By Andrew Eide
The Toyota Center in Kennewick continues to trip up the Seattle Thunderbirds. Friday night it was not kind to Seattle as they dropped a 3-2 shoot out game to the Tri City Americans in Kennewick. Seattle got goals from Ryan Gropp and Seth Swenson along with 41 saves from Danny Mumaugh to pick up a point in the standings.
While the T-Birds managed to salvage a point out of this one, it felt like a game that slipped away from them.
"It wasn't good enough," Steve Konowalchuk said. "We had guys who didn't compete hard enough on one-on-one battles and our decision making was bad. Give them (Tri City) credit, they worked hard and they were more tenacious than us. Not good enough on our part."
The game was a strange one from the start. Seattle opened up with some good early pressure only to give up a chance for Lucas Nickles who was tripped up by Justin Hickman. Nickles was awarded a penalty shot that he converted on and Seattle (9-3-0-2) found themselves down a goal early.
For the next ten minutes the T-Birds poured on the pressure.
Less than a minute after the Nickles goal the T-Birds tied the game as Gropp beat Eric Comrie for his first goal, on his first WHL shift. Not a bad start for the highly touted rookie, who had a fairly good WHL debut.
"Pretty good for his first game," Konowalchuk said of Gropp. "You can see his offensive talent, he made some nice plays there, he's got some skill and is a smart player. There's some things without the puck that we will work on him a bit with, but for his first game it was pretty good."
Seattle continued to control the play after the Gropp goal and took the lead two minutes later as Eric Benoit got the puck to Seth Swenson who was able to beat Comrie and it felt like Seattle was off to the races.
That's when things took a turn.
Tri City (7-8-0-1) started pushing back and got the T-Birds on their heels a bit. Hickman took a cross checking penalty late in the period to give the Americans their first power play on the night. That power play turned into a two-man advantage when Jerret Smith was called for tripping. It then became disaster for Seattle as after Mumaugh made a pad save Adam Henry had the rebound go off his skate and past the goalie for the tying goal.
After one period Seattle found themselves tied, giving up a penalty shot goal and an own goal.
"I really liked our first ten minutes but then they made a little push and I don't know if we thought it would be easier," Konowalchuk said. "They made that push and we totally starting circling, didn't stop and start. Those little things, that's why you take penalties, because you're not working smart. We never simplified and got the game going."
The second period saw the T-Birds unable to get out of their own way. They took penalty after penalty, giving the Americans five power play chances and killing any chance they had to get the momentum back.
That seemed to frustrate the T-Birds as they were unable to get consistent traffic in front of Comrie and he made every save for the remainder of the game.
Seattle had two power play chances late in the third, including the last two minutes of regulation but could not convert.
In the shoot out the Americans got a conversion from Jessey Astles and Comrie shut the door on the T-Birds to secure the victory and the second point that was up for grabs.
The T-Birds will get a chance to wipe the bad taste of this one away when they return home to take on the Vancouver Giants Saturday night at the ShoWare Center.
Seattle's power play continues to be a mystery. The players they put out on both units have high offensive skill and it should be resulting in more goals. With their 0-for-5 effort Friday they are now 18th in the league on the power play.
Danny Mumaugh probably deserved a better fate in this game. He made 41 saves and was only beaten on the early penalty shot and an own goal. He was solid and gave the T-Birds a chance to convert.
The T-Birds had their chances early in the game but missed several open net chances as pucks sailed wide of the net. Both Brandon Troock and Roberts Lipsbergs had a couple golden opportunities to extend the lead.
Gropp played on a line with Troock and Alex Delnov and showed some signs of good things to come. Not only did he score on his first WHL shift but he drew a tripping penalty in the third period after a strong move to the net. He was also tapped by Konowalchuk in the shoot out but shot the puck wide.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide