Updated Mar 9, 2013 - 7:03 am
Cougars nip T-Birds 2-1 in shoot out
Seth Swenson moves the puck up ice as Connor Sanvido follows in Friday's 2-1 loss to Prince George (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT - The Thunderbirds have had no shortage of drama during the final stretch of the season. Facing a desperate Prince George Cougars club the T-Birds lost a low scoring affair 2-1 in a shoot out. Seattle got a goal from Taylor Green and 29 saves from Brandon Glover but in the end Jake Mykitiuk's goal in the shoot out was the difference.
"It's frustrating to lose in a shoot out, a long shoot out." T-Birds coach Steven Konowalchuk said. "It's a game we definitely could have won, I thought in the third, we had a couple of chances, both teams were playing maybe a little too tight at times, but that's playoff hockey."
With both teams fighting for survival the game had a playoff feel to it.
"Moving forward every little battle matters," Luke Lockhart said. "That's the way playoff hockey is going to be and we can't afford to give any teams any chances."
Seattle played a pretty dominant first period, controlled the play and out shot the Cougars 8-2. Seattle got on the board first with a power play goal as Riley Sheen made a nice pass to Taylor Green who fired a wrist shot from the slot to beat Mac Engel. Seattle held the Cougars without a shot on goal for the first 13 minutes of the game and only allowed two for the period.
The T-Birds also brought a physical element to the period as Jared Hauf and Evan Wardley delivered several big hits in a show that the team was ready to go off the bat. Coming off their huge win in Spokane the T-Birds seemed like they were going to run away with this game.
Prince George reversed the trend in the second period and stormed back into the game. They were quicker to the puck, faster, out shot Seattle 19-6 in the frame and tied the game. Troy Bourke got the goal as he snapped a rebound past Glover for his 14th goal of the season.
The game started to get chippy as the two teams were fighting for every inch of ice. There was a constant stream of players from both sides going to the box as the referees attempted to keep the game under control.
"We knew they (Prince George) would come out hard," Lockhart said. "They're battling for their lives right now and I think we were a little sloppy, we could have got a couple pucks in that we didn't and those are the kinds of things that are going to put them back in the game. They got their one goal but we kept going in the third."
Seattle managed to hold off the Cougars for the rest of the period but seemed to let the momentum slip away for them.
"I'm disappointed in our second period," Konowalchuk said. "We didn't follow up the good first, we started turning it over, didn't get pucks in deep, couldn't establish our forecheck and some of our puck decisions really gave them some momentum. I give them a lot of credit, they bottled it up and played a really smart road period, it's just too bad it had to end in a shoot out like it did."
In the third period Seattle took some of that momentum back and was getting chances again but could not get the go ahead goal. The third ended with the two teams still deadlocked at one, sending it to overtime.
In the overtime Seattle seemed to be the better team and came close to scoring when a loose puck was at Engels feet and several players banged away at it. Bourke covered the puck, outside of the crease, drawing a delay of game penalty which gave Seattle a golden opportunity to end the overtime period on a four-on-three power play.
With the extra skater they moved the puck around a bit but never really got a golden opportunity and Prince George was able to survive and get the game to the shoot out.
"Our four-on-three they seem to freeze a little bit on the backend," Konowalchuk said. "Shots they can normally make no problem they're not making, they're missing one-timers, they're not moving, they're not moving the puck. That's frustrating because we could have won the game there."
In the shoot out Seattle got a pretty goal from Lockhart to take the early lead but Prince George struck back right away as Zack Porchiro was able to beat Glover. Seattle's shooters were unable to score again and the shoot out went to the fifth round before Mykitiuk got the game winner sending the Cougars players flying over the bench in celebration.
Seattle did pick up a point and move three points ahead of Everett for seventh place in the Western Conference standings. The Cougars picked up one point on Seattle to pull within seven while also picking up two points on Everett to pull within four of Everett who lost in Spokane.
"We just want to play a full sixty," Lockhart said about moving forward. "Come out strong like we did in the first and continue that throughout the game. We know they're going to play hard but we want to control what we can do and not give them any chances from our own doing."
The game sets up a big showdown Saturday night at the ShoWare Center as Everett and Seattle will hook up for the last time. It will be a chance for Seattle to put a strangle hold not only on a playoff spot but also the seventh seed.
"We know how to play," Konowalchuk said of the big game with Everett. "We'll come in and reinforce the positives from tonight, the negatives we'll correct. We're going to face another desperate hockey team tomorrow, we've got to be just as desperate and just as smart."
After struggling on the power play Seattle went 1-for-3 Friday night after picking up two goals in Spokane on Wednesday. The power play will have to keep chugging if Seattle is going to stay in this playoff race.
Connor Honey was back on the ice Friday starting the game as the fourth line center. As the game wore on he moved up to center a line with Connor Sanvido and Seth Swenson. Konowalchuk was happy with Honey's performance and thought he would get stronger moving forward.
Friday was Seattle's fourth game that has reached a shootout and 12th game that has gone into overtime. Seattle is 2-2 in the shoot out.
The T-Birds wore new 'retro' sweaters Friday night and will do so again on Saturday. The game-worn jersey's will be auctioned off at the final home game of the season, March 16th against Portland.
Follow Andrew on twitter @andyeide
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