Updated Dec 3, 2012 - 7:02 am
T-Birds take down Kamloops 3-1
Luke Lockhart and Brandon Glover celebrate a 3-1 win over Kamloops (Photo courtesy Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT - For the second straight night the Thunderbirds took on one of the top teams in the Western Hockey League and for the second straight night they came away with a win. Sunday Seattle got a late goal from Justin Hickman to break a 1-1 tie and went on to beat the Kamloops Blazers 3-1. The win was the third straight at home for Seattle (14-13-1-0) and their third win in their last four.
Seattle got two more goals from forward Roberts Lipsbergs who extended his point streak to nine games and has scored 12 goals in his last 18 games. Goalie Brandon Glover was also strong on Sunday as he only allowed one goal on 31 shots.
"It was a team effort tonight," goalie Brandon Glover said. "We all gutted it out through the game tonight. We definitely didn't have fresh legs tonight, and neither did they. I thought considering that we played an unbelievable game and we have more games like that to come."
Like Seattle, Kamloops (21-7-1-2) were playing their third game in as many nights. The result was a tight checking game and low scoring. In the end the T-Birds won the game and on the weekend won two of three against arguably three of the top teams in the WHL. They took on Portland, Kelowna and Kamloops who represent the three top scoring teams in the league.
"Beating teams ahead of you in the standings should build confidence for the team," head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "It's gives us some momentum, some belief and raises our expectations. We go in talking about how we expect to beat every team but now they've seen it. Two of the best teams they beat so now they have to keep those expectations every game."
The game Sunday was played pretty evenly with no scoring until the second period. Half-way through the frame Connor Honey broke into the Kamloops zone on a two-on-one with Roberts Lipsbergs. Honey patiently waited for the defenseman to commit before getting the puck to Lipsbergs who scored his 12th goal of the season. The goal extended Lipsbergs scoring streak to nine games as he and his line continue their fine play.
It looked like perhaps that goal might hold up as the two teams kept battling into the third period. Goalie Brandon Glover made solid save after solid save until finally Kamloops was able to get one by him. With six minutes left in the period Joe Kornelsen took a puck and went aggressively to the net and scored.
Much like Saturday night's game against Kelowna, Seattle did not wait long to respond. Three minutes later Riley Sheen and Justin Hickman teamed up to get the puck into the Blazers' zone where Sheen got it to Hickman who beat Kamloops goalie Taran Kozun up high.
"I just kind of chipped it out," Hickman said. "Sheen won a foot race in there with their D-Man and he got it right to me and I just walked in on net."
Hickman's line, along with Luke Lockhart and Riley Sheen, not only scored the game winning goal, but they also were tasked with stopping the Blazers top line. It's a line that features the WHL's top two scorers in J.C. Lipon and Colin Smith. The T-Birds kept them quiet for the night as they did not figure in the scoring.
"You have to keep it simple playing against those guys," Hickman said. "They're really crafty with the puck, you have to make sure it out's of your zone, get it deep at the red line. They can't score if they're in their end so that what we try to do the most."
The Lockhart line regularly gets the opposing team's top lines, something Konowalchuk says they relish.
"When you tell them before the game that they're going to get the top line they get excited," Konowalchuk said. "They like that challenge. They're good enough at cycling the puck now that they can eat a lot of clock down in the other team's end."
Seattle got one more goal to ice the game when Lipsbergs scored an empty netter from his own end. When you are going as well as he has been lately every shot seems to find the net ,as this one did from the face off circle in his own end. The goal sealed the win, and a pretty successful weekend. One of the heroes of the weekend was Brandon Glover, who was forced to start all three games due to an injury to backup Justin Myles.
Glover played well in all three games, winning the last two and holding down two of the league's top scoring teams.
"It's a huge weekend for him," Konowalchuk said. "Against three of the top scoring teams and he goes in and posts three games like that. I really thought in the third period against Everett (last Tuesday) he started to get his swagger back and he practiced real well for a few days. He probably even looked his best tonight."
Seattle is now one game over .500 and with two big wins this weekend, could this be a sign of stringing some wins together?
"We'd love to string some together," Glover said. "It's obviously a tough league to win in, so we're going to take them when we can and do everything we can to keep getting wins in the future."
Seattle hits the road this week with games at Tri-City and Everett before returning home to face the Portland Winterhawks next Saturday at the ShoWare Center
Lipsbergs continues to be a big story for the T-Birds. He now leas the team in scoring and goals scoring seven goals in his last four games.
Justin Hickman has begun to heat up scoring four goals in his last six games. He was quick to credit his line mates in helping set him up and getting him going. He now has seven goals on the year and is on pace to surpass his total of 12 from last year.
Enough can't be said about the job Glover and the Seattle defense did this weekend. The three teams they faced average, collectively over four goals per game. If you take away the empty netter that Portland scored Friday, Glover and company held the three teams to under two-and-a-half goals.
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