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Calls and bounces work against Thunderbirds in loss to Chiefs

Roddy Ross played well but the Seattle Thunderbirds came up short against Spokane. (Brian Liesse/Thunderbirds)

KENT – The Spokane Chiefs game-winning goal Tuesday night didn’t come without its share of controversy.

It came with 27 seconds left in the second period and gave the Chiefs a 3-2 lead over the Seattle Thunderbirds at the accesso ShoWare Center when a point shot from Matt Leduc was tipped past goalie Roddy Ross by Michael King.

The Thunderbirds complained that King did so with a high stick. The play was reviewed but the goal would stand as the Chiefs would end up winning 4-2.

“You have to take a deep breath after that game,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said.

The goal capped off a frustrating second period that saw Spokane (17-9-3-0) score twice and outshoot the Thunderbirds 14-3 thanks in part to four Chiefs power plays.

“Have to watch the video and see some of those calls,” O’Dette said. “The high stick goal was obviously the winning goal. They called it a goal on the ice, and they said the replay was inconclusive. I don’t think the refs really saw it on the ice, live, but what can you do.

“It was hard to implement our game plan and try to wear down our opponent, especially with five D when we’re in the box so much.”

Seattle (9-16-2-1) would lose its second straight but did get goals from Tyrel Bauer, Matthew Rempe, as well as 27 saves from Ross.

Penalties a problem

Whether the calls were good calls or bad, and many of them were of the questionable variety, the Thunderbirds were short-handed seven times Tuesday and it was costly.

Spokane scored twice on those seven attempts. The Chiefs tied the game at 1-1 in the first period thanks to a power-play goal from Minnesota Wild prospect Adam Beckman – Beckman would add a late empty-net tally to end with a two-goal evening.

Spokane then took the lead in the second on a five-on-three chance from Eli Zummack, set up by Beckman.

Tuesday comes on the heels of Saturday night’s loss to Victoria where Seattle was short handed 10 times.

That’s a lot of time in the box which has taken the Thunderbirds out of their game plan.

“I think some of the calls were soft and I think we did cross the line at times as well,” O’Dette said of the penalties. “The effort and the passion has been great. I think we can control the emotion a little bit better. The refs are making it difficult for us to play our style of play, but we have to find the balance, find the line that we have to try to not step over.”

Ross bounces back

After being pulled in the second period of his last start, the Seattle goalie turned in a top effort Tuesday, keeping the Thunderbirds within striking distance.

In the second period, he stopped two breakaways in a two-minute stretch and would make a number of Grade-A saves from in close.

It allowed the Thunderbirds to push back in the third period, getting a goal from Rempe, his third of the year, to cut the deficit to 3-2. Of the three goals Ross allowed, two were on the power play and the third was the controversial ‘high stick’ goal.

“Roddy played great,” O’Dette said. “Some of those five-on-threes and four-on threes are tough. I thought he made some big saves and kept us in the game.”

Effort versus results

The young Thunderbirds were on the wrong side of the score Tuesday but there were positives. Playing hard, they pushed back and were in a position to tie the game late.

“The passion is definitely there, it’s just controlling our emotions,” O’Dette said. “Guys get frustrated with the way the game is being officiated and they lose some focus. It’s hard, these are young guys playing with a lot of emotion and passion, it’s just a matter of walking that line and not crossing it.”

Game Notes

• Tuesday was the last game for defenseman Simon Kubicek before he leaves to attend World Junior Camp for the Czech Republic. With Cade McNelly still serving a suspension, the Thunderbirds needed a defenseman and called up 2019 second-round pick Spencer Penner.

• Prior to the game, the WHL announced it was hosting the U.S. Challenge Cup in Kent at the accesso ShoWare Center in February. The Cup is a round-robin tournament featuring 12 of the top AAA Bantam programs in the U.S. and Canada. The players on these teams will be eligible to be drafted into the WHL in the spring.

• Rempe had an assist to go with his third-period goal. It was the first multi-point game in his WHL career, which has spanned just 13 games so far.