T-Birds bounce back to edge Tri City 3-2
KENT – The Seattle Thundebirds celebrated 100 years of Seattle hockey on Saturday night and won an old fashion grind ’em out type affair.
After falling behind in the second period the T-Birds would score two unanswered to battle back and beat the Tri City Americans 3-2 in front of a sold out ShoWare Center.
Mathew Barzal scored twice which set up a third-period game-winning goal by defenseman Jared Hauf. Goalie Taz Burman was sharp in net and made 26 saves to pick up his 7th win of the season.
After getting hammered the night before, the T-Birds were looking to make a strong statement right from the start.
“Our first period was really a strong period,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “The way we need to play, a good response from our leaders to get us going there after a poor performance the night before. Just playing the right way, at them.”
The T-Birds went right at them and out shot the Americans 11-1 in the first period. They controlled the puck and drove the play while not allowing Tri City to sniff the Seattle net.
“One shot is always good,” Hauf said. “You take what you can get. We were just trying to have good gap.”
Seattle’s defense played with good gap, keeping the play to the outside and limiting the Tri City chances. At the other end the T-Birds would open the scoring in the first period with a greasy goal.
The top line was pushing and after a mad scramble in front of the net, Barzal found the rebound and buried it for his eighth of the season.
Everything seemed to be going the T-Birds way until the second period when they found themselves in penalty trouble. The Americans were handed four of their five power-play chances in the second frame and cashed in on two of them on goals by Parker Bowles and Michael Rasmussen. Before Seattle knew it, their one-goal lead had turned into a 2-1 deficit.
“Its very frustrating because we lose the momentum on power plays,” Konowalchuk said. “Whether they are calls that you don’t like – I know one we can’t take – it was unnecessary but it was just the kind of game they were going to call.”
The momentum had clearly swung to the Tri City side of the ledger. At one point Seattle held a 15-5 shot advantage, but after the power plays the shot differential had tightened to 16-12.
Seattle didn’t let the swing get them down however and Barzal would take back the momentum with a terrific individual play. With just under 40 seconds left he stole the puck from Tri City defenseman Parker Wotherspoon, went in on goalie Evan Sarthou alone and scored to tie the game at two.
“I kind of read him a little bit,” Barzal said. “Wotherspoon’s a pretty skilled player so I thought he was going to try and walk me a little so tried to read him best I could. Luckily he fanned on the pass and I got a big break.”
Hockey teams need their best players to step up at big times and that’s exactly what Barzal did on Saturday night.
“He’s a good player,” Konowalchuk said. “When the game’s on the line he wants to be out there and its nice to have that option. We’ve got a few other guys that you can really trust on the ice.”
It was a big, late goal and seemed to calm the T-Birds down as they were able to get back to playing their game.
In the third period they played clean and started generating chances again and just as it looked like overtime might be needed Hauf would glide in from the point to give Seattle the game-winning goal it was looking for.
“There was a good cycle shift and I saw (Keegan Kolesar) coming around the net,” Hauf said of the play. “I just jumped to see if Icould get a shot and it turned out pretty sweet.”
It was Hauf’s first goal of the season and could not have come at a bigger moment.
In the end, it was a big bounce back win for first place Seattle who is in the midst of a stretch of games that will see them play 13 of 14 against U.S. Division foes. They will get a chance to right the wrongs of Friday’s loss to Spokane on Wednesday when they return for a rematch with the Chiefs.
“We want to be top of the division all year and we want to win tight games like that,” Barzal said. “It’s going to be a big one Wednesday in Spokane, it’s going to be a statement game.”
• As part of the celebration Saturday night the Stanley Cup was at the ShoWare Center. The team took a picture with the iconic trophy but hockey players are a superstitious bunch and you’re not supposed to touch the Cup until you win one. None of the players touched the puck while it was in their dressing room.
• That goes for coaches as well. Konowalchuk’s Washington Capitals lost the Stanley Cup Final in 1998 in a four-game sweep to the Detroit Red Wings and he wanted nothing to do with the Cup on Saturday. “I hope they enjoyed it,” Konowalchuk said with a smile. “Me personally, I didn’t really get to close to the Cup. I let them have their picture. I didn’t go in there, everyone else can have their fun, I’m a sore loser.”
• The T-Birds also wore Seattle Metropolitans throwback jerseys. The Mets were Seattle’s first professional sports team, debuting in 1915, and were also the first U.S. team to win the Stanley Cup, beating the Montreal Canadiens in 1917. The sweaters featured bright green, red and white stripes with a big ‘S’ on the crest. “I like them,” Barzal said. “But at first I was a little skeptical, there’s a lot of color. But it was good, it was easy to see guys out there.”
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.