Updated Oct 4, 2013 - 3:25 pm
Seattle Thunderbirds Blog
Saturday, November 16, 2013 @ 9:27pm
By Andrew Eide
The Thunderbirds found their winning formula Saturday night and beat the Victoria Royals 3-1 to end their six game losing streak. Seattle got another excellent outing by goalie Danny Mumaugh who made 24 saves along with goals from Justin Hickman, Jaimen Yakubowski and Roberts Lipsbergs in the win.
Seattle broke a one-one tie in the second period when Branden Troock stole a puck in the Royals zone and fed it to Yakubowski in the slot. Yakubowski buried it for his second goal as a T-Bird giving Seattle a lead they would not relinquish.
After a couple of weeks where the team looked defeated they end up with picking up three points on the weekend.
"It was a good win, It was a really good team effort," coach Steve Konowalchuk said afterwards. "I thought we took what we did well as far as the defensive game from yesterday and built off that but we also bucked up a little bit as a man. We paid the price to win puck battles and I thought that was the difference in a win or a loss."
Seattle (12-8-1-2) started the game playing physical -- something that had been missing from their game.
That physical play led to an early power play as Ryan Gropp drove the net and drew a penalty. The T-Birds power play has been struggling but on Saturday they cashed in when Hickman banged home a rebound for his sixth of the season and the T-Birds had the early lead.
"Its a power play goal, that helped," Konowalchuk said. "You want your power play to be big, but it was a shot and we had traffic and we bang it home. That's big when you're not playing as confident as you need to be, that first goal always helps."
The one goal lead was far from a sure thing as the T-Birds found out Friday night when they also led by a goal early. Saturday night was different however as the T-Birds defense, now back to full strength, played a much tighter game. The T-Birds also held their own winning battles for loose pucks against the always physical Royals.
Victoria (13-10-0-1) did manage to tie the game on a flukey play. Mumaugh was behind his net to play what he thought would be a routine dump in. Instead of the puck hitting the end boards though it caught the side of the net and rebounded back out to the slot. Trapped behind his net Mumaugh could only watch as Austin Carroll deposited it in the Seattle net to tie the game.
When you lose six straight games goals like that seem to happen.
The T-Birds didn't let that sink their compete level though. They hung tough and got the lead back five minutes later when Troock and Yakubowski teamed up. It was a nice change to see the team strengthen their backs instead of let that bad luck goal sink them.
"It's huge," Konowalchuk said of his team's response. "I didn't sense anyone get off the game plan. Everyone had poise, you know fought through it, were committed to the team first and they worked hard."
Troock and Yakubowski played on a line with Sam McKechnie Saturday night and the three played an excellent game. They forechecked, played at both ends of the ice and it's no surprise that they were the ones to combine for the go ahead goal.
"They worked hard, they worked smart, they passed the puck and they won battles," Konowalchuk said of the three. "They were committed to both ends of the ice. McKechnie, you know, he's a smart, two-way player and he can chip and charge."
With the lead the T-Birds then turned the game over to Mumaugh to take them home. Playing in his second straight game, the Colorado native stood tall once again and shut the door on the Royals. He made several key saves as Victoria was pushing, trying to find the game tying tally.
Mumaugh has come on as the season has progressed and Saturday marked the first time that Seattle has gone with the same guy in net on two consecutive games. They had previously been rotating between Mumaugh and Justin Myles but with Myles' recent struggles Konowalchuk went with the hot hand.
It paid off and when Roberts Lipsbergs scored on the empty net late in the game Seattle could breathe a sigh of relief. For Mumuagh, it was yet another strong performance.
"He's a competitor. He's a confident kid and he has high goals for himself," Konowalchuk said of Mumaugh. "You know, I give him credit. At the end of last year we needed him for some big points and he stepped up and got us big points. Right now, with hitting a little adversity for these two games, he came in and stepped up."
Seattle now can head back home with a good feeling after a solid win. They return home to take on the red hot Kelowna Rockets Tuesday at the ShoWare Center. The Rockets may be the best team in the league and have won eight straight games. It will be a tough task for Seattle, but now they go into that match up with some momentum.
"It (the win) builds momentum," Konowalchuk said. "After not too happy of a game yesterday we can come out of here with three out of four points. We can build off that for next game."
Center Mathew Barzal was a healthy scratch for the T-Birds. He had played in all of Seattle's previous 22 games.
Seattle got some guys back Saturday as Ethan Bear and Mical Holub returned to action. With Bear's return and Wardley's return the team now is at full strength on the back end. Something that is important with Kelowna coming in.
Mumaugh's weekend was pretty stellar. He gave up three goals over the two games and was a fluke away from his second shut out on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how Konowalchuk deploys his goalies moving forward as Mumaugh has separated himself with his play of late.
