the first period and were out-shot 13-4 in the period. The second period was very much the same as Portland continued to shut down Seattle who only had one shot half way through the period.
Portland extended their lead four minutes into the second when Derrick Pouliot beat Danny Mumuagh with a nice high wrist shot. That made the score 3-0 and got the T-Birds frustrated as the game devolved a bit into a chippy affair with numerous fights and confrontations.
The edge of the game seemed to spark Seattle a bit as they skated better in the second half of the period and that carried over into the third. They got on the board early in the third when Michal Holub scored from out in front. That cut the lead to 3-1 and it seemed like maybe the T-Birds could mount a comeback.
Portland got their three goal lead back five minutes later however when after a bad play at the blue line Portland had a three on one and Taylor Peters cashed in for his eighth goal.
Alex Delnov got Seattle to within two with a power play goal late in the period but by then it was too late.
In the end this was another Seattle-Portland game where the T-Birds competed better but still ended up short. The biggest bright spot may have been the play of 16 year-old Danny Mumaugh who made his WHL debut when called upon in the first period. He ended up making 29 saves on the night and kept the T-Birds in the game. It’s even more impressive considering the place and team he made his debut against.
“That’s what we want,” Konowalchuk said about it. “Just go play, you see some of our rookies out there who just go out and play and you see some of our guys who have been here a couple of years, they don’t just play, the still feel it out through a process and the game’s over before it starts.”
Seattle has one more game before the team and league take their holiday break. They will host the Tri-City Americans at the ShoWare Center on Tuesday night.
Konowalchuk and Portland coach Travis Green were each assessed penalties as the game ended. They both were upset with each other and it seemed to stem from the fights. “I was upset,” Konowalchuk said. “It started earlier when their tough guy fights our small guy and doesn’t answer the bell, that’s how the whole thing started.”
The two teams combined for 164 minutes in penalties as the game was chippy through out. Portland’s Joe Mahon was involved in three fights which eventually earned him a game misconduct for fighting three times in one game. Seattle’s Mitch Elliot fought twice himself and brought the ire of the crowd as he did the ‘Discount Double Check’ move, made famous by Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as he left the ice.
Seattle takes on Tri-City Tuesday and has a chance to start 3-0 on the season against the defending U.S. Division champions.
Seattle will be without the services of Roberts Lipsbergs on Tuesday as he will be headed to Russia to play for Team Latvia in the World Junior Championships.
Follow Andrew on twitter @andyeide