T-Birds snap Victoria’s 11-game win streak behind Kolesar hat trick

Feb 14, 2016, 9:20 PM | Updated: Feb 15, 2016, 1:08 am

KENT – When the Victoria Royals came into the ShoWare Center Sunday evening they were riding an 11-game win streak. They left on a one-game losing streak.

The T-Birds continued their successful homestand by scoring three goals in the third period Sunday to come back and beat the Royals 4-2. It was Seattle’s third win in a row and second third-period comeback in as many nights.

Keegan Kolesar picked up his second hat trick of the season to spark the T-Birds and Ethan Bear scored the game-winner late in the third period.

“You want to be that team to snap (Victoria’s win streak),” Kolesar said. “It’s going to feel good celebrating this with the boys.”

A night after an emotional win, the T-Birds were able to focus on a tough opponent and play a solid game.

“Last night we did the exact same thing and it was a pretty emotional win for us and it really showed the character,” Ryan Gropp said. “Really proud of the guys and it was a good time.”

Gropp had another solid game on Sunday, setting up two goals, including the game-tying goal midway through the third period. He skated towards the Victoria goal and flung the puck at goalie Coleman Vollrath, there was a scramble after and Kolesar poked it in.

There was some question as to whose goal it was.

“I’m not sure to be honest,” Kolesar said about the goal. “I just went to the net, hacked it. It could have gone in when Gropper shot it or when I tipped it.”

Gropp wasn’t able to offer any further clarification, but wasn’t worried about it.

“I have no clue,” Gropp said. “I thought I got it but you know, we won the game so it’s awesome.”

Kolesar got Seattle on the board in the first period when he attempted a centering pass to Nick Holowko. The puck deflected off of the Royals’ Ralph Jarratt and into the Victoria net to give Seattle a 1-0 lead.

The Royals answered that score with a marker by Tyler Soy, who won a puck battle along the boards and walked in to beat Logan Flodell with a nice top-shelf wrist shot.

The Thunderbirds made life tough for themselves in the second period as they took three penalties – including a four-minute double minor for high-sticking. Victoria took advantage and grabbed the lead when Dante Hannoun scored a fluky goal. Flodell poke checked it away from Hannoun but the puck took a strange bounce and sailed over the goalie’s shoulder and in.

On the night, Seattle was short handed six times in the first two periods. That took the T-Birds out of their offensive rhythm early but their penalty kill was stellar once again.

“That penalty kill won the game,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “The penalty kill, to keep it 2-1 was huge against a very good defensive team there. That gave us a chance going into the third and then we had to get back to playing the way we needed to.”

The four-minute kill was key as Seattle was able to get through it and kept the deficit to just one goal heading into the third period. The T-Birds sport the league’s best penalty kill and Kolesar, along with others, all play a key role.

“We’ve just got to work hard for 30-seconds each,” Kolesar said. “We have a little segment we each do, 30 seconds hard, get off and we have three rotations. It keeps us fresh and is working well.”

Seattle was outshot 15-5 in the period thanks to being so short handed but in the third the T-Birds stayed out of the box and got back to their game.

Gropp and Kolesar hooked up for the game tying goal and then Bear put the T-Birds ahead for good with a big slap shot from the blue line. It was a power-play goal and the first for the defenseman since January 8th.

The Edmonton Oilers prospect had been pressing despite picking up points, but finding the net should take that stress off of him.

“I know it’s been bothering him,” Konowalchuk said. “I talked to him that he’s got to quit worrying about points and just worry about playing the game. It’s human nature, I don’t care what level you’re at, people worry about points.”

Kolesar would hit the empty net late to seal the deal and bring down a rain of hats from the fans at the ShoWare Center. The hat trick gives the big winger 30 for the season which is tops for the T-Birds.

“Not the nicest hat trick but whatever, it’s a hat trick,” he said with a smirk.

The win was important one for the T-Birds as they keep pace with Everett and put some more distance between them and third place Spokane. More importantly they showed more resiliency as they came from behind for the second straight night.

“(Coming back says) we’ll never give up,” Kolesar says. “You know, we’re coming into the stretch, we’ve got 16 more now and we’re fighting for a good playoff spot.”

With just 16 games left in the season every game becomes bigger for the T-Birds. They trail Everett by five points and will play them again this weekend.

The three wins in a row this week have been a positive and just may help propel the team forward.

The head coach is looking at it differently however.

“We beat them and it was a good game,” Konowalchuk said. “We’re not worried about getting propelled into nothing. Honestly, we’re just worried about practice Tuesday and then the next practice and then the next game.”

Notes

• Mathew Barzal picked up an assist on the game-winning goal for Bear giving him 10 points on the week. He now has 67 points in the season and is up to 12th in the league in scoring.

• The loss not only snapped Victoria’s 11-game win streak but it was also the first loss in regulation the Royals have suffered since January 8th when they lost 1-0 to Prince George.

• Logan Flodell bounced back nicely from giving up five goals Saturday night and made 33 saves to get the win. “He has to hold himself to that standard,” Konowalchuk said. “He wants to be a starting goalie, we know he can win big games, he’s done it all year.”

Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.

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