Lipsbergs goal in the third was his 12th of the season and broke a six game goalless streak for the Latvian.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Friday, November 15, 2013 @ 9:33pm
By Andrew Eide
Seattle saw their losing streak grow to six straight Friday night after dropping a 2-1 overtime struggle against the Victoria Royals at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria. The Royals got the winner 52 seconds into the overtime period as Logan Nelson snapped home a shot from the slot to beat a game Danny Mumaugh.
Seattle gets a much needed point in the standings but in the end, still came up short.
"It was in some ways (a better effort)," coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "We had a better conscious effort on getting the third guy and limiting their offense but we're still soft on the puck. We've got guys that still need to be hard on the puck."
The Thunderbirds, coming off their worst effort of the season last week in Portland, did get off to a better start Friday night. For the first time during their losing streak they picked up the game's first goal as Branden Troock deflected a Kevin Wolf point shot past Coleman Vollrath.
Falling behind early is something that has been constant during the losing streak and Friday night Seattle was able to improve in that sense. Where they still struggled was to generate offense. Konowalchuk mentioned being hard on the puck and by not being hard on the puck it was hard for Seattle to generate possession and scoring chances.
Konowalchuk juggled his lines again as the combination of injuries and fitting in new players has the team searching for some consistency and chemistry.
"Trying to get some chemistry for sure, trying to get a couple different lines going," the coach said of Friday's lineup."We still aren't there where we need to be to get our lines going, we need more guys going. Still not digging in and battling for the puck so then I need to switch it up."
Seattle tried to cling to their lead and relied heavily on the shoulders, and glove, of Mumuagh. The 17-year-old goalie made 32 saves on the night and gave the T-Birds a chance to end their losing streak. Seattle was out shot 26-14 in the first two frames as Mumaugh stood tall for them.
The Royals managed to solve Mumaugh in the second period however as the hot Brandon Magee took the puck from the half boards and fired a wrist shot from the circle. Mumaugh managed to get a piece of it with his glove but could not keep it from beating him.
The third period was played tentatively by both clubs as neither seemed to want to make a mistake in a close game. Both clubs managed seven shots on goal but neither goaltender relented -- sending the game into overtime.
In overtime Ben Walker had the puck behind the Seattle net and quickly got it to Nelson who fired an equally quick snap shot to send the T-Birds back to their hotel with their sixth straight loss.
"You can tell we're don't have a high confidence level right now, that happens when you're going through something like this, " Konowalchuk said of his team's psyche. "I get that, but the only way you're going to get confidence is to dig in a little harder for the puck. That's what we've got to do tomorrow, we've got take the same approach as far as defensive hockey first but then we've got to dig in for pucks."
The theme that has been laced throughout the six losses has been the level of competitiveness up and down the roster. Konowalchuk still has the hammer of taking ice time away but he says that the players also have to take the challenge upon themselves.
"You can take some ice time away and I'll continue to do that but if you have to keep taking ice time away to try and motivate guys you're going to be in for a long year," he said. "Guys have to be self-motivated to work harder for the puck. The only time you should need to take ice time away should be one out of every 10-15 games where a guy gets a little complacent and needs a wake up call, but right now it's too much and too often, it's frustrating."
The T-Birds will get a another shot at the Royals Saturday night as they play the second of a back-to-back game on Vancouver Island.
The Thunderbirds had been giving up a ton of goals during their previous five losses - giving up 30 over that span. Friday they turned in a much better effort with only allowing two however the Royals did get a lot of good chances and Mumaugh had to make great saves.
Evan Wardley returned to the ice Friday after serving his four game suspension. Ethan Bear was out again with an injury but Konowalchuk said that he is close to returning and may be a game time decision Saturday night. The same is true for Mical Holub who has also been out with an injury.
Konowalchuk has been rotating his two goaltenders all year. Justin Myles has struggled in his last two outings, getting pulled in both, and with Mumaugh's fine play Konowalchuk said he will assess tomorrow whether or not to give Mumaugh a second straight start.
Magee's goal in the second period was his fifth in his last three games.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Thursday, November 14, 2013 @ 9:58pm
Seattle will get a look at B.C. Division teams Victoria and Kelowna this week (photo whl.ca)
By Andrew Eide
There is no beating around the bush when it comes to the current state of the Thunderbirds -- they are in a slump. They have lost five straight games and were not competitive in four of those as they have been heavily out scored of late. They have a chance to right the ship this week and get back on the winning side of the ledger as they play three games in the B.C. Division.
