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Winnipeg ICE slides by Thunderbirds 5-2

Seattle's Simon Kubicek fights for the puck with Vegas Golden Knights prospect Peyton Krebs during Thunderbirds loss to Winnipeg. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – Seattle Thunderbirds forward Jared Davidson thought he had tied Tuesday’s game with the Winnipeg ICE at 2-2 late in the second period.

He poked the puck past Winnipeg goalie Jesse Makaj after a scrum in front of the net. While Davidson celebrated with his mates in the corner, the referee was waving his hands outward.

He had ruled no goal.

It would prove to be a turning point in the game as the ICE would score 42 seconds into the third period on a power-play goal to propel them to a 5-2 win.

“Some contact with the goalie,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said of the disallowed goal. “I thought it was incidental but they thought it was enough so the goalie couldn’t make the save.”

After scoring first on Tuesday, Seattle (6-10-2-1) lost a couple of key moments as Winnipeg (12-9-1-0) would build a lead and then hold on for the win.

The ICE was paced by a pair of scores from rookie Michal Teply and a goal and two assists from former Thunderbirds defenseman Reece Harsch. Seattle managed a Simon Kubicek power-play goal and a third-period marker from Alex Morozoff in the loss.

“I thought we played hard,” O’Dette said. “It’s not executing well enough but we’re trying hard. The tape-to-tape passes and executing on scoring chances, we didn’t have that tonight.”

Two key turning points go against Thunderbirds

After falling behind 3-1, just 42 seconds into the third thanks to Teply’s first of the night, Seattle got some life after some solid work by Conner Bruggen-Cate and Morozoff. The former attempted a wrap around on Makaj and the puck rebounded out into the slot where Morozoff buried his fourth of the year.

The accesso ShoWare Center crowd came to life as it looked like Seattle had some momentum with just under 17 minutes left in the third period.

That hope lasted 20 seconds as a Thunderbirds turnover at the blue line was sent back to Teply, who was all alone in front of Roddy Ross. He flipped it over the Seattle goalie for his second of the night and reinstated the Winnipeg two-goal lead at 4-2.

“We got the momentum in our hands and then we let it slip through our fingers and we can’t do that,” Bruggen-Cate said. “Really have to focus on the details the next couple of shifts, get pucks deep, and we didn’t do that.”

The swing was the second of the third period.

Teply’s first came on a power-play, after a Seattle penalty late in the second period, in the moments following the disallowed goal.

“We’ve got to manage that better,” O’Dette said. “I sound like a broken record talking about key moments of the game. We needed to stay the course after that play. Giving up the power-play goal to start the period wasn’t ideal either. At those key moments of the game, you have to dig in.”

Second-period issues

The Second period continues to be a problem for the Thunderbirds.

Coming into the contest Seattle had been outscored 26-13 in the middle frame and while Winnipeg only scored once in the second on Tuesday, they took the game over. The ICE outshot Seattle 16-9, took the lead on a goal from Jackson Leppard, while pinning the Thunderbirds in their own zone for much of the period.

“They’ve got some speed and I thought that gave us some trouble there,” O’Dette said of the second. “They were on top of us pretty quick. We’ve got to let the puck do some work for us sometimes and be able to transition it that way. I’d say that was a big factor.”

A long bus ride in the night

After dropping their fifth game out of the last six, the Thunderbirds packed up their bus immediately after the game on Tuesday.

They will trek North, up to Kamloops for a game Wednesday night against the B.C. Division-leading Blazers. A trip that gave Tuesday’s post-game the feel of a road game.

Seattle will have to find the energy to try and right the ship against a tough team and may have to do it with another short roster. On Tuesday, the Thunderbirds were again without Matthew Wedman, Cade McNelly, Lucas Ciona, and Conner Roulette.

“Just getting our cool down and our post-game stretch and cold tubs,” Bruggen-Cate said about preparing for the bus ride and quick turnaround. “Protein and everything to take care of our bodies. Get a good meal in us and try to get some sleep on the bus… We showed it last game that we have what it takes to play a full 60 minutes hard and win games against good teams. It’s just a matter of us coming out and playing our game.”

Game Notes

• Harsch had a memorable return to the ShoWare Center. He scored an empty-net goal to seal the win and was one of the game’s three stars. The defenseman played with the Thunderbirds from 2016 into January of this year when he was traded to the Saskatoon Blades.

• Seattle was 1-for-2 on the power play while Winnipeg was 1-for-5.

• O’Dette wasn’t optimistic any of the injured players would return to the lineup in time for Wednesday.