Short-handed T-Birds turn game over to Cougars in 6-2 loss

Dec 15, 2015, 11:41 PM | Updated: Dec 16, 2015, 2:48 pm

KENT – Playing short handed, the T-Birds couldn’t afford to make mistakes Tuesday night against the Prince George Cougars.

Unfortunately for them, that’s exactly what they did.

Seattle turned the puck over repeatedly and the Cougars took advantage on the way to a 6-2 win at the ShoWare Center. Prince George got two goals from Jesse Gabrielle who cashed in on some of the T-Birds miscues, as well as three assists from Jansen Harkins.

The T-Birds wasted two more goals from the red-hot Ethan Bear in the loss.

The Cougars came into the game as winners of seven of their last eight games and the T-Birds missing their top three centers.

The T-Birds did not manage the puck well, were beat on the puck and suffered some defensive zone breakdowns on the way to their second home loss in a row.

“The whole team has to play smarter than that,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “The D got caught up with forwards turning the puck over, but with that being said, the D have to make sure no one gets behind them… (Scott) Eansor and (Mathew) Barzal not here doesn’t mean other guys cant compete on pucks.”

Seattle fell behind in the first period after being hemmed in their own zone, which allowed Jared Bethune to get himself free at the side of the net. Brad Morrison found him with the puck and Bethune lifted it over a sprawling Logan Flodell for his 11th goal of the season.

The T-Birds would tie the game on Bear’s first goal a few minutes later, but just before the period ended, would give the lead up for good.

With just 36 seconds to go, Flodell stopped a Gabrielle shot but Chase Witala was there to dig the rebound out and into the net. It was the Prince George native’s 20th goal of the year and changed the momentum.

“I would have liked to get out of the first period tied there and let our guys feel good there for a bit,” Konowalchuk said. “But, it’s still a 2-1 hockey game, it wasn’t a terrible first period there. When we were doing things right we had some success, we definitely got away from it.”

Seattle was not blitzed by Prince George and the shots were 11-10 for the Cougars in the first period. The difference, as it was all game, was that the Cougars generated many more quality scoring chances than Seattle did.

Most of those chances came off of Seattle turnovers.

“Turnovers were huge,” a frustrated Konowalchuk said. “I don’t know what the hell guys were trying to do there. A lot of turnovers. We had some success when we got it behind them but the turnovers were bad. They led to breakdowns in the d-zone.”

The Cougars would extend their lead on a Bartek Bison score four minutes into the second period. Gabrielle made it 4-1 on a breakaway after another Seattle turnover midway through the period.

Bear’s second goal would cut the lead just before the period ended, but Seattle could not get out of its own way and Gabrielle picked up a turned over puck at the Seattle blue line early in the third for his second goal of the game. That made it 5-2 and all but end the drama.

“I’m upset,” Konowalchuk said. “With those guys missing doesn’t mean a couple of other guys don’t have to win battles; that’s what upsets me. It doesn’t mean we can’t follow the game plan.”

With thrown-together lines, the T-Birds struggled at the faceoff dot and were unable to generate any real sustained pressure. They had some chances against Prince George goalie Ty Edmonds early, but as the game wore on, their chances dwindled.

The T-Birds knew playing this stretch in December while missing some key players was going to be tough, but the way they lost Tuesday was more frustrating, as they didn’t stick to their game plan and weren’t competing all night long.

They have two more games before the league holiday break and will try to end the first half on a good note Friday when they host Tri City.

Notes

• Sixteen-year-old Monroe native Luke Ormsby made his Seattle and WHL debut on Tuesday night. He played limited minutes, mostly on the fourth line for the T-Birds. He is eligible to play six games this year, as he is still affiliated with his team in Arizona.

• In Saturday night’s loss to the Everett Silvertips, it looked like the T-Birds may have lost Bear when he blocked a hard shot with his boot. He clearly was able to shake that off, as he scored two more goals on Tuesday. That gives him five goals in his last three games, and he is three points off last year’s career high total of 38.

• Forward Luke Osterman left the ice early after taking a hit to the head from Prince George defenseman Sam Ruopp.

• Nolan Volcan was listed as day-to-day on the WHL Weekly report Tuesday. If he is able to get back in the lineup this weekend as the holiday break closes, he could provide the T-Birds with a big lift.

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