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Spokane scores three straight to skate past Thunderbirds

Seattle rookie Conner Roulette scored his fifth goal of the season but the Thunderbirds would fall in Spokane. (Larry Brunt/Chiefs)

The Thunderbirds 4-1 loss in Spokane Tuesday night brought with it a great deal of frustration.

Seattle didn’t get the puck to bounce the right way, didn’t get any calls to go its way and as a result, the Chiefs scored on a couple of odd-man rushes to keep the Thunderbirds from winning back-to-back games.

The Chiefs broke a 1-1 tie late in the first period and would go on to score three unanswered to pick up their fifth straight win in Spokane over Seattle.

“We weren’t making clean plays with the puck,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “When we did, we weren’t managing it well enough to get it into their end and get the forecheck going. We did have some great shifts in the O-Zone, we just didn’t get the puck there enough…we just fueled their transition game by turning the puck over.”

Spokane (14-9-3-0) was led by 33 saves from Los Angeles Kings prospect Lukas Parik and goals from four different players. The Thunderbirds were held to a lone goal from Conner Roulette and 37 saves from Roddy Ross, who played well in defeat.

After the Chiefs took a lead at 2:43 of the first period on a two-on-one goal from Eli Zummack, Seattle (8-14-2-1) pushed back.

The Thunderbirds tied the game on a nice individual effort from the rookie, Roulette. He stole the puck at his own blueline, passed it to himself off the boards, and was behind the Spokane defense. He beat Parik’s stick side for his fifth goal of the season.

Roulette, 16, has been coming on since returning from the U17 World Championships in November, where he played for Team Canada. He’s created scoring chances and with the goal on Tuesday, has three points in his last two games.

Playing with Henrik Rybinski and Keltie Jeri-Leon, Roulette has been part of what has been Seattle’s best line the past couple of games.

“They’re clicking right now,” O’Dette said of the trio. “Playing well, bringing energy and for the most part doing what they need to do to get pucks into their end. Once we get it there, they’re buzzing around. I think it’s some other key guys that need to step their game up and contribute a little more.”

That goal would be the lone bright spot for the Thunderbirds on Tuesday.

Spokane would take the lead with a power-play goal from Bobby Russell with just under four minutes left in the first and then strike quickly in the second. Noah King would complete an odd-man rush to score his third of the year, 19 seconds into the second period to build a 3-1 lead.

The Chiefs would end the night 2-for-7 on the power play.

Seattle has yet to come back and win a game this year that it has trailed by two or more goals so not only did the early period goal give the home team momentum, it put the offensively struggling Thunderbirds in a hole.

Down two, the Thunderbirds puck management got away from them in the second period and kept them from sustaining an offensive attack until late in the period.

As the game wore on, the Thunderbirds grew frustrated with the lack of calls going their way.

Several plays appeared to be worthy of penalties on Spokane, but no officials’ arm went up. That frustration raised until the Thunderbirds took a couple of penalties late that led to another power-play goal, this time from Bear Hughes to complete the scoring.

“I thought some of the officiating was questionable but that’s not the reason we didn’t win the game,” O’Dette said. “I thought we didn’t duplicate what we did Saturday to be successful. We did that at times but not consistently enough during the game to win it.”

After a game Saturday where Seattle played the game that head coach Matt O’Dette wants out of his club, the young Thunderbirds couldn’t duplicate the effort enough on Tuesday.

“We’re struggling to find that consistency and duplicating the formula night in and night out,” O’Dette said. “We had full buy-in Saturday, and we didn’t quite have full buy-in tonight. Spokane is a good team and in order to knock these teams off you need full buy-in with that formula and some guys reverted to some bad habits that don’t help us win…it wasn’t all bad but not quite enough to beat a good team on the road.”

They’ll get another chance this weekend with a pair of road games in Victoria against the Royals starting Friday night.

Game Notes

• The Chiefs are a perfect 14-0 this season when scoring four goals or more in a game.

• Seattle has failed to score more than two goals in six of its last seven contests.