One good news item for Seattle is that they will get Evan Wardley back this weekend as he has served his full suspension for his hit on Portland's Adam De Champlain. He will be welcome as Seattle's defense has struggled lately -- giving up 30 goals during the losing streak.
Here's what the T-Birds have on tap this week.
Friday and Saturday: Victoria Royals
Record: 12-9-0-1 (second, B.C. Division)
T-Birds all-time record against: 16-4-0-3-1
This season: 0-1
Scouting Report: The T-Birds head to Vancouver Island to take on the Royals for two games this weekend. Seattle and Victoria played last Friday and while the Royals came away with a 5-3 win, it was a game that Seattle dominated from start to finish. Seattle ran into some great goaltending by Coleman Vollrath combined with a bit of bad puck luck as they missed some open nets and hit at least three cross bars. The Royals are a tough team to play against normally as they have a good top line and play a physical brand of hockey.
They do come into this weekend a bit banged up as reports say that Joe Hicketts, Jordan Fransoo, Keegan Kanzig, Jack Walker and Brandon Magee all missed practice time earlier this week. All of those players appear on the WHL report as injured as well. If those guys can't go this weekend Seattle should be able to wear down the Royals and pick up some wins.
Victoria's led by Logan Nelson and Austin Carroll up front but with the injuries guys like rookie Tyler Soy and Brandon Fushimi (who scored twice against Seattle last week) could be asked to log more ice time. The biggest injury hit will be on their back end where they could be missing two of their top defeneseman in Hicketts and Kanzig.
In net Seattle got a full dose of Vollrath last week and it appears that he might be wresting the number one goalie spot away from Patrik Polivka. With back-to-back games the T-Birds may see both guys in net and both are good. Vollrath followed up his 46 save night against Seattle the next night with a 43 save win at Portland -- only giving up two goals.
On paper the T-Birds should be able to come out and control the play against the banged up Royals again this weekend. The key is that Seattle has not been able to control much of anything lately. Seattle has a chance to win both of these games but the Royals are not going to hand it to them. They will need to come out of the gates breathing fire and not let up, which is something that has been glaringly missing from their game of late.
Tuesday: Kelowna Rockets
Record: 14-2-0-2 (first, B.C. Division)
T-Birds all-time record against: 56-48-2-9-10
This season: 1-0
Scouting Report: The Rockets return to the ShoWare Center for the first time since Game 6 of the playoffs last year. They won that game in overtime -- something that happens a lot when these two teams match up. They've played once this year, in Kelowna, and Seattle won in a shoot out as once again 60 minutes was not enough to settle it. The Rockets can make an argument to be the best team in the WHL but due to a scheduling quirk they have played a league-low 18 games this season. That being said they currently are sitting on a seven game win streak.
The strength of Kelowna is on their back end and in goal. They have only allowed 2.38 goals per game which is good enough for the league's best. Along with that they also can boast the WHL's best penalty kill unit. Seattle has struggled on the power play this year and failed to score on any of their power play attempts in the seven game playoff series - as well as the first meeting this year.
When you give up the fewest goals in the league you can bet that you're getting good goaltending, and that's exactly what 20-year-old Jordan Cooke is giving the Rockets. So far Cooke has a minuscule goals-against average of 2.03 and has a save percentage of .932. Those numbers are helped by a solid blue-line group led by Damon Severson and Madison Bowey, two guys who are capable of shutting you down but are also contributing on the offensive side of things.
Up front the Rockets are getting a good year out of NHL Draft Prospect Tyson Baillie who is having a strong season. Just behind Baillie is 16-year-old rookie Nick Merkley who has 19 points and is a fun player to watch. The key for Seattle will be to get pucks deep and make Kelowna's defense turn and chase. That will allow the T-Birds to get their forecheck going and be able to pin the Rockets in their own end. Again, the way the T-Birds have been playing that is easier said then done.
This will be a big test for Seattle and if they come out as flat as they did against Portland this past week they will be in for a long night.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Thursday, November 14, 2013 @ 11:10am
By Tim Pigulski
This probably isn't what Russ Farwell had in mind when he convinced Ryan Gropp to commit to Seattle and traded for 19-year-old forwards Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie.
The Thunderbirds are currently on a five-game losing streak. During that span, they've been outscored 30-10. Three games were against division rivals – two versus Portland, and a shutout loss at the hands of Everett. They haven't given up fewer than five goals in each of the five games, including surrendering an embarrassing 10 to the Winterhawks on Tuesday night. They also haven't put up more than three goals in a single game during that time.
Prior to the streak, which began with a 5-2 home loss to Portland, the Thunderbirds had put up 64 goals in 16 games, an average of four. The offense wasn't struggling, and the hope was that adding three offensively talented players would only strengthen their arsenal.
