Special teams the difference as Thunderbirds lose in Spokane

Oct 30, 2018, 10:08 PM | Updated: 10:15 pm

Dillon Hamaliuk buries his eighth of the year but it wouldn't be enough as the Thunderbirds lost in...

Dillon Hamaliuk buries his eighth of the year but it wouldn't be enough as the Thunderbirds lost in Spokane Tuesday (Larry Brunt/Chiefs)

(Larry Brunt/Chiefs)

Coming into Tuesday’s game in Spokane, the Seattle Thunderbirds had killed off 19 straight power-play chances by their opponents.

That streak would not last against the Chiefs as Spokane used the power play to hand Seattle a road loss at the Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. While the Chiefs were converting on the power play, Seattle failed on its attempts as special teams ended up being the difference.

“It’s always a key important part of the game, special teams,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “They got two on us, one was kind of an unfortunate bounce to spring their guy there. I thought our power play was OK with what we were doing but didn’t manage to get a goal out of it. If we keep one of theirs out and get one of our own, that could change the game.”

The Chiefs would convert on two-of-five power plays and get two goals from Riley Woods on their way to a 4-1 victory. Seattle (7-4-2-0) got a goal from Dillon Hamaliuk and 28 saves from Liam Hughes but would come up short in its first match up with the Chiefs.

“The puck management was shaky at times, some guys have to manage the puck better,” O’Dette said of his club’s play. “They have some speed on their team and you don’t have a lot of time to make plays with the puck so you have to have your head up and make plays quickly. At times we held on to it and allowed ourselves to get stripped and maybe stopped moving our feet at times, allowed them to get the back check on us.

“They’re a good team and for us to beat those guys we need everybody on the same page and playing the right way.”

The Thunderbirds had their chances on the power play, but Spokane (8-4-1-2) would kill all three of Seattle’s attempts.

Seattle fell behind late in the first after Spokane’s Jake McGrew wheeled around the net, back out into the slot, and whipped a back-hand shot past Hughes for his sixth of the season. The goal came with just over a minute left in what had been a solid road period by the Thunderbirds.

The late goal may have had a residual effect heading into the second.

The Chiefs controlled the play for the first half of the period and held Seattle without a shot on goal until the 9:46 mark. Seattle ended the night being out shot by the Chiefs 32-23.

Spokane would also added to its lead in the second.

Riley Woods would score his ninth of the season on a Spokane power play at 7:59 of the period. He got the puck above the face off circle and fired a wrist shot through traffic. It gave the Chiefs a 2-0 lead and snapped a streak of 21 straight penalty kills by the Thunderbirds.

Seattle would get some life late in the period and Hamliuk would cut the lead in half when he buried a rebound after a scramble in front of Chiefs’ goalie Bailey Brkin for his eighth goal of the year.

“I think they took it to us a little in the second period there coming out of the gates,” O’Dette said. “I thought we got better as the period went on, we ended the period coming on and taking it to them a little bit but couldn’t cash in on some of our chances there.”

That’s as close as Seattle would get however as Woods would add his second on another Cheifs power play in the third.

It was a bad luck goal of sorts as defenseman Jake Lee knocked down a dump in, only to have the puck bounce right to Woods, who had a head of steam. He deposited his 10th of the season and the Chiefs were on their way to a win.

“That was somewhat of a back breaker, especially the way it happened,” O’Dette said. “We were leaning heavily on some of our guys and that took a little bit of the wind out of our sails.”

Egor Arbuzov would net his first WHL goal in the empty Seattle net in the last minute to wrap up the scoring.

The Thunderbirds will regroup at home for a couple of days before heading north for two games this weekend with the Prince George Cougars, starting Friday night.


• Spokane was without Los Angeles Kings prospect Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who was a late scratch due to an upper-body injury. Anderson-Dolan began the season in the NHL with Los Angeles but was returned last week after playing in five games with the Kings.

• Seattle’s Payton Mount was not in the lineup as he is with Team Canada to play in the U17 World Championships.

• Reece Harsch was back in the lineup for the Thunderbirds on Tuesday. The defenseman left Saturday’s game in Vancouver with an injury but was able to return without missing a game.

• Hamaliuk has goals in his last two games and has scored in eight of the 11 games he’s played in this year.


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