Kamloops kicks T-Birds 7-2
Connor Honey could not beat Cole Cheveldave on this second period penalty shot (photo whl.ca)
By Andrew Eide
The Seattle Thunderbirds were in Kamloops, B.C. Friday night to face a Blazers team that may end up being the best in the Western Conference. After getting down early, Seattle came back to tie the game early in the third period before Kamloops erupted for five unanswered goals and ran away with the game 7-2. The loss drops Seattle’s record to 2-3-0-0 while Kamloops improves to 4-0-0-1.
Seattle has been an up and down team so far this year and they started this one down as Kamloops controlled the play in the first period and out-shot Seattle 15-6. Seattle had a hard time generating any offense and Kamloops finally scored at 12:51, on a power play when Colin Smith beat Glover for his third goal.
Less than three minutes later Seattle coughed the puck up at center ice which led to a Kamloops rush that ended when Dylan Willick appeared to have kicked in the puck. The goal was disallowed on the ice but the officials went to the replay booth and after a very brief review changed the call to a good goal and Kamloops was up 2-0. The call was odd as the replay seemed to show that Willick turned his skate to direct the puck in. Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk was left scratching his head after the game as well.
“I don’t know why (they overturned it),” he said after the game. “It looked like he kicked it in on the replay, I don’t know how they saw it was conclusive on the replay we saw.”
As they have in prior games the Thunderbirds came out a different team in the second. They had a jump to their game, sparked in some way by defenseman Shea Theodore who was flying up and down the ice. They went on the power play and after a Theodore rush he got the puck to Connor Honey in the slot who wheeled and fired a wrist shot high over Blazers goalie Cole Cheveldave. It was Honey’s first of the year and brought the Thunderbirds to within one.
“That was the best I’ve seen him (Theodore) play, in the second period,” Konowalchuk said off his star defenseman. “He gave us momentum and created a lot of offense and that got us going in that period.”
Shortly after that, Honey had a chance to tie it when he was awarded a penalty shot after a Kamloops player covered the puck with his glove in the crease. Honey tried to beat Cheveldave low but the goalie fired his pad out and denied the chance to tie. The rest of the second period turned into a wide open back and forth game with both teams trading chances. Seattle got the edge in shots in the period 12-11.
The Thunderbirds were feeling good after getting back into the game and 39 seconds into the third period defenseman Jesse Forsberg moved into the Kamloops zone and flung the puck on net where Honey was able to knock it in for his second goal of the night, and second on the season. Konowalchuk was happy with Honey’s game.
“It was good to see the puck go in for him and it was good to see him play better,” the head coach said. “I thought he built a little in the last game and then in this game, it was good to see him going.”
With Seattle back in the game and playing with confidence the depth of the Kamloops Blazers fired back. Kamloops top line features three 20 year-olds, and that line struck quickly. They broke the tie four minutes into the third when the puck went deep behind the Seattle net and three Seattle players chased it leaving Jordan DePape alone in the slot for a bang-bang goal. That type of play has plagued Seattle so far in the early season. It’s something that Konowalchuk thinks the team still needs to work on.
“Yeah, we still do,” he said of the play. “I thought in the first two periods we had it clogged up pretty good. That third goal was a bit of a bad back check and we had three guys below the net and if we had a forward come in and help we might have been ok, again, that was one shift off and we aren’t in a place where we can do that yet, especially against one of the best teams in the league.”
From there the flood gates opened up. Kamloops’ fire power took over and they scored four more goals in the third period and ended up running away from the young T-Birds. While there were some positives in the game, it was, in the end a frustrating night for Seattle.
“It was frustrating,” Konowalchuk said. ” You know, we tied it up and we’re thinking ‘here we go’, that we’re going to take this game down to the wire and the next thing you know it’s just bang, bang, bang by them and the game got away. Yeah there were some positives but we’ve got to shore some things up.”
Seattle heads home to face the Everett Silvertips at the ShoWare Center Saturday night, face off is at 7:05 PM.
Brandon Troock was not in the lineup Friday night as he was sick and could not play. Konowalchuk said that there is no word yet on his availability for Saturday as they will have to wait to see how he feels.
Shea Theodore took a shot off his ankle late in the second period and was hampered in the third and Konowalchuk felt it took a bit of his momentum away. As with Troock they will have to wait and see how his foot heals before making a determination about tomorrow’s game against Everett.
The home game against Everett Saturday is only Seattle’s second home game so far and they enter a stretch where they play 11 of their next 15 games on the road. That makes these home games vitally important. “You’ve got to take care of wins when you can,” Konowalchuk says. “You want to build an identity, be tough to play against at home, we don’t have a lot of time to think about this one before we have to be back out there.”
Seattle came into the night with one of the league’s best penalty kill units. Kamloops was able to solve them by going two for three on the man advantage and added a short-handed goal in the third period. Seattle was one for four on their power play.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide