Seattle goalie Taran Kozun celebrates the T-Birds shoot out win against Moose Jaw (Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT -- During their current winning streak, the Seattle Thunderbirds keep finding a way to win hockey games. Tuesday night they beat the Moose Jaw Warriors 3-2 in a shootout in front of 4,594 fans at the ShoWare Center.
Goalie Taran Kozun made 29 saves, including all three shootout attempts, and defenseman Shea Theodore picked up the shootout winner to send the T-Birds to their seventh straight victory. Theodore was the only shooter to convert as he made a nice move to fool Warriors goalie Justin Paulic.
"I don't know, I've been trying it in practice a little bit," Theodore said of his move. "I think I've a terrible shooting percentage but Steve still has confidence in me and I got it done tonight."
Tuesday's game bogged down at times into a special teams battle. The two teams combined for 15 power-play attempts that robbed the game of a lot of flow. Seattle built a two-goal lead and had Moose Jaw fight back, thanks in some part to eight power-play attempts given to the Warriors.
"Its our fault, we deserved most of them," head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "Most of our penalties were deserved and we've got to smarten up. We came out, we want to play with emotion but we've got to keep it in line."
The T-Birds penalty kill was strong and killed off seven of the power play chances, but playing short-handed that often takes you out of your offensive rhythm. That allowed the Warriors to hang in the game and eventually tie it on the one power play Seattle could not kill off.
With less than two minutes left in the game, defenseman Evan Wardley was called for kneeing. That allowed the Warriors to pull Paulic for a 6-on-4 advantage. They flooded the T-Birds goal with shots and eventually center Brayden Point was able to bang the puck in for his second goal of the night with only 7 seconds left in the game.
"Saw a guy back door there, shot from the point, kind of went right to him," Kozun said about the goal. "I tried getting to the post but he banged it off the post and off my skate and in. I'd like to have that one back but we got the win so that's good."
Neither team would score in overtime, setting up Theodore's game-winner and more nice saves from Kozun.
"Shoot outs are always fun," the goalie said. "I always enjoy them, especially when I can make that last save to get the win."
The T-Birds got on the scoreboard early on Tuesday as center Scott Eansor spun around for a wrist shot that beat Paulic 33 seconds into the game. Three minutes later defenseman Ethan Bear scored on the power play as he made some nice moves to walk in from the point to score on a wrist shot.
Seattle dominated the first period, but the Warriors were able to get one back as Point wheeled out from behind the T-Birds net to roof a goal over Kozun. That goal came only 23 seconds left and would be the last goal in the game until the very end.
The third period is when the T-Birds got into some penalty trouble as the Warriors were given four of their eight power plays on the night. If not for a strong penalty kill the game may have turned out worse for Seattle.
"You know what, pretty good pressure," Konowalchuk said of the key to killing the penalties. "Making the other team make plays under pressure and hurried plays. If they can do that good for them and when we needed to we blocked shots, and got good saves."
Tuesday was another strong start for Kozun, who now has won his first four starts for Seattle -- after only winning five games in his first 29 games played with Kamloops. Playing for a deeper team with a solid defense can make a world of difference.
So far he is getting rave reviews from his teammates.
"He's been playing the puck great and making all the key saves that we need," Theodore said of Kozun. "Even a great celly (celebration) after the shoot out there, no real complaints from anyone."
The seven straight wins have helped Seattle separate a bit in the Western Conference standings as they now sit in fourth place, five points clear of Spokane in fifth. They are one point behind Victoria for third in the conference and only four back from Portland.
With a big three-in-three weekend looming, these points all become huge.
"We've talked about it, about how the rest of the way for us is big hockey," Konowalchuk said. "We want to get our game as polished as we can to get ready for playoffs. It has to become instinct by then, you can't change your game in the playoffs."
Seattle begins their big weekend Friday night in Kennewick to take on the Tri-City Americans.
Eansor's goal in the first period was his third of the year and the fastest goal Seattle has scored this season.
Former T-Birds defenseman Jesse Forsberg made his first appearance at the ShoWare Center since being traded early in the year. He picked up an assist on the late game-tying goal for the Warriors.
Konowalchuk said that Danny Mumaugh was going to get the call in net on Friday as he felt he needed to get his other goalie back into the swing of things. Both goalies have been hot of late as Seattle has only allowed eight goals in their last six games.
With his two goals Tuesday, Moose Jaw's Brayden Point now has 14 points in his last seven games and is one of the hottest players in the WHL.
Saturday's home game against the Everett Silvertips is Seattle's annual Teddy Bear Toss game where fans are encouraged to toss stuffed animals on the ice following the first T-Birds goal. The bears are collected and donated to local charities.
Follow Andrew on Twitter at @andyeide