Game 69: Thunderbirds use three power play goals to defeat the Chiefs
By Mike Caccioppoli
(24-43-1-1) Seattle Thunderbirds 3, (36-24-5-4) Spokane Chiefs 1
Me, Troock and Rouse have really developed lately. It wasn’t that I was playing bad it’s just that I wasn’t getting the bounces. Now they are starting to come around. It helps that the team is winning. Hopefully we can keep it going and make the playoffs…Connor Honey
Winning isn’t easy. The way we played tonight..it isn’t easy. You need to empty the tanks every night. That’s the way we are capable of playing, we are finding some consistency…Calvin Pickard
Obviously it was another do or die game. These guys played hard. They looked like a team that would do whatever it takes and they won…Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk
KENT- With their playoff hopes on the line the Thunderbirds play one of their best games of the season and defeat the Chiefs 3-1. All three of the Birds goals came on the power play.
For the first time in 2012 the Birds win back to back games.
With the win Seattle moves to within one point of the Victoria Royals for the 8th and final playoff spot.
No scoring in the first period with each team having one power play chance. The Chiefs also had a penalty shot but Steve Kuhn over skated the puck on his attempt to carry it out of the face off circle.
Shots were 11-7 in favor of the Chiefs.
The Birds got on the board first with a power play goal at 11:58 of the second period. Connor Honey scored his 7th goal of the season. Brendan Rouse and Seth Swenson got the assists.
Seattle made it 2-0 on another power play goal. This time Seth Swenson (10) knocked in a puck that slid behind Mac Engel. Shea Theodore and Brendan Rouse had the assists.
After 40 minutes the Birds led 2-0. Spokane had the 21-18 advantage in shots.
Connor Honey (8) scored his 2nd goal of the game and the Birds 3rd power play goal to put them up 3-0 at 6:30 of the third period. Colin Jacobs and Seth Swenson got the assists.
Steve Kuhn (13) got the Chiefs on the board at 8:08 as he deflected a shot past Calvin Pickard to make it a 3-1 game.
Spokane pulled Engel with two minutes left.
They didn’t score and the Birds win 3-1.
Post game Q & A with Connor Honey:
MC: Do you feel like you are “in the zone” right now? You were hot there for a while then you cooled down now you are hot again.
CH: Yeah exactly. Me, Troock and Rouse have really developed lately. It wasn’t that I was playing bad it’s just that I wasn’t getting the bounces. Now they are starting to come around. It helps that the team is winning. Hopefully we can keep it going and make the playoffs.
MC: That first goal was kind of a Hughesman-Holland-Shinnimin special, with great passes and a nice goal. Isn’t that what you want to see more of?
CH: Yeah. They are all nice to get. It doesn’t matter how we score. It was just nice to get the two points.
MC: You guys haven’t had much success against Spokane, did the coach say something to prepare you better?
CH: We knew it was a desperation game for us. I think we were just the better team out there.
MC: Do you feel like you’ve been learning as the season has worn on?
CH: I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better. We have a great coach and great leaders on the team. It has really helped me out, learning under Steve who played in the NHL. Same with Rumble (Assistant Coach Darren Rumble).
MC: So if things hold until Friday you guys will be only one point out of a playoff spot going into the game in Spokane.
CH: We have three more left and we hope to win one or two or three. We just have to take it one game at a time and see how it goes.
Post game Q & A with Calvin Pickard:
MC: You were really pumped after that game weren’t you?
CP: Yeah it was a fun game to play in. We played well, I played well, we blocked shots. That was the effort we needed. It’s fun winning. We need to keep doing that.
MC: Talking during the game to people the consensus was that if you guys had played this way all season you would be where Spokane is right now.
CP: Winning isn’t easy. The way we played tonight..it isn’t easy. You need to empty the tanks every night. That’s the way we are capable of playing, we are finding some consistency.
MC: Spokane really does play a full 60 minutes, and they grind it out and that’s what you guys did tonight. In that second period you guys were pretty dominating.
CP: Yes. We are a similar team the difference is that they are more consistent with playing that kind of game. We need to be consistent as well.
MC: It seemed like you were really on tonight. Might have had a shutout if not for that defection but it looked like if you saw the shot it wasn’t going in.
CP: I had to be good tonight. We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I wanted to be sharp early and give these guys a chance to win it.
Post game Q & A with Head Coach Steve Konowalchuk:
MC: I guess there isn’t a better time to finally win back to back games this year (2012).
SK: Obviously it was another do or die game. These guys played hard. They looked like a team that would do whatever it takes and they won.
MC: They played a full 60 minutes and really wore Spokane down it seemed.
SK: They went from start to finish. Decision making was proper, we made Spokane work for everything. We took maybe a couple too many penalties but special teams were the game.
MC: We haven’t seen three power play goals from this team in a long time.
SK: It was huge. We figured it would be a big part of the game today. PK was blocking shots, PP was setting up well, getting bodies in front of the net. There were a couple of nice plays as well.
MC: I’ve talked a lot in the past few weeks about the team not looking like it understands how big the games are. Tonight it looked as though they understood how important the two points were.
SK: I think we always realized, but right now they look like a determined bunch. The leaders in there have decided they want to make a real push.
MC: Same deal against this team on Friday when you could possibly get into a playoff spot?
SK: It’s never an easy game against them. They grind it out an play hard. I thought we played harder today and that’s why we won. They (Spokane) are going to probably even kick it up and play harder on Friday to try and beat us.
MC: You got a few breaks tonight. There were a couple of post shots and that non starter penalty shot. Is it just a matter of getting those breaks when you play well?
SK: When you work hard then.. I mean on the penalty shot you really can’t control that but other teams will make more hurried plays. They had some chances though and Picks made some key saves especially in that third period when they were throwing everything at us.
MC: I guess you can look at Honey, Rouse and Swenson as the guys who really stepped up tonight.
SK: Everybody did. Hickman was blocking shots on the PK and it gave everyone a boost. When guys step out of the comfort zone good things happen. Lund played a good defensive game, everybody did their job.
MC: Do you see the character of this team shining through with their backs to the wall?
SK: I see a group that is coming together and they want to play for something. Nobody is letting each other down.
Grind. The Birds really played when of their best games of the year just two games after their worst. They out worked Spokane for most of the night and just seemed to “want it” more.
Power play. Three power play goals on four chances. Haven’t been able to say that much. It was the difference in the game. They set up and were aggressive in taking shots.
Bodies in front. They had bodies in front of the net all night and were looking for those greasy goals. They got one on the Swenson goal.
Honey, Troock, Rouse. That line is really coming together. You can see the confidence when they are on the ice that something good will happen.
Pickard. Calvin seems to step up his game when his team plays well in front of him. He feeds off it. Tonight he was at his best, making a few point blank saves and he really stonewalled the Chiefs in the third period when they threw 21 shots at him.
Playing well at the right time. With destiny in their own hands the Birds are starting to look like they are gaining confidence. If they play like this over their last three games it will get them a playoff spot.
Where was this team all season? If Seattle had played with this kind of intensity and effort all season they would be where the Chiefs are now. Well at least it’s not too little too late if they keep it going.
-D Cason Machacek was serving the final game of his eight game suspension.
–F Jacob Doty did not play.
-Seattle improves to 14-20-0-1 at home. They are 2-5 vs. Spokane (1-3 home, 1-2 road).
–Calvin Pickard improves to 24-35-1-1. Mac Engel falls to 27-19-1-3.
Thunderbirds second half record: 11-26-1.
IN 7. Victoria..(23 wins..53 points..1 game left)
IN 8. Everett..(21 wins..52 points..2 games left)
OUT 9. Seattle..(24 wins..50 points..3 games left)
OUT 10. Prince George..(23 wins..48 points..2 games left)
710Sports.com three stars:
First star: Connor Honey (two goals)
Second star: Calvin Pickard (41/42 saves)
Third star: Seth Swenson (goal, two assists)
The Thunderbirds play Friday night in Spokane. Game time is 7:05 pm and the action can be heard live at 710Sports.com.
Game summary is on the WHL website.