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Second period costly as Thunderbirds lose to Silvertips

Seattle's Tyler Bauer hits Everett's Aidan Sutter during the third period of Saturday's game. (Brian Liesse/Thunderbirds)

KENT — As seems to be the case more times than not when the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips play, things got heated Saturday night at the accesso ShoWare Center.

The Silvertips would win the game 5-2 after blowing open a 2-1 game in the second period thanks to five power-play chances, one power-play goal, and a goal during a delayed call. The way those penalties were called did not sit well with the Thunderbirds.

It started when Seattle’s Ryan Gottfried was called for roughing at the 10:25 mark, with the Thunderbirds trailing 2-1. Everett (34-11-3-1) would convert on that chance when Cole Fonstad would score his 13th of the year to give the Silvertips a 3-1 lead.

Four minutes later, Everett’s Justyn Gurney caught Seattle’s Cade McNelly with a shoulder to the head. No call was made.

“It really is mind-boggling,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “The fact that McNelly can’t even look at a guy without getting a penalty unfairly. He’s been on the receiving end of two dangerous hits the last two games and he’s not being protected. I think that’s a joke.

“They call soft calls, embellishments, head snaps, guys going down easy. Light calls all game and they let that one go, it’s hard to understand.”

McNelly would be assessed a two-minute roughing call and 10-minute misconduct during the ensuing scrum.

Later in the period, Lucas Ciona went after Gurney to exact some revenge and would also earn a 10-minute misconduct as the temperature of the Thunderbirds rose while their composure was shot.

Everett would go up 4-1 in the second, and put the Thunderbirds in a hole when Brendan Lee scored on a breakaway during a delayed penalty call on Seattle.

O’Dette said that he got an unsatisfying explanation from the officials as to why no check to the head penalty was called on Gurney.

“They didn’t see it as a headshot live,” he said. “I don’t know how you can’t see it as a headshot. He picked his head.”

Down three after two periods, Seattle (20-24-3-3) had to find a way to regain its composure and get back into the game. The Thunderbirds did settle down in the third and cut the lead to 4-2 late in the game thanks to a Conner Roulette goal, his 16th.

“The plan was to try to win the hockey game obviously,” O’Dette said. “We felt like we were in striking distance. It was hard to regain focus on the task at hand. I thought we made a push at the end.”

In total, Seattle ended the night with four 10-minute misconduct calls and 63 minutes in penalties.

“I’m proud of the guys, they stood up for each other,” O’Dette said. “The refs don’t police the game, so we tried to police it. I’m proud of the guys for sticking up for each other. It’s frustrating for them, they’re trying to win a hockey game and it’s hard to maintain your focus when that’s going on.”

The two teams played a relatively calm first period.

Everett got on the board first with a short-handed goal after Fonstad picked up an errant Thunderbirds pass and found Jake Christiansen alone in front of Blake Lyda and scored his 14th of the year. Seattle would answer that goal quickly, on the same power-play chance, when Jared Davidson shot a puck that Dustin Wolf was unable to hold on to and it trickled into the net.

Lyda got the start for Seattle, against his former team, breaking a streak of eight straight Roddy Ross starts.

The rookie made 29 saves and played better than the four goals allowed might indicate.

“He kept battling,” O’Dette said of Lyda. “A couple breakdowns led to  breakaways, I thought he was fine in the net.”

Christiansen would score his second goal of the game on an empty Seattle net late to seal the deal for the Silvertips.

“I don’t think we deserved what happened,” Thunderbirds captain Conner Bruggen-Cate said. “Calls weren’t going our way and it leaves a pretty sour feeling in our mouths.”

The loss didn’t cost the Thunderbirds in the standings.

They ended the night seven points ahead of Prince George for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference and within three of the Kelowna Rockets for the first slot. Seattle will get a chance to extend its lead on Prince George Sunday when the two teams will play for the third time in a week.

“We’re going to be fired up for tomorrow, definitely,” Bruggen-Cate said.

Game Notes

• Seattle had to play most of the game without center Henrik Rybinski who was injured in the first period. O’Dette didn’t have an update on his status after the game.

• Roulette’s goal snapped a five-game goalless streak for the rookie winger.

• Along with the two goals, Christiansen added two assists in the win for the Silvertips.