By Andrew Eide
When you're in the midst of a frustrating losing streak, finding a way to win seems nearly impossible. It wasn't easy but the T-Birds found a way to win Tuesday night as they held on to beat the Prince George Cougars 9-7 at the CN Centre.
Seattle was paced by the first career hat trick from Ryan Gropp and rookie goalie Logan Flodell hung on for his first career win by making 21 saves. The win ends their five-game losing streak.
"You know, sometimes you just have to find a way to get a win and that's what we did," Steve Konowalchuk said. "We found a way to get a win and both teams are looking at some mistakes they made and will want to correct them. A win is a win in the situation where we've been coming from and we'll get some traction here and congratulations to the young goalie."
In the end, those 21 saves were just enough as the T-Birds built a seemingly insurmountable 7-3 lead in the third period only to see the Cougars storm back to within a goal. When Adam Henry scored on a one-timer early in the third period for Seattle's seventh goal it looked like the T-Birds were going to be able to coast into snapping their streak.
The problem is, they started coasting.
"I would like to just keep going, but we let up and got casual," Konowalchuk said. "That team keeps coming, they kept coming but we did seem to find a way to get back going and get that big goal."
Prince George kept coming, first with a goal by Zach Porchino, who ended the night with two goals and four points. Then a few minutes later it was Todd Fiddler with his second goal of the night en route to a hat trick of his own. Seattle seemed to whether the storm when Scott Eansor, playing in his first game of the road trip, scored to push the Seattle lead to 8-5.
Porchiro and Fiddler weren't done however as each scored again, giving Fiddler his hat trick, to bring the Cougars to within one goal with over six minutes still to play. With the way the T-Birds have been going the feeling that this one was going to slip away came on pretty strong.
But Seattle played their best six minutes of defense down the stretch and finally Gropp completed his hat trick as he knocked home an empty netter for his 10th goal of the year.
The game was a wild affair that saw the two teams combine for 16 goals on only 55 shots which speaks to the up and down, score at will flow the game had. If you like goals, this game was for you.
Prince George opened the scoring on their first shot of the game, which was a sign of things to come, when Fiddler fed Klarc Wilson in the slot. The T-Birds defense failed to pick up Wilson and he beat Flodell easily to put the T-Birds down early. Unlike in the past few games the T-Birds were able to overcome some adversity.
Three minutes after that opening goal, Gropp got his first on a power play as he punched home a rebound. The Cougars then responded with Fiddler's first goal of the night, also on a power play, as he attempted a pass that Flodell initially blocked. The puck rebounded right back to Fiddler who found himself with an open net to score on.
Seattle answered that goal as well when Alex Delnov scored his 17th goal on another Seattle power play to tie the game back up. Seattle got a big momentum swing late in the period as Calvin Spencer put an exclamation point to some sustained pressure by beating Prince George goalie Ty Edmunds with a wrap around. That goal was scored with under a minute left in the period and Seattle took that swing into the start of the second.
Evan Wardly extended the Seattle lead with his first goal of the season as he fired a shot from the point 22 seconds into the second period. Less than a minute later Roberts Lipsbergs scored his team leading 23rd goal and suddenly Seattle looked like they were going to turn it into a rout.
Prince George fought back on a goal by Brad Morrision only to see Gropp pick up his second goal of the game two minutes later. When the dust settled the T-Birds led 6-3, setting up the third period drama.
There was some good and some bad out of Seattle's win. They gave up seven plus goals for the third straight game and fourth time in last five games but on this night they were able to find their offense.
It started with the power play, which was a perfect 3-for-3 on the night and built the T-Birds early lead.
"That's good, they got pucks to the net," Konowalchuk said of his power play. "That's the key on the power play, something we've struggled with all year long, getting pucks to the net. We did a good job of that and got rewarded."
It was also a big night for the 16-year-old Flodell who was called into action because Justin Myles was suffering from an illness. The young prospect gave up seven goals but his coach was quick to praise his performance.
"He played fine, we hung him out to dry," Konowalchuk said of Flodell. "We were standing right next to guys and they were tapping them in...no fault of his. He's having fun, he's smiling, happy to get the win and not too worried about how."
The T-Birds will be back on CN Centre ice again Wednesday night for a rematch with the Cougars. Despite having some defensive issues Tuesday they will go into that game coming off of a win -- something that they haven't been able to say since before the New Year.
Konowalchuk gave Danny Mumaugh the night off after being forced to start all three games over the weekend. He said that Mumaugh would get the call on Wednesday and that Myles was most likely out through the weekend.
Seattle started to get some players back but were still playing short handed. Scott Eansor was back in the lineup and picked up his second goal of the season off of a deflection. Keegan Kolesar and Ethan Bear were also back in the lineup after competing in the U17 tournament.
Seattle's big guns came up huge on Tuesday. Gropp added an assist to his hat trick to give him a four point night. Delnov had a goal and three assists, Roberts Lipsbergs picked up a goal along with two assists and Shea Theodore added three helpers on the night.
Ryan Gropp now has four goals in his last two games and Calvin Spencer now has scored in his last two games.
The nine goals were the most the T-Birds have scored this season.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide