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Thunderbirds on wrong end of goalie duel in shootout loss to Prince George

Prince George's Cole Moberg celebrates his shootout conversion that beat the Thunderbirds. (Brett Cullen/Cougars)

The Seattle Thunderbirds did a lot of things right Wednesday night at the CN Centre against the Prince George Cougars.

They executed their game plan, they controlled the play, created a number of great scoring chances, converted a power-play, and only allowed one goal against. The problem is that Cougars goalie Taylor Gauthier wouldn’t yield.

Gauthier, 18, made 34 saves, many of the ten-bell variety, and kept Prince George in the game as he would lead them to a 2-1 shootout win.

“We played a good game,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “Night and day from last night. We executed our game plan like we wanted to, just couldn’t get enough by Gauthier.”

Seattle (20-23-3-3) got a lone goal from Andrej Kukuca in the first period but despite a number of great chances and close call, could not get a second goal.

The Thunderbirds outshot the Cougars 35-25 on the night, but Gauthier kept his team close enough to where they would be able to get a goal of their own in the second period. Prince George (16-26-3-4) snuck Illijah Colina behind the defense with seven minutes left in the second and he would beat Roddy Ross on the breakaway for his eighth of the season to tie the game.

Ross matched Gauthier for most of the night, turning away 24 attempts by the Cougars.

“I thought we carried the play, we played the majority of the game in their end,” O’Dette said. “I think the chances will end up being lopsided. Sometimes you play a good game and end up on the wrong side.”

Seattle had chances.

In the second period, Matthew Rempe and Lucas Ciona crashed the net and nearly scored. The puck squeezed through Gauthier and seemed like it would trickle over the goal line but the goalie was able to dive back and corral it with his stick before Ciona could poke it in.

Thunderbirds defenseman Cade McNelly did manage to beat Gauthier in the third period but his shot rang off the crossbar and out. Later in the period, Conner Roulette made a pass to spring Brendan Williamson behind the defense, only to be robbed by Gauthier’s glove.

It was a game that the Thunderbirds perhaps deserved a better fate.

“That’s what I told the guys,” O’Dette added. “Sometimes you do things right and play the right way and the puck doesn’t bounce your way. I think we can take some positives from the game, get home and regroup. We get these guys two more times and those will be big games.”

There were positives for the Thunderbirds.

They executed their game plan and earned a point. A night after the penalty kill struggled, they didn’t allow a power-play goal on Wednesday. The Thunderbirds officially were 1-for-2 on the power play but the second man-advantage only lasted two seconds due to overlapping calls.

Prince George was awarded five power plays, one of which was also two seconds long, a disparity that left O’Dette perplexed.

“I thought we did a lot of good things to earn more power plays but the officiating standard was not equal,” he said. “When you carry the play like that and only get one power play, that’s frustrating.”

After a scoreless overtime period, the game went to a shootout and it took four rounds to decide. Prince George would get the win when Chicago Blackhawks prospect Cole Moberg converted.

Prince George cut into Seattle’s lead in the wild card race down to seven points with the win. By earning a point, the Thunderbirds were able to get to within three points of the Kelowna Rockets for the first wild card.

“We’re scrapping together points,” O’Dette said. “Obviously, we don’t want to give up points to these guys but there’s a lot of hockey to go and we’ll put this one behind us, take the positives and get ready for Saturday night.”

Game Notes

• The Thunderbirds will have a chance to build their lead over Prince George back up as the two teams will face each other over the next two Sundays at the accesso ShoWare Center.

• Kukuca’s goal extended his point streak to five games.

• Simon Kubicek converted on his shootout chance and is now four for five in the shootout this season. Seattle’s record in the shootout dropped to 4-3.