They had allowed 53 goals before Nov. 1, when the streak began, an average of 3.3 per game. Evan Wardley has been suspended for four of the five games and Ethan Bear has been injured for two games and part of a third over the past couple weeks. Both are important pieces on defense, but that doesn't explain a jump of 2.7 goals per game.
To top it all off, the team announced a surprising move during its most recent loss to Portland, waiving 20-year-old forward Erik Benoit, who had eight points in 19 games and occupied one of the team's valuable overage spots. When Mitch Elliot returned to the Thunderbirds from the Utica Comets earlier this season, Benoit was kept over defenseman Jesse Forsberg, who was sent to the Moose Jaw Warriors to keep the Thunderbirds at the maximum of three 20-year-olds.
That obviously looks like a mistake now, as the team is struggling defensively and Benoit is no longer even on the roster. The circumstances of his release are still a mystery at this point, but after being a healthy scratch last Friday night against Victoria, one must wonder if there was some trouble brewing in the locker room and if Benoit had asked to be released.
The lines have been juggled every night, as head coach Steve Konowalchuk attempts to find some combinations that will get his team back on track and works around the injuries and suspensions. One of the few consistent groupings featured center Mathew Barzal with left wing Roberts Lipsbergs, but even that group was broken up on Tuesday night.
Are the new additions to blame for the team's struggles? Of course not. All three players should have been given the benefit of an adjustment period, as Gropp was moving up to a more competitive level after just turning 17 years old, while Yakubowski and McKechnie were acquired after playing for an awful Lethbridge team and being sent home. In addition to entering a new system with new teammates and new coaches, they also hadn't skated in some time.
So who or what exactly is at fault? It's tough to pin it on exactly one player, but it was very clear on Tuesday night that people weren't on the same page. They gave their hated rivals in Portland entirely too much respect as they allowed players like Nic Petan, Brendan Leipsic, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and Paul Bittner to skate circles around them. If you enter a game expecting to lose, you're going to do just that. It was clear less than a minute into the game that the result was going to be ugly.
By the end of 20 minutes, Seattle was down by five goals and the game was more than over. Starting goalie Justin Myles was pulled less than 15 minutes in for Danny Mumaugh, who, despite allowing six goals of his own, faced more than three times as many shots as the player he replaced.
The Thunderbirds play two games this weekend in Victoria against a team that they outplayed for nearly an entire 60 minutes, but somehow still managed to lose to by a final score of 5-3. After that, they host the red-hot Kelowna Rockets, who are currently on a seven-game winning streak and sit near the top of the Western Conference. If the Thunderbirds turn in performances like they have over the past two weekends, you can count that game as a loss right now.
They'll travel to Vancouver three days later to face a Giants team that could very well be the cure for their troubles. Vancouver is sitting second-to-last in the conference and has been beaten by the Thunderbirds in both matchups this season. If the Thunderbirds somehow drop that game, which looks like a very real possibility at this point, they will then begin a 12-game stretch that includes 10 games against division rivals, including three against both Spokane and Portland, two versus Everett, and two against Tri-City. The other two games against Victoria and Saskatoon won't be cakewalks either, so this five-game losing streak could easily resemble the ugly long-term episodes the team has seen in each of the past few seasons.
Is it time to hit the panic button? Maybe not yet. Five games, while certainly alarming – more so when you consider the performances put forth in those contests – is just a small portion of a long 72-game season. However, should those five games turn into 10 or 15, changes may need to be made.
It is important to remember that despite the streak, Seattle remains above .500 with an 11-8-0-2 record. The Thunderbirds fattened up their point totals on an Eastern Conference road swing against opponents much weaker than they'll usually face, then topped it off with a victory over powerhouse Kelowna. At that point, expectations shot through the roof, and were only increased by the Gropp, McKechnie, and Yakubowski additions. Had Seattle's victories and defeats been spaced out a bit, rather than included significant streaks in both directions, perspectives would be much different.
There is absolutely no reason that this team, with all of the talent and depth that it possesses, should succumb to the month-long slumps that have crippled it in the past. At this point, it's been less than two weeks and has included injuries, suspensions, and roster adjustments. If things remain ugly, questions should certainly be asked and changes will need to be made, but at this point, five games remain but a small blip in the bigger picture.
Follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski.
Tuesday, November 12, 2013 @ 9:26pm
By Andrew Eide
The Thunderbirds malaise continued Tuesday night as they traveled to Portland and were soundly beaten 10-2 by the Winterhawks. Portland got a hat trick from Paul Bittner as they handed Seattle a fifth straight loss. Seattle was not in this game from the beginning and is reeling in many ways. The T-Birds got goals from Shea Theodore and Justin Hickman.
It's the second time this season the T-Birds have surrendered 10 goals to Portland and they have been outscored 30-10 in their last five games overall -- all losses. There have not been a lot of answers during this streak as the team suddenly appears to have no confidence or compete in their game -- something that they had plenty of earlier in the season.
Wednesday night, head coach Steve Konowalchuk deployed new line combinations to try and find a spark however none of them were able to generate scoring chances.
The Winterhawks put Seattle in a hole early as Brendan Leipsic took advantage of Adam Henry falling down at his own blue line. Leipsic picked up the loose puck and streaked down ice on a two-on-one advantage and scored on Justin Myles.
Seattle never recovered and appeared deflated.
Portland didn't let up on the gas, scoring four more times in the first period on goals from Bittner, Chase De Leo, Derrick Pouliot, and Nic Petan. When the first frame ended Seattle was looking at a five-goal deficit after being out shot 18-7. Myles was replaced by Danny Mumaugh after giving up four goals on 12 shots.
It just got worse from there.
The Winterhawks continued to have their way with a T-Birds group that could not generate any energy or emotion and Portland continued to make them pay. They scored five more times in the game and skated to their third straight easy victory over their I-5 rivals.
For the T-Birds the story was much the same as it has been during the current losing streak. They did not get off to a good start, didn't play physical, didn't get their forecheck going and were on their heels from the outset. They now face a tough two game series in Victoria before they return home to host a Kelowna team that arguably is the best in the WHL.
Seattle continues to play short-handed as key players Conner Honey, Ethan Bear and Michal Holub continue to miss games due to injury. Defenseman Evan Wardley also missed Wednesday's game as he served the last game of his four game suspension. The T-Birds also made a move before the game as they announced the release of 20-year-old Eric Benoit.
With Benoit's departure the team is now down to two 20-year-olds with Seth Swenson and Mitch Elliot still on the roster. It will be interesting to see if Seattle makes a move to acquire a third over-ager.
Seattle's next game is Friday night when they travel to Victoria to take on the Royals on Vancouver Island.
Benoit was acquired by Seattle off of waivers near the end of the preseason. He had previously played for Kootenay and more recently with Saskatoon. He appeared in 19 games with the T-Bird and picked up three goals and eight points.
Wednesday's game was a tough one for Justin Myles. He was pulled for the second straight game and has allowed seven goals on his last 19 shots.
Danny Mumaugh replaced Myles in the first period and while he gets saddled with six goals allowed he actually played some pretty good hockey. The goals were mostly on defensive breakdowns and odd man rushes and Mumaugh made several good saves to keep the game from being uglier than it was.
The return of Wardley on Friday will be a big boost to the Seattle blue line which has struggled during this five game losing streak.
In the past Konowalchuk has not hesitated to take ice time away from players that he feels aren't playing up to their potential. Under normal circumstances you could expect him to do that again now. However, with the injuries to Honey, Bear and Holub and the release of Benoit he doesn't have any healthy bodies to step in at the moment.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Saturday, November 9, 2013 @ 9:31pm
By Andrew Eide
KENT – The Thunderbirds are in a slump. A night after playing well and losing, Seattle played poorly and lost its fourth straight game – this time to the Regina Pats by a 5-3 score. Regina got two goals from Morgan Klimchuk, who paced the Pats as they picked up their third straight win.
Seattle (11-7-0-2) got a valiant effort turned in by goalie Danny Mumaugh, who made 49 saves and kept the game from being much worse than it was. After a season start that was full of solid play, the T-Birds suddenly find themselves reeling a bit. Playing on a second consecutive night against a rested team, Seattle seemed to wear down as the night went on.
"It was a disappointing effort after a frustrating game yesterday," coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "We have work to do. I thought the things we corrected all week, guys were willing to pay a price. We do it for one game and we went back to cutting corners and not wanting to be strong on the puck ... letting them out-battle us."
After the game the players were echoing the sentiments of their coach.
"We were just giving up too many shots, I think, in our D-zone," Jaimen Yakubowski said. "We're having lots of casual moments. We have spurts and then we off the pedal there and I think that cost us tonight – we didn't play a full 60 minutes."
The tide of this one turned after a solid first period when Regina (11-9-0-0) took the game over, erased a 2-1 Seattle lead and the T-Birds' frustration grew. In the end this one looked a lot like the efforts put in last week when Seattle lacked energy and didn't compete.
Seattle's problems seemed to begin from the start. Perhaps still recovering from Friday night's game, the T-Birds came out of the gates a bit flat and were on their heels. Regina out-shot them 10-1 early on and got the night's first goal on a fortuitous bounce. As the puck bounded towards the Seattle goal it bounded off Morgan Klimchuk and past Mumaugh.
