Updated Dec 15, 2012 - 7:01 am
Seattle blows four goal lead in 7-6 loss to Spokane
By Andrew Eide
There is an old adage in hockey that a two goal lead is the hardest lead to maintain. The theory is that your opponent only needs one goal to be right back in the game. There is no such adage about a four goal lead however, and that is the margin that the T-Birds squandered Friday night in Spokane. The Chiefs stormed back with four goals in the third period, three by star Mitch Holmberg, to force a tie and send the game into overtime, where they won in the shoot out.
"We played careless with the lead," head coach Steve Konowalcuk said afterwards. "We were undisciplined and just didn't play the right way."
For the first 42 minutes Seattle did play the right way.
Seattle (16-15-1-1) started the game looking like they had regained their form that earned them a four game win streak a week ago. They earned a two-man power play in the first period and cashed in on goals from Connor Sanvido and Luke Lockhart to build a 2-1 lead. They killed off three Spokane (23-8-1-0) power plays and were playing with confidence.
They kept pushing in the second and built a 3-1 lead when Lockhart buried a short-handed breakaway chance only 49 seconds into the period. Spokane cut the lead back to one shortly after that but the T-Birds weren't phased. They picked up goals from the red hot Robert Lipsbergs and Justin Hickman to build what seemed to be a commanding 5-2 lead.
When Connor Honey scored his 10th goal of the year 1:27 into the third period Seattle had their four goal lead and looked like they were going to easily win their third straight road game. They were on their way to erasing the bad taste of their ugly loss to Victoria on Tuesday. They were on their way to once again beating one of the best teams in the WHL.
Then it all fell apart.
As Konowlachuk said, the T-Birds got sloppy and undisciplined. It started when Griffin Foulk got involved with Spokane players after the whistle. He was given a double-minor for roughing and a ten minute misconduct penalty. Less than a minute later Seattle took another penalty as Brendan Rouse was called for goal tender interference. With a two-man advantage the Chiefs struck as Holmberg scored his first of the evening.
Two minutes after that Jesse Forsberg was called for roughing, like Foulk's penalty, after the whistle. Seattle killed the penalty off but Holmberg scored again just after the advantage ended. Just like that Spokane cut the lead down to two, and was believing they were still in the game.
The after-whistle penalties were frustrating and Konowalchuk said, "There's no need for that, just finish the game, play the game out."
Seattle stopped playing the way they had to start the game and when Holmberg completed the hat trick with three minutes left it seemed inevitable that the Chiefs would come back. The T-Birds were reeling and with a minute left in the game Spokane pulled goalie Garret Hughson for an extra attacker and got the tying goal when Mike Aviani knocked home a rebound with 55 seconds left in the game.
In overtime both teams had close calls and nearly ended it but could not cash in. Spokane won the shoot out 2-1 to complete an improbable come back. The 5,626 fans in attendance were elated as the T-Birds skated off the ice, knowing they had just blown a big game that was in their grasp.
Seattle has fought inconsistency all year and this game was, in some ways, a microcosm of the season. It's a team that is still very young and perhaps still needs to learn how to win.
"You have to learn," Konowalchuk said. "You have to believe in what's right. When you're up 6-2 and you're trying to beat guys in the neutral zone and taking penalties you're not playing for the team. You can see what we can do when we play the right way."
The T-Birds have little time to lick their wounds as they travel to Portland to take on the first place Winterhawks Saturday evening.
After playing stellar defense during their win streak the T-Birds have loosened up and have allowed six goals in each of their last three games, all losses.
The T-Birds called up goalie Danny Mumaugh on Thursday to back up Brandon Glover. Mumaugh replaces Justin Myles who is still recovering from an injury.
There were some positives from Friday's game. Lockhart scored two goals (one on the power play, and one short-handed) and the Lispsbergs-Delnov-Honey line was good as they combined for two goals and five assists.
Seattle was out shot in the third period 19-2.
Follow Andrew on twitter @andyeide
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