Updated Dec 1, 2012 - 10:44 am
T-Birds clipped by Portland 5-2
By Andrew Eide
The Thunderbirds traveled to Portland Friday night to take on the best team in the WHL, a team that had been embroiled in controversy all week. Seattle did not care about the Winterhawks troubles. They were trying to reverse a trend of being blown out by Portland in their last three meetings. While they played better the T-Birds still ended up on the short end of the score as a late empty net goal by Ty Rattie gave Portland a 5-2 victory.
There are no such things as moral victories but this may have been close. Seattle played hard and competed with the Winterhawks, something they had not done of late.
"We went to compete," head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "They had to work harder for their goals, there were not as many breakdowns but still it's not good enough."
After scoring on their first shot in the last game between these two last week Portland did not get on the board until the 6:31 mark when Taylor Peters banged a loose puck in past Seattle goalie Brandon Glover. Despite being out-shot 22-12 in the first period Seattle (12-13-1-0) hung tough and came out aggressively in the second period.
That aggressive play led to a string of Seattle power plays. The T-Birds had five power play chances in the second period and it was a chance to build a lead against a Portland (21-4-1-0) team that can score at will. The Winterhawks feature the league's second best penalty kill team and used that to kill off all but one of the T-Birds power plays.
Seattle did tie the score on a nice power play goal when Justin Hickman benefited from two nice passes by Luke Lockhart and Brendan Rouse. Hickman was parked on the goal line and had a wide open net to score on. The goal was Hickman's second in as many games and his sixth on the year and gave Seattle a tie in the game.
Even though they had tied the game, the feeling was that there were some missed chances with the number of power play chances.
"They have a good penalty kill," Konowalchuk said. "I thought we needed to shoot the puck a bit more, we held it too much and you can't do that against a good penalty kill unit."
Portland took the lead back with seven minutes left in the period in a bit of a momentum swing. After killing off the seventh Seattle power play of the game the Winterhawks came right down the ice and scored on a nice Oliver Bjorkstrand wrist shot. Despite the sudden change Konowalchuk felt the T-Birds still were in the game.
"It was a key play of the game for sure," he said. "We were playing good to get all those power plays but then they came right down and scored. We weren't down as a team though."
The Winterhawks wasted no time in the third period to extend their lead. Just 19 seconds into the final frame Ty Rattie busted into the zone and took a good shot that Glover stopped, but the rebound went right to Seth Jones who had a wide open net to shoot on. Just like that the Winterhawks extended their lead to 3-1. Portland scored five minutes later to further extend the lead and if felt like maybe the flood gates were starting to open.
The red hot Roberts Lipsbergs put a stop to the string of Winterhawks goals however when he gave Seattle some hope by firing a quick wrister that scored with eight minutes left in the game. It was Lipsbergs 10th goal of the season and extended his point streak to seven games. Down only two goals Seattle was unable to sustain any pressure after the Lipsbergs goal and when Rattie hit the empty net the game as put away.
In the end it was another loss to Portland, their fourth straight, but Seattle fought back more than they did in the last three losses. It's work like that the team hopes will lead to better results.
The T-Birds continue their brutal three in three weekend Saturday with a game against the red hot Kelowna Rockets at the ShoWare Center. They then have the task of taking on the Kamloops Blazers Sunday, also in Kent.
Lipsbergs wasn't the only player in the game to extend a scoring streak. Portland's Brendan Leipsic picked up an assist to extend his streak to 14 straight games with a point.
Back up Justin Myles was a scratch Friday night as he has suffered an injury. Konowalchuk said they were not sure yet how long the goalie might be out. The team called up Logan Flodell to suit up as Glover's back up. If Myles is not ready to go this weekend they may ask Glover to work all three games this weekend.
During the player warm ups Winterhawks head coach Mike Johnston was announced and received a rousing ovation. Johnston has been suspended by the WHL for the remainder of the season for his part in league violations.
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