Seattle eventually got its game in gear and tied the game after a pretty pass by Scott Eansor to Alex Delnov. Delnov made one move and was in the Pats' zone all by himself. He made another nice deke to fool Regina goalie Dawson MacAuley and tie the game.
Seattle got some energy from that and began to tilt the ice a bit in its favor. The Thunderbirds got great shifts from Branden Troock and Mathew Barzal. The two worked together to give Seattle the lead after Barzal muscled the puck away from a defender down low and flipped it to Troock in the slot. The big power forward slammed the puck past MacAuley to give Seattle a lead.
After 20 minutes it seemed that the T-Birds might be on their way to picking up two points. It was in the second, however, that things changed.
Regina took control of the game from the second's opening faceoff as they started to pour on the shots. Regina out-shot the T-Birds 14-8 in the second period and if not for some big saves by Mumaugh the game could have been lost.
The Pats tied the game on a one-time power-play goal by Klimchuk, his second of the game. It was the one shot of the period that Mumaugh had no chance at.
If anything could surmise the Seattle losing streak it might be the third period. In perhaps the game's biggest turning point, Justin Hickman was called for a 5-minute major boarding penalty 3 minutes into the final frame. The penalty happened behind the Regina net and it was unclear what Hickman did to warrant the call, which left Regina's Tye Hand down on the ice. Hand would have to be assisted to the dressing room and Hickman's night was done as he also was given a game misconduct.
After replays of the hit were shown on the screen at the ShoWare Center, the call became even more confusing. The call was made by the official at center ice, while the official skating close to the two players made no call.
"I saw the replay and from what I hear he (Hickman) let up," Konowalchuk said of the game's biggest turning point. "The replay I saw he let up and hit him from the side. It didn't look like that vicious of a hit to me."
Seattle and Mumaugh hung tough, keeping the Pats at bay despite several good chances and were able to kill off the penalty. What should have been a big momentum boost turned the other way, however, as Braden Christoffer was able to charge in on net and score on a nice back-handed shot to give the Pats the lead.
"We gained a lot of momentum off that (killing the penalty)," Yakubowski said. "For them to get one right away, that's tough on us. We were still trying to stick with it there."
That goal deflated the T-Birds as they were unable to generate any push. The Pats put the game out of reach 3 minutes later when Boston Leier put back a rebound on a power play to extend the Pats' lead and send Seattle to its fourth straight loss.
Adam Henry scored late for Seattle to give them some hope with two minutes left but they couldn't get the equalizer and the loss was sealed when Kyle Burroughs scored on the empty net.
Seattle now has to find what was working earlier in the season. In three out of the four losses, the story has been similar. The team hasn't competed hard enough, at least not to the satisfaction of its head coach.
"We have confidence in our team," Yakubowski said. "We're obviously disappointed in the last couple games and we're obviously going to have to learn from the mistakes here going forward to turn this thing around."
Things don't get easy for the Thunderbirds this coming week as they have to travel to Portland on Tuesday before heading up to Victoria for back-to-back games next weekend. If Seattle wants to avoid a prolonged losing streak it will have to find a way to right the ship in a hurry.
"It's just too many passengers," Konowalchuk said. "We didn't have everybody going."
• Seattle played this game a bit shorthanded on defense. Ethan Bear was a scratch after getting injured in Friday night's game and Evan Wardley continued to serve his four-game suspension. Konowalchuk had no update on Bear's status and Wardley will be eligible to return Friday in Victoria.
• Penalties were a big part of Saturday's loss. Seattle gave Regina five power plays, including the 5-minute major, and the Pats converted twice. The Thunderbirds were 1 for 4 on their power play.
• Seattle now finds itself in last place in the U.S. Division after Tri-City beat Everett Saturday night in Kennewick.
• The four-game losing streak is the longest of the season for the Thunderbirds. They have given up five goals in each of the four losses.
Follow Andrew Eide on Twitter @andyeide.
Friday, November 8, 2013 @ 9:59pm
Seattle's Shea Theodore picked up a hat trick but it wasn't enough to beat Victoria (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT - Sometimes the game of hockey makes no sense. The Seattle Thunderbirds lost to the Victoria Royals Friday night 5-3 despite dominating the game from start to finish. Victoria got two goals from Brandon Fushimi and Brandon Magee in coming away with a most unlikely win. It was Seattle's third straight loss, but one of their better overall performances.
After a weekend where the T-Birds played about as poorly as they could Seattle (11-6-0-2) seemingly did everything right Friday.
They controlled the puck, they played their game, they generated more scoring chances than can be counted and they out shot the Royals 46-20 on the night. They did everything but win.
