T-Birds struggle again in Spokane, lose to Chiefs 4-2

Dec 9, 2015, 9:59 PM | Updated: Dec 10, 2015, 10:30 am

The Thunderbirds were looking to make a statement in Spokane Wednesday night but ended up with more frustration.

Five days after an embarrassing 7-1 loss, the T-Birds suffered an equally tough 4-2 loss to the Chiefs in Spokane. Despite heavily out shooting Spokane, Seattle was let down by second period defensive breakdowns and a less than inspiring power play.

“It was definitely a story of big breakdowns,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said after. “We basically gave them three breakaways on their goals and that shouldn’t happen.”

The Chiefs were led by goalie Tyson Verhelst who frustrated the T-Birds all night by making 37 saves for his second straight victory over Seattle.

Things started strong for Seattle as they controlled the play and got the game’s first eight shots. They were getting chances but Verhelst held them at bay enough for the Chiefs to get a lead. Adam Helewka scored his fourth goal this year against Seattle after beating the T-Birds defense on a cycle play.

The T-Birds got that goal right back however – three minutes later – when Jamal Watson fired a one-timer from the high slot that Verhelst couldn’t handle.

As the game moved into the middle frame, things were looking good.

Like the first period last Friday, the second period Wednesday was the turning point. Bad Seattle give-aways led to three Spokane goals that left Seattle in a big hole.

The deluge started when Jacob Cardiff tipped a screened shot past goalie Taz Burman from in close. Three minutes later Taylor Ross walked past both Seattle defenseman to get in alone and score his first career goal. That goal would end the night for Burman as he was replaced by Logan Flodell after making 12 saves on 15 shots.

“It was a team thing,” Konowalchuk said of the goalie change. “Two of them were point blank chances. We want our goalies to make the stop but at the same time its a team game and we don’t want our goalies to have to make that many point blank saves.”

Keanu Yamamoto would welcome Flodell by stealing the puck at the Seattle blue line and score his sixth of the season on a breakaway.

What had looked like a promising bounce back game, quickly started to look a lot like last Friday.

Down three goals the T-Birds needed to get their game going and get on the scoreboard quickly in the third period. They were given some golden chances to do just that as Spokane took a penalty 44 seconds into the period. It was the fifth man advantage had at that point but they weren’t able to cash in.

In fact, they couldn’t cash in on any of the seven power-play chances they had on the night and squandered any chance of getting back into the game. Seattle moved the puck well at times on the power play but didn’t get enough shots or traffic in front of Verhelst and in the end it cost them.

“It was good at times,” Konowalchuk said of the power play. “Other times they pressed us pretty hard and we didn’t fight hard to get through it and at times he made saves. Overall I expect to get a goal or two (with that many chances).”

In the two games with Spokane this year the T-Birds have gone a woeful 1-for-12 on the power play.

With the Chiefs now only a point behind Seattle in the standings the T-Birds will get another chance for a message game on Friday night when Spokane will make its first appearance at the ShoWare Center.

“I would hope that our guys really want to get this next game,” Konowalchuk said. “A little extra after being beat twice, no doubt about it.”

Notes

• Wednesday was the last game the T-Birds will play with Mathew Barzal in the lineup for some time . He leaves for the Toronto area Thursday to take part in Team Canada’s World Junior camp. If he makes the team Seattle will be without its best player until early January.

• Scott Eansor (USA) and Alex True (Denmark) are also headed to World Junior camps but won’t leave until after the weekend.

• Jamal Watson added a short-handed goal late in the third period for his first multi-goal game as a T-Bird. He had four two-goal games last season playing with the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

• Barzal was held off the scoresheet for the fifth time this season, Seattle is 1-4 in those games.

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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