T-Birds lose 6-2 to the Portland Winterhawks
By Andrew Eide
KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds had their four game winning streak snapped by the Portland Winterhawks Saturday night by a 6-2 score. Seattle played well at times and seemed to match Portland for much of the night but wasn’t able to match them scoring. Portland was powered by two goals from Presten Kopeck and 29 saves from Mac Carruth to pick up their 24th victory.
The game started well for Seattle as they matched Portland’s play early and got the lead two minutes into the period when Jesse Forsberg got a pass from Shea Theodore in the slot and beat Portland goalie Mac Carruth with a big slap shot. The lead did not last long however as Portland picked up a two-man advantage on the power play and Ty Rattie cashed in for his 19th goal of the season. Portland scored again, later in the period on a questionable goal that appeared to be under Brandon Glover but no whistle from the referee allowed Winterhawks players to bang away at it and Presten Kopeck poked it home.
It was a period that would be indicative of the night to come. Seattle played well but Portland found was able to strike and get the lead.
“I thought we did a lot of really good things,” Jesse Forsberg said. “They’re obviously a really good team, it’s just mistakes here and there, an off shift and their going to capitalize. We’ve had a rough schedule here but we can’t make excuses, I thought we did a lot of really good things and we’re really close to beating that team.”
The T-Birds have now lost five straight to Portland but as a group feel like they have closed the gap in the last two games. The problem is the gap is still there and Seattle has not found a way to overcome it yet.
The Winterhawks can strike quick and that’s exactly what they did to open the second period. Brandon Leipsic opened the period with his 21st goal of the year, just 21 seconds in, to give Portland a 3-1 lead. Exactly a minute later Portland struck again as Nic Petan found the back of the Seattle net – just like that the T-Birds found themselves down 4-1.
Seattle used their timeout after the fourth goal and responded by playing tough and physical and seemed to be able to take the game to Portland at times. They had a big opportunity when they found themselves with a minute and a half of two-man advantage on the power play. They moved the puck around but did not generate many shots and the Winterhawks killed off the penalties.
“We’ve got to score there,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “I thought we passed up on a couple shots. I thought Honey had a couple early where we had the triangle out of position and he could have teed a couple up, the passes weren’t quite there or he decided not to shoot, we do have to work on that.”
Portland features the league’s second best penalty kill unit and they have been giving Seattle fits in their last couple of meetings and on Saturday the T-Birds were 0-for-3.
“We didn’t move it quite as quick as we should,” Forsberg said. “We needed a goal there but that’s the way hockey goes and you have to bounce back when things don’t go right.”
Seattle played with a lot of energy and intensity, even after missing the big opportunity on the power play, for the rest of the period. They got closer when Connor Sanvido scored a short-handed goal, his second in three games, with just over five minutes left in the period. It seemed like Seattle was still in striking distance of coming back in the game.
“I thought we skated at a pretty good pace,” Konowalchuk said. “We still have to be a little sharper away from the puck, take care of those big breakdowns, and learn there.”
During that period the game had an electric atmosphere as both teams were playing with high level of intensity and the 4,015 in attendance were into the game. As the third period got underway however, Portland managed to take all the air out of the building and the game. Adam deChamplain got the scoring going three minutes in when he took a long stretch pass and scored on the breakaway to give Portland a three goal lead again. As in the second period, the Winterhawks did not wait long to strike again as Kopeck scored his second of the night.
Just like that it was 6-2 and the game was essentially over.
“They’re (Portland) a dangerous team,” Konowalchuk said. “You let your guard down for a second and it’s bang-bang in the net, it’s frustrating that way. I think we’re doing some good things, we’re making progress but we’re not there yet. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are going to keep working hard all year and at the end of the year that’s when we need to be at the top of our game.”
Seattle has bounced back from tough losses all year and gets a chance to do so again on this coming Tuesday when they host the Victoria Royals at the ShoWare Center.
Forward Roberts Lipsbergs had his 11 game point streak stopped as Portland held him off the score sheet.
Portland’s Leipsic did extend his point streak to 18 straight games with a goal and two assists on the night.
The Winterhawks were missing rookie Oliver Bjorkstrand as he was off to play in the World Junior Championships for Team Denmark.
The crowd on Saturday was quick to remind the Winterhawks of their recent off-ice troubles as there were ‘Portland Cheats” signs, t-shirts and chants throughout the evening.
There was a marriage proposal during a break in play in the first period. The bride to be said yes, but only seconds before Ty Rattie scored on a Portland power play. The cheers for the proposal quickly turned to groans and boos – hopefully not a harbinger of things to come for the happy couple!
Here are highlites from Saturday’s game: