Spokane shuts down T-Birds 2-1

Oct 20, 2012, 7:42 AM | Updated: 7:42 am

By Andrew Eide

What a difference three days can make. After beating the Spokane Chiefs 6-4 at home Tuesday the Thunderbirds found the going a bit tougher in Spokane Friday night as they dropped a tough game 2-1. Hockey can be a free flowing, edge of your seat affair when two teams face off and race up and down the ice. Friday night, the Spokane Chiefs wanted none of that, and their game plan worked.

The Chiefs clogged the neutral zone, playing an effective trap that consistently consumed the puck and kept Seattle from maintaining any constant pressure for the majority of the night.

“It was a tough game,” Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk said afterwards. “They fought for the puck more, worked hard and stuck to their game plan while we got away from ours, and that was the difference. They did a better job as the game wore on and we got more stubborn.”

Spokane used the clogged neutral zone to hold the T-Birds to only 15 shots for the game, including only five in the third period. Seattle seemed to lose their patience and got away from what worked for them on Tuesday and for parts of the first period.

Roberts Lipsbergs played a solid game, despite the loss, as he was all over the ice playing with some grit and managed to draw a first period penalty. Seattle scored on the resulting power play as Lipsbergs’ shot was stopped by Eric Williams but the rebound went to Brendan Rouse who got it to Branden Troock who scored his first goal since coming back from the flu.

Seattle led after one and it seemed that they had played a strong road period. But near the end of the period Spokane started to get some good shifts and were building some momentum.

Their trap worked perfectly in the second period as Seattle was unable to generate any good scoring chances and only managed four shots on goal. Because of that the game was played mostly in the Seattle end where rookie goalie Justin Myles was making his second WHL start. He made ten saves in the second period but was unable to make the 11th as Adam Helewka tied the game up with just under three minutes left in the period.

The third period brought more of the same and Helewka scored again half way through the period as there was a scramble in front of Myles and Helewka was the only one who found the loose puck and was able to poke it in. With the way Spokane’s defense was playing it felt like that second goal was enough.

Turns out it was.

“We had to work for every inch,” Konowalchuk said. “We lost more battles and that’s the bottom line. They tilted the ice, especially as the game wore on and I felt our guys started cheating a bit, hoping the puck would come to them instead of fighting for it.”

Seattle has no time to lick their wounds from this one as they will take on the Portland Winterhawks in the Rose Garden Saturday evening. Seattle beat Portland down there on opening night and rest assured the Winterhawks will want some pay back for that.

With the loss Seattle’s record dips to 5-4-0-0 while Spokane improves to 7-3-0-0.

Game Notes

Justin Myles was stellar in only his second start. He stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced and gave the Thunderbirds a chance to win. Konowalchuk praised him and felt it was a shame they couldn’t get more goals for him. Brandon Glover will be back in net tonight in Portland as Konowalchuk wanted to give him a night off in Spokane.

The Seattle power play continues to get it done as they were 1-for-3 last night. They continue to have a decent penalty kill as well as they blanked Spokane on their two opportunities.

In Portland the Rose Garden’s ice will be painted pink to support breast cancer. Known as “Pink the Rink” this charity event is done by most teams in the WHL. As October is Breast Cancer Awareness month the T-Birds will play three of their next four games on pink ice – Next Saturday in Everett and Sunday at the ShoWare Center.

Mitch Elliot was a scratch again last night as he battles the flu that has gone through the team.

Spokane’s Adam Helewka is going to start looking forward to Seattle being on the Chiefs schedule. He has three goals on the season and all of them have come against the T-Birds. Probably too early to label him a ‘T-Bird Killer’ but he is on his way.

Follow Andrew on twitter @andyeide


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