Familiar problems cost Thunderbirds in loss to Everett
KENT – All the elements that have led to this season’s struggles for the Thunderbirds were present during Seattle’s 4-2 loss to the Everett Silvertips Saturday night.
Seattle (5-9-2-1) was not able to convert on its four power-play chances, which included two in the first period when the game was scoreless. The Thunderbirds are now mired in a 1-for-26 slump with the man advantage over the last seven games.
“They have a good penalty kill,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “I thought we had some looks. Maybe some executing issues there. They bring a lot of pressure and a lot of aggressiveness on the pucks. I don’t think we won enough battles on puck retrievals…I don’t think we built any momentum from them.”
Everett (13-4-0-0) built a 2-0 lead during the first six minutes of the second period thanks to poor puck management by the Thunderbirds. Dawson Butt started the scoring after Seattle lost a puck battle in the corner. The puck came out to the Buckley, Wash. product who scored his second of the year just under the crossbar.
That goal came 32 seconds into the second and the Silvertips would add on six minutes later with a goal from Conrad Mitchell after a turnover in the neutral zone.
A seven-minute lapse and Seattle was in a hole.
“It’s about momentum, we know that,” Seattle defenseman Tyrel Bauer said. “We’ve had good momentum in games and managed it and we’ve found ways to let it slip. That’s part of learning. We hate this feeling. We’re going to come back, we’re going to come back stronger. We’re starting to show some push back now and I think we’re headed on the right track.”
Down a pair heading into the third period, Seattle did start to push.
Penalties would make a come back more difficult however as the Thunderbirds would give Everett three power plays in the first 13 minutes. The Silvertips cashed in on one when Martin Fasko-Rudas found a seam on the short side and snuck a shot past Roddy Ross to make it 3-0.
“Frustration,” O’Dette said about the third-period penalties. “We’re trying to create some energy there to get us back in the game and one way to do that is with physical play and I thought we came across the line a little bit with some frustration in trying to get a spark.”
Bauer would score on a slap shot to cut the lead to 3-1 and the Thunderbirds were able to generate some energy and offense with just under eight minutes to go.
They put together some good shifts and created chances, but it would be too little too late.
“The momentum started to swing in our favor when we were building our energy up and that’s when we started to hem them in a little bit there but not enough in the first half of the game,” O’Dette said.
Friday was another game where Seattle generated shots on goal, 38 of them, but could only muster two past Everett goalie Keegan Karki. Getting shots and not finishing has been a constant for the Thunderbirds this season, especially during their four-game losing streak.
Karki wasn’t bothered by much traffic and the Silvertips defenders were able to clear rebounds out of harm’s way before any Thunderbirds sticks could find them.
“They’re a good team,” O’Dette said. “They defend well and you don’t get much. You’ve got to work for every chance and when you do get a chance you’ve got to put it in the back of the net.”
Seattle’s young roster is still searching for a game where the energy level is there from the start and is maintained for a full 60 minutes.
Against Kamloops on Friday and Everett Saturday, there were stretches where the team played well, but too many where the desperation levels weren’t high enough.
“That’s something that as a group we’ve been struggling with lately,” Bauer said. “We’ve had some cold starts. As soon as that passion comes, whether it be from a hit, a fight, a goal, then we all seem to get up. It’s just bringing that at the start. That comes from experience too, some guys float into the game and then heat up but we’ve got to learn that we’ve got to come out of the gates.”
After Bauer made it 3-1, the Silvertips would get an empty-net goal from Wyatte Wylie after he flung the puck down the ice from deep in his own end.
The Thunderbirds added one more goal from Matthew Rempe, his first in the WHL in just his second career game, to wrap up the night’s scoring.
With time running out the game got rough and 50 minutes in penalties were handed out in the last 25 seconds which included a game misconduct to Matthew Wedman – who also was assessed a five-minute charging major – and a match penalty to Everett’s Butt.
The skirmish started after Everett’s Gianni Fairbrother hit Conner Bruggen-Cate from behind, a play that was not called a penalty but that Seattle thought should have been. Wedman then charged Fairbrother in retaliation and the rivalry was ignited.
“It’s two teams competing,” O’Dette said. “I thought they could have made that call on the boarding on their guy, Fairbrother. I think that was the start of the problem there.”
For a team that is looking to play with more energy and a spark, the scrum at the end of the game could be one that helps bring the Thunderbirds together.
“That’s kind of the push back that we’re talking about and that’s the push back we need,” Bauer said. “Seeing a guy like that coming in there and standing up for a teammate against these guys, is something that we can rally around…the last few days have kind of shown some new guys and some young guys what our team is about and what we have to do to be successful…great on Weds and great on the guys for going in there.”
• There could be some discipline handed down from the league after Saturday’s game. Wedman was given a five-minute charging major and game misconduct and the league may look at that. Everett’s Butt was assessed a match penalty/intent to injure that could also bring with it a suspension.
• With the win, the Silvertips have won nine of their last ten games and continue to lead the U.S. Division.
• Seattle will next be in action Saturday night when they host Portland. The Thunderbirds will have a full week of practice to try and find a way to convert on the power play, score even-strength goals, and avoid lapses during the game.
“We’re going to work hard here,” Bauer said about the week ahead. “We’re going to go to war this week. We’ve got a lot of stuff to work on obviously after coming out like that. We’re all going to buy in, we’re all going to work hard, put our head’s down, go to work and try to come out a better team at the end of the week.”
• After the game, the Thunderbirds announced that they had traded Michael Horon to the Prince Albert Raiders for a 2020 seventh-round pick.