Updated Feb 10, 2013 - 8:32 am
Hitmen take out T-Birds 4-3 in Overtime
Connor Honey and Roberts Lipsbergs crash the Calgary net (Photo courtesy Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
The Thunderbirds took on one of the Eastern Conference's best teams Saturday night and let another game slip away. Calgary was able to tie the game late and would go on to win it in overtime as Victor Rask got a power play shot through Seattle goalie Danny Mumaugh. Seattle was led by the duo of Alex Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs who each picked up a goal and an assist.
"The guys played a hard game," head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "I thought we dictated some of the tempo with that team, and I believe that's one of the top five teams, their record shows that their a very good hockey team and again we played right with them. You know, we're a couple of break downs and maybe a late penalty from winning that game."
After digging early holes in the last couple of games Seattle came out strong on Saturday night. They were sparked by the reunited Delnov, Lispsbergs and Connor Honey line. The three worked their magic four minutes into the game when Lipsbergs found an open Delnov in the slot and he beat Hitmen goalie Chris Driedger for his 17th goal of the season. On their next shift the roles were reversed as Delnov had the puck behind the net and found Lipsbergs in front for his 21st and Seattle had a 2-1 lead. Honey picked up assists on both of those goals as well.
Konowalchuk had challenged that line to play better and smarter and they certainly responded.
"I think it was good for our line to be apart for a couple of games," Connor Honey said. "We were in a bit of a slump there so we got back together and got pucks deep, more simple than we were before. If you look at those goals they were off the cycle, pass to the high slot and they scored, that's how easy the game is lately."
Brooks Macek got Calgary closer early in the second on a nice tic-tac passing play and Calgary was back in it. Seattle had several chances to build on their lead on the power play but were unable to cash in. On the night they were given seven chances which was more than enough chance to build on their lead. A turning point came late in the second when Seattle had a four minute power play which they were not able to muster a shot and gave up the tying goal to Cody Sylvester.
"The power play couldn't convert, that's a big part of it (the loss)," Konowlachuk said. "We couldn't get that extra goal on the power play, and we gave up a short-handed goal, you could say that was the difference, special teams was the difference in the game today."
Seattle took the lead late as Riley Sheen took a big shot on the power play that rebounded off a Calgary defender and in the net. Like they had last Saturday night against Tri City, the T-Birds had scored what seemed to be the game wining goal late in the third period.The Hitmen kept pushing after that and were finally able to tie it up with under five minutes left as Sylvester picked up his second of the game, and 30th on the season, and the T-Birds found themselves hanging on for dear life.
Mumaugh made several fine saves down the stretch in preserving the tie, including a big save late. Unfortunately on that late save Jared Hauf was called for a holding penalty which gave Calgary a power play that extended into overtime.
46 seconds into the extra frame Rask's shot found it's way through Mumaugh for the game winner. Mumaugh laid face down on the ice for a while after the play, the frustration obvious. In the end it was another night where Seattle out-shot (39-31) and out-chanced their opponent but were unable to out score them, something that is frustrating but perhaps reason to be optimistic.
"Bottom line, let's continue to put ourselves up in those situations," Konowalchuk said. "Up with three minutes, we'll start closing them out, there's no doubt we'll close them out."
With the battle for the last playoff spot every point is important, and while the T-Birds would have liked to get the extra point Saturday they were able to make up ground with the one they got.
"It's a huge point," Honey said. "We've got an easier schedule coming up, we've got a lot of home games here so there's no excuse, we've got to get on a roll here before the playoffs. Our goal is for seventh (place), I think we're still in the running, we play Everett a couple times, we just have to keep working hard every night."
Seattle will next be in action Friday night as they host the Vancouver Giants in what is a must-win game.
Danny Mumuagh came oh so close to picking up his first WHL win Saturday night and Konowalchuk liked what he saw out of his rookie net-minder. "He'll get it (his first wi)," Konowalchuk said. "It's tough for him but he has improved, he works hard every day, he improves every day in practice. We liked him in training camp, and since he's got back from midget hockey he's improved every day."
After picking up three power play goals against one of the league's best power plays on Friday night, the T-Birds struggled and went one-for-seven Saturday night.
The last time Calgary visited the ShoWare Center, in 2010, they picked up an overtime win as well.
Prince George, who is trailing Seattle in the playoff race, lost to Vancouver last night putting them two points back of Seattle. Everett was idle and Seattle was able to inch closer and is now only three points back of seventh place.
Seattle's next five games are all against Vancouver and Everett and they have a golden opportunity to pick up some valuable points in games that, on paper, are very winnable. This upcoming stretch may help determine the T-Birds playoff fate.
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