By Tim Pigulski
The Thunderbirds suffered their worst lost of the season versus the Spokane Chiefs Tuesday, falling 8-2 in lopsided fashion at the Spokane Arena.
The stats are as ugly as one might assume, as three T-Birds finished the game with a minus-3 rating and six ended up at minus-2. In all, just five players finished at even for the game – Mitch Elliot, Shea Theodore, Daniel Wray, Seth Swenson, and Michal Holub.
As those stats might indicate, I thought that the most impressive line last night was the fourth, made up of Elliot, Wray, and Holub. All three played a physical game and the composure of the youngsters Wray and Holub, both 16 years old, showed through as they continued to play hard even when the game got out of hand.
After just 16 and a half minutes of play, Seattle pulled starting goaltender Brandon Glover after he had given up his fourth goal on 12 shots. Overall, the Chiefs jumped out to a 5-0 lead by the end of the first period after putting one more past Glover's replacement, Justin Myles.
The rest of the game faired a bit better for the T-Birds, who, after the first period, were outscored 3-2.
Seattle's first goal came at 6:50 of the second period, as captain Luke Lockhart, with an assist from Connor Honey, was able to fire a shot through Chiefs goalie Eric Williams' five-hole.
The goal, Lockhart's seventh of the season, put him alone atop the T-Birds' roster in that category.
Late in the third period, Justin Hickman was able to notch a power-play goal with help from Roberts Lipsbergs and Shea Theodore. It was too little, too late as Spokane had, at that point, built an 8-1 lead.
As was the case with many of the Thunderbirds' losses this season, one bad stretch of play doomed them for the rest of the game. The lackluster portion, however, lasted longer than usual – the entire first period – allowing Spokane to build a comfortable 5-0 lead and never look back.
Through that period Spokane did all of the little things right – won puck battles in the corners, positioned themselves well in front of the net, cashed in on rebounds, and capitalized on their power-play opportunities. While it's easy to say that the Thunderbirds played an ugly game (and they did), the Chiefs should be given credit for their strong play throughout.
With the victory, Spokane improves its record to 11-5-0-0, while Seattle drops to 7-6-1-0.
Spokane center Mike Aviani had a very impressive game with two goals and two assists, as he seemed to be a factor every time he was on the ice and seemed close to adding at least two or three more points over the course of the game.
It will be very important for this young T-Birds team to have a short memory, as they begin their annual Eastern Conference road swing this weekend. In the span of eight days, Seattle plays six games beginning Friday night in Swift Current. Seattle should hope to win at least four of these games, as every team they play, with the exception of Prince Albert, holds a record around or below .500.
Looking ahead, the Thunderbirds will finally have an opportunity to play a few more games in front of their home crowd, as they have five straight and seven of their next eight at the ShoWare Center.