"It was a tough one," Brandon Troock said afterwards. "I thought the boys played hard tonight, we did some good things we just couldn't get the go ahead goal...we battled back, did a lot of things right so we're going to get ready for tomorrow."
Victoria (11-9-0-1) took advantage of three Seattle lapses and scored each time to put Seattle in a hole early. The Royals capitalized, got some good luck and relied on the 43 saves from Coleman Vollrath to get the win.
"It is frustrating," Steve Konowalchuk said. "Guys came out and played hard. Still a couple of casual moments, you know, end up in goals. You can't have casual moments, it doesn't matter how well you go, you've got to make sure you don't have a casual moment, we had a couple and they capitalized. We kept coming, kept coming offensively, couldn't put the puck in the net."
Everything Seattle did wrong last weekend they seemed to have corrected right from the start Friday. They came out strong, hitting the Royals, pinning them in their own zone and controlling the play. They out shot Victoria 17-4 in the first twenty minutes and were buzzing.
The only thing that didn't work was that they could not solve Vollrath.
Going against the flow of the play the Royals struck first after a Seattle defender fell giving Victoria a two-on-one that Tyler Soy cashed in on - beating Justin Myles on the short side.
The strange game continued in the second as Seattle continued to bring pressure and control the play. Once again however the Royals managed to score after an errant point pass went through Justin Hickman's legs to center ice where Magee was waiting. He scooped the puck up and walked down the ice by himself to beat Myles and gave Victoria a two goal lead.
A minute later Fushimi took advantage of a Seattle turnover in their own zone and scored to give Victoria a somewhat unexplainable three goal lead. Seattle had out-played the Royals in every facet of the game --save the three breakdowns.
That would be the end of Myles' night as he gave up three goals on seven shots. He was replaced by Danny Mumaugh.
Seattle continued to push the play and finally got on the board after a nice play by Jerret Smith to keep the puck in the Victoria zone. He got the puck to Brandon Troock who found Shea Theodore gliding in from the blue line. Theodore whistled a wrist shot past Vollrath to give Seattle some life.
Ten minutes later Theodore got the T-Birds a goal closer as he picked up loose puck at center ice and beat Vollrath for his second of the night -- more importantly he cut the Royals lead down to one.
Victoria stole some of the momentum back later in the period when Fushimi scored his second goal of the game -- firing a shot off a face off that beat Mumaugh. Seattle headed to the dressing room after forty minutes down two goals despite out shooting the Royals 31-12.
In the third period the T-Birds snatched the momentum back as Theodore completed the hat trick during four-on-four play. On the play he got some help from Troock who was parked in front of Vollrath. Seattle never seemed to give up on the game.
"You know that was good," Konowalchuk said. "They kept working and I thought on the bench they thought they were going to get that (tying) goal and they generated some chances."
Now within a goal Seattle continued to pour the pressure on. They had many chances to tie it up. Some of it was Vollrath, some was bad luck. There was an Adam Henry chance on a power play where he missed a wide open net. Theodore, who had to have logged thirty minutes on the night, hit a couple of posts and appeared to set up the tying goal when Seattle got the puck into the net but was called for goaltender interference.
"I just threw it in front," Theodore said of the play. "I heard goalie interference. I mean, we knocked the net off and it went in after but there's nothing we can do there."
Magee ended the drama as he hit the empty Seattle net to seal the win for the Royals. Give Victoria credit, they took advantage of the few chances that they had and hung on to win. In the end it was a frustrating night for Seattle, but there were some positives.
"You're going to win a lot of games if you play like that, for sure," Konowalchuk said. "The trick is now we've got to come out with that same, if not better, effort tomorrow against a good hockey club."
The T-Birds get right back at it as they return to the ShoWare Center Saturday night to take on the Regina Pats at 7 P.M.
Ethan Bear left the game in the second period with an injury. Konowalchuk was not sure what the nature of his injury was immediately after the game.
The hat trick for Theodore was his first career hat trick and he now has ten goals on the year and is tied for the team lead in scoring with 21 points. "That's a good offensive game for him," Konowalchuk said. "That's what he's capable of bringing and he can really create havoc."
Eric Benoit was a scratch Friday night. Konowalchuk said that Benoit is healthy but he was looking for the right combination of players.
Mathew Barzal picked up an assist on one of the Theodore's goals. It broke a three game scoreless streak for the young center.
Saturday's opponents, the Regina Pats, were in attendance for most of the game Friday night, they left after two periods.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Wednesday, November 6, 2013 @ 8:05pm
Seattle's Mathew Barzal is among the WHL leaders in rookie scoring (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
The T-Birds are coming off a weekend that was frustrating and ultimately disappointing. Losing two games is one thing, but to lose them in the fashion Seattle did is another. The team was back at practice all week trying to overcome the issues that tripped them up before another weekend with two back-to-back games.
