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Thunderbirds struggle with puck, drop 4-2 decision to Victoria

Seattle's Kai Uchacz scored a goal Wednesday but it wasn't enough as the Thunderbirds came up short. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – While the effort was there for the Seattle Thunderbirds Wednesday night, the execution was not.

Looking to ride the momentum off a positive weekend, Seattle struggled to manage the puck, spent too much time chasing in its own end and it would cost in a 4-2 loss to the Victoria Royals in front of a sold-out accesso ShoWare Center.

“There were plays to be made and we didn’t make them,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “We need to be more efficient moving the puck in order to enable us to be able to do what we want to do. Forecheck, play down low in the O-zone with what our strengths are.

“I thought there was too much individual play, not enough support to the puck, guys taking long shifts, things like that. For us to play at our best and be most effective we need to be fresh. Our style takes a lot of energy and there were guys not buying into that concept.”

Victoria (12-8-1-0) was led by a pair of goals from Gary Haden – both of which broke a tie – and 24 saves from goalie Shane Farkas who picked up his eighth win of the year. Seattle (7-13-2-1) got a goal from Matthew Rempe and Kai Uchacz while Roddy Ross stopped 30 of the 33 shots he faced.

The Thunderbirds were outshot 25-17 over the first two periods and fell behind 3-2 heading into the third period. They were unable to find the equalizer and would eventually surrender an empty-net score to seal their fate.

Coming off a weekend where Seattle played well, Wednesday was a disappointing step back.

“We had a good weekend, we played the right way,” O’Dette said. “We were starting to realize what makes us successful and it’s a matter of duplicating that. I think we get maybe feeling good about ourselves and we abandon, and we go back to being on our own page and that doesn’t work. Especially with our young team, we have to be playing together as a five-man unit. And to be honest, it’s coming from our older, key guys. We need 20 guys to be pulling in the same direction.”

Can’t take advantage of early momentum

Rempe got the Thunderbirds on the board early Wednesday night. His second goal of the year came 1:24 into the first when he banged home a rebound from his knees, in the crease.

It was the kind of greasy goal that would normally help set a tone.

That wouldn’t be the case Wednesday as the Royals would get it back three minutes later on a wrist shot from Keanu Derungs. It was the sixth goal for Derungs who scored from the high slot after a Victoria faceoff win.

“We didn’t seize that momentum,” O’Dette said. “I think some execution stuff, some faceoff execution wasn’t good either. Right back on our heels again.”

Rempe’s goal came on the Thunderbirds second shot but the Royals responded with the next 11 shots on their way to outshooting Seattle 11-8 in the first period.

In Saturday’s win over Saskatoon, Seattle scored on its first shot, and first shift, and it helped set a tone as the Thunderbirds rode that momentum to build on their lead. Wednesday, they followed up the early goal with poor puck management that handed the momentum back to the visitors.

No puck possession means no power plays

Seattle was awarded one power play on the night, and it only lasted 30 seconds. The call came while the Thunderbirds were killing off a penalty.

“We didn’t do enough to earn any power plays,” O’Dette said. “We didn’t give ourselves an opportunity to draw some penalties and get some power play time. One call, and it was an overlapping one. That means you’re not generating enough to make them take penalties.”

Victoria had three power plays but failed to score on any.

Stuck on two

Goal scoring has been a problem for Seattle and after Wednesday’s loss, they are averaging 2.39 scores per contest.

It’s not enough and a big reason for Seattle’s struggles.

Wednesday, the Thunderbirds answered Haden’s first of the night, scored in the second period, with goal number two. It came on a funny bounce after a Cade McNelly dump in. The puck rebounded off the end boards into the slot. Uchacz was there to knock it in for his first of the year.

Tied at 2-2, Haden would score again, on a scramble play to take the lead back. It forced Seattle to find that third goal, which they couldn’t.

Seattle has failed to score more than two times in 14 of their games this year, and have only won one of those. Wednesday, puck management and workload led to lack of scoring and more time spent in the Seattle end of the ice.

“It’s execution,” O’Dette said. “You take that extra trip up the ice, you have some good O-zone time but once it comes out you’re tired and you can’t backcheck, can’t play D-zone. When we’re at our best we’re in their end and we’re getting on guy off at a time. Fresh body, another guy off, fresh body. That happens when guys start thinking about points and going off on their own page.”

Game Notes

• Rempe continues to impress in his rookie season. Standing at 6-foot-8, Rempe, 17, missed the start of the season due to injury but has made up for lost time. He’s been physical, active, and in his first eight games he has two goals and four points.

• Uchacz’ goal was his first of the season but not first of his WHL career. As a late call up last year, Uchacz got on the board in the season finale against Portland.

• Seattle has a Friday off this week and will next be in action Saturday night in Everett against the division leading Silvertips.