T-Birds get bounced by Silvertips 5-1
EVERETT – The Thunderbirds had a chance to tighten the U.S. Division race on Saturday night but once again struggled to solve the Everett Silvertips.
Seattle (24-16-3-0) failed to convert on its chances while the first place Silvertips did to earn a 5-1 victory. Everett’s Cole MacDonald scored twice while goalie Carter Hart made 25 saves to earn his third victory over Seattle this season.
The final score may not show it but the T-Birds played a pretty strong game, for the first 30 minutes or so.
“Some of the things we did well, better than we’ve done when we’ve played these guys in the first few games,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “You wouldn’t know that by the score but there’s still a few things that we’ve got to learn about the team and where we still are.”
After a scoreless first period the T-Birds looked like they had some good momentum in the second period. A flurry of Seattle chances from the Mathew Barzal line were stoned by Hart and the T-Birds would pay for it at the other end.
Right after the Seattle pressure, a turnover at their own blue line resulted in MacDonald scoring his first of the night on a point shot through traffic. 20 seconds later, Connor Dewar worked his way into the slot and beat Bow with a wrist shot to make it 2-0.
That type of swing was the story of the game.
The T-Birds had chances in this game. There was a Donovan Neuls chance in close that went high. In the third period Barzal and Keegan Kolesar had a two-on-one short-handed chance but again the shot missed the mark.
“That’s a big turning point too,” Konowalchuk said. “Keegan has a good shot but he misses the net there.”
True to the script, the Silvertips made it 3-0 seconds after Kolesar’s attempt missed the mark.
Hart has had the T-Birds number this year, he’s shut them out once and only allowed five goals in four starts. Was that one of the reasons the T-Birds missed chances?
“We need a little bit of fine tuning,” Konowalchuk said. “Instead of just getting shots on net and missing the net. We’ve just got to shoot it.”
Falling behind the Silvertips puts your team in a tough position. They allow the fewest goals in the WHL by a large margin and fighting back from a deficit is tough to do.
Despite the early positive signs the T-Birds had, once they got down, they got deflated.
“You could definitely tell between periods that guys got down a little bit,” Konowalchuk said. “They also kind of abandoned our game plan and system. You’ve got to stick it out, we’re two shots from tying the game and you know you’re going to go the distance against these guys.”
Everett (26-12-2-2) would score three times in the third period and chased Landon Bow from the game. Bow allowed four goals on 23 shots before being replaced by Logan Flodell.
Neuls scored late in the third to avoid the shutout but the goal was nothing more than cosmetic.
Seattle now falls five points behind Everett for first place in the U.S. Division. They still face the Silvertips six more times this season so there is plenty of time to make up ground.
But, they have to find a way to solve the Everett system and Hart.
“We’ve still got some learning to do,” Konowalchuk said. “I thought there were some things early on that we improved on but we’ve got to correct some things as well. We got away from our game plan, we got away from sticking to the system and playing like a team.”
• Seattle allowed two third period power-play goals but killed off four others during the game. That was enough for them to retain their top spot in the WHL penalty kill race.
• The T-Birds were only given one power-play chance of their own.
• Hart now has 25 wins on the season and his goals-against-average dropped to a league best 1.95.
• Seattle will have to wait a couple of weeks to get another shot at the Silvertips. They will be back in Everett on Saturday, January 30th for the rematch.
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.