Before we get into the upcoming games here is the latest from the team and the league.
-- In dissecting this past weekends disappointing results you have to wonder how much the T-Birds miss Connor Honey. The hard-charging forward has missed the last 11 games due to an upper-body injury and without a doubt the club could have used him and his style of play this past weekend. Now, that's not to suggest that one player would have made the difference this weekend - it may not have. The lack of energy and focus was evident up and down the lineup but Honey never seems to be a passenger. He plays hard every night, is extremely competitive and perhaps some of that would have worn off on his teammates. Honey is still listed as day-to-day.
-- Evan Wardley was suspended four games as a result of his hit on Portland's Adam De Champlain Friday night. During the game Wardley was assessed a five-minute charging major and a game misconduct. De Champlain was injured on the play and is listed as day-to-day. Wardley already has served one game of his suspension and will be eligible to return November 15th against the Victoria Royals.
-- Seattle really could use their power play to get going for them. Even if the power play doesn't score it can be a great way to steal back some momentum in games. Of course it helps if they score - something Seattle's power play is only doing 16.7% of the time. That puts them 20th in the league in overall percentage and is something that should and most likely will improve. They are throwing out a lot of talent on their two power play units so to see a number that low is surprising. It can still come together though. Early last season Portland came to the ShoWare Center and their power play was struggling. Their unit consisted of five NHL prospects and they were not working well, being hesitant, looking for perfect passes instead of generating shots. These are the same things we've heard Konowalchuk say is going on with the T-Birds. The Winterhawks got it straightened out and ended up with the second best unit by seasons end. Will Seattle?
-- Due to injuries and looking for a spark the T-Birds deployed different lines on Saturday in Everett than they have been using all year. In a perfect world the team would find four line combinations that would stay together all year - something that is rarely afforded in hockey. Don't be surprised if there is still juggling of lines to come until the team is back to full strength and newcomers Jaimen Yakubowski, Sam McKechnie and Ryan Gropp find their spot and chemistry with the rest of the team.
-- Mathew Barzal is currently tied for second in WHL rookie scoring. He trails import player Nikita Sherback from Saskatoon and is tied with Julius Honka from Swift Current. Both those players are older so Barzal still leads the league's 16-year-olds in scoring - four points ahead of Kelowna's Nick Merkley.
-- Looking to the future a bit, the Western Canada U16 Tournament concluded over the weekend with Team Alberta taking the top prize. This tournament represents the future of the WHL as most of the players on these rosters have been drafted by teams in the league. The T-Birds were well represented in this tournament as prospect Nolan Volcan played for the winning club and picked up an assist in the gold medal game. Seattle's first round pick Dante Fabbro played for Team B.C. and picked up a goal and four assists in the four games he played. Fellow first round pick Kaden Elder played for Team Saskatchewan and chipped in with a goal and two assists.
Around the WHL
-- The league announced its rosters for the Subway Super Series this week. The Super Series is a series of games featuring "All-star" rosters from each of the three CHL leagues as they take on a team of Russian junior players and is a pre curser to players that are being considered for the Canadian World Junior team. The WHL will play two games against the Russians, first in Red Deer on November 27th and again the next night in Lethbridge. No T-Birds were named to the roster. Other U.S. Division players who did make the team include Eric Comrie (Tri City), Derrick Pouliot (Portland), Jujhar Khaira (Everett), Taylor Leier (Portland), Brendan Leipsic (Portland) and Nic Petan (Portland). Last year Alex Delnov played in one game of the Super Series for the Russian team. The full roster can be found here.
-- It appears there is more trouble in Lethbridge. Less than a month after Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie asked to be traded, another Hurricane wants out. This time its highly touted defenseman Ryan Pilon has asked for a trade and left the team. You may recall that Yakubowski and McKechnie had also asked for trades and were sent home by the team while a trade to Seattle was worked out. Pilon is in his draft year and has NHL potential so it will be interesting to see where he ends up. The Hurricanes are off to a tough 2-13-1-2 start to the year.
-- Seattle's next opponent, the Victoria Royals were back on the ice Wednesday night against the Edmonton Oil Kings. The good news is that the Royals mascot, Marty the Marmot, was back in action. Marty, voted Canada's Mascot of the Year, may have had a rougher weekend than the T-Birds did. During an intermission contest last weekend a fan, who lost at musical chairs, took his frustration out on the poor Marmot -- slamming him to the ice. Marty appears to have survived and the fan is facing some legal action.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
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