Thunderbirds come up short in Portland, lose 2-1

Feb 5, 2016, 10:08 PM | Updated: Feb 6, 2016, 12:29 pm

Friday night in Portland, the Seattle Thunderbirds dropped a tough game that may have boiled down to two moments.

The Portland Winterhawks won their second straight game against the T-Birds 2-1 on goals by Rihard Bukarts and Rodrigo Abols. Portland goalie Adin Hill made 28 saves to get the win, though Seattle’s Landon Bow was sharp in his own rights and made 29 saves.

Bukarts’ goal came during a five-minute major power play after a checking-to-the-head penalty by Turner Ottenbreit. Abols gets the game-winning goal after two Seattle defenders knocked into each other to create a two-on-none break.

Two different moments – one a bit of bad luck – were costly to the T-Birds.

“We had a hard time sticking with the game plan and (keeping) composure,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “Certain parts of the game plan, I think it was composure and getting away from it.”

The two teams played an up and down first period that ended scoreless, and it was beginning to look like they both might be shut out in the second as well until the Ottenbreit play.

After passing the puck out of his own zone, Ottenbreit looked up to see Portland’s Keegan Iverson coming in to finish a check. Ottenbreit got his arms up high as Iverson came into him and appeared to have made contact with the Portland forward’s head. Iverson laid on the ice in pain after the play and Seattle would be down a key player.

“They said it was a check to the head,” Konowalchuk said. “I saw Iverson was running at our guy, who braced himself for a hit. That’s what I saw.”

The result was a five-minute power play to close out the second period. The T-Birds have the league’s best penalty kill and it appeared for a while that they might survive the extended man-advantage. However, with under two minutes left in the second, Bukarts tipped a point shot from Jack Dougherty past Bow to give Portland the lead.

Seattle was still in the game as the third period started, but the second big moment put it in an early hole. Just 2:49 into the period, Abols and Alex Schoenborn were in the neutral zone on a two-on-two. Seattle’s rookie defenseman Jared Palechaty lost an edge and slid into Brandon Schuldhaus, knocking him down and freeing up the ice for the Portland skaters.

Schoenborn got it over to Abols for the easy tap in to make it 2-0.

“The second goal with a guy falling and taking out the other D, that’s kind of a fluke play,” Konowalchuk said. “A tough one there, but we still could have been better in areas. A few guys that could have been better and that could have been the difference.”

The T-Birds would cut the Portland lead in half five minutes later when Donovan Neuls tipped a Bryan Allbee shot past Hill on a power-play chance, but that’s as close as Seattle would get.

Down the stretch, Hill would make some good saves as the T-Birds were never able to find the equalizer and ended up losing a tough one.

Down Ottenbriet, who was ejected from the game, and still playing without Jerret Smith, the T-Birds managed to hold Portland to just two goals. The WHL will most definitely take a look at the Ottenbreit play and may hand out a suspension as Iverson did not return to the game.

If that is to be the case, Seattle would be down two key defenseman as they host the first-place Everett Silvertips on Saturday night.

“Those are two pretty good defenseman,” Konowalchuk said. “We had to play some guys some extra minutes, they stepped up but you would like to have Ottenbreit and Smitty in there. But guys have to do the job, and they can do the job.”

Offensively the T-Birds were unable to score while at even strength, something that has been an issue. Konowalchuk has preached getting traffic on the opposing goalie, but that didn’t seem to be the problem on Friday night.

“I thought guys got good traffic,” the head coach said. “It’s getting back to some of the puck management things and forcing plays on the puck. (We were) a little bit soft in our end at times down low.”

The loss moves Seattle back to seven points behind Everett for first place in the U.S. Division, which makes Saturday’s game even bigger. The Silvertips beat Kamloops on Friday and will be getting leading scorer Remi Laurencelle back for the game against Seattle.

The T-Birds have struggled against Everett so far this season and will have to play a strong game to reverse the trend.

“We’ve got to talk about a few things but we don’t have too much time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Konowalchuk said. “We’ve got a tough test tomorrow.”

Notes

• Ryan Gropp was held off the score sheet, snapping his seven-game point streak.

• Seattle has struggled with inconsistency on the road this year, and Friday was another example. It is 10-16-1-0 on the road as opposed to 18-4-2-0 at home.

• Goal scoring has also been a struggle on the road. Seattle averages 2.67 road goals compared to 3.46 at home. Defensively it allows 3.2 goals away from home and only 2.29 at home.

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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