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Thunderbirds drop fourth straight in shutout loss in Kelowna

Kelowna Rockets center Matthew Wedman clashes with former teammate Henrik Rybinski during the Thunderbirds loss Friday night. (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

Things started badly early on during the Seattle Thunderbirds 6-0 loss in Kelowna Friday night.

The Rockets scored twice in the first period, both on goals from the short side, to put the Thunderbirds in a hole that got deeper as the game wore on. It’s the fourth straight loss for Seattle as they are limping a bit down the stretch.

“Not the way we wanted to start,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “We can’t put ourselves behind the eight ball like that. It was one of those games that we didn’t give up much but didn’t do enough to seize the game. There are many different aspects that we could have been better on.”

Kelowna (28-27-3-3) clinched a playoff spot with the win and were led by Pavel Novak who scored twice. Four other Rockets scored, including former Thunderbird Matthew Wedman. Goalie Roman Basran stopped all 19 shots he saw for his fifth career whitewash.

After not starting Seattle’s two games last weekend, Roddy Ross was back in net Friday but didn’t fare well. His former teammate, Wedman, threw a shot off Ross’ skate and in for his 20th goal of the season to open the scoring at 4:34 of the first period.

Ten minutes later, Ethan Ernst carried the puck out from behind the Thunderbirds net and beat Ross on the short side.

“I thought earlier in the game we could have been better,” O’Dette said. “I think that Roddy would probably have liked a couple of those back at the start…I think we got deflated a bit.”

Ross would end the night early, allowing five goals on 14 shots and was replaced in the second period by Blake Lyda.

Seattle (23-31-4-3) ended the first period down 2-0 in what has been a trend of late. Over the last three games, all losses, the Thunderbirds have been outscored 8-1 in the first period.

“We need to start better,” O’Dette said. “Especially when we’re not a team with a ton of offensive firepower. We can’t spot teams goals. Absolutely the starts have to be better.”

The Thunderbirds showed the most life at the start of the second period and created a couple of early chances but then would end up taking three straight penalties.

Kelowna added another goal on the power play and then two more for good measure, skating into the dressing room with a 5-0 second period lead. Seattle garnered three shots on goal in the second while Kelowna scored three goals.

“Not the recipe to make a comeback,” O’Dette said. “Gave them an opportunity on a five-on-three. I thought before that we were still connected to the game.”

With the loss, the Thunderbirds had their lead for the final playoff spot in the West trimmed to seven points over the Prince George Cougars, who beat Vancouver Friday.

Seattle’s magic number remains at eight points and the road doesn’t get any easier for the Thunderbirds. After a tough loss in Kelowna, they hit the bus for a trip to Everett for a matchup Saturday that kicks off a home and home with the first place Silvertips.

“It’s that time of year where there needs to be urgency,” O’Dette said. “Guys have to be ready for the game. It’s crunch time and teams are playing for playoff spots and seeding and all that stuff. We need to raise our game as individuals, as a team. If we’re not a team that raising their game, we’re not going to come out on the right side of things. There needs to be more urgency, more desperation. We need more energy and more passion.

“Guys with experience, guys that have been through different situations, they’ve got to be the guys that grab the team and lift them up. They need to be the guys playing with the most energy and the most fire and that needs to spread throughout the team. We need more fire.”

Seattle ends the weekend with a Sunday evening home game with Everett.

Game Notes

• Seattle had two power-play looks in the first period and while they did generate shots, ended the evening 0-for-2 with the man advantage while Kelowna was 1-for-4.

• Forward Brendan Williamson did not play Friday night due to an illness. O’Dette said that the rookie was feeling better but the team was taking extra precautions.

• The Thunderbirds were still without 20-year-old center Max Patterson who was listed on this week’s injury report as out week-to-week.