Monday, October 28, 2013 @ 8:17pm
Seth Swenson had a good weekend and is off to a solid start for Seattle (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
It was another busy weekend for the Seattle Thunderbirds filled with a lot of noteworthy items. News broke late last week that the team made a block buster move to bring in Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie from Lethbridge - a move which will make them one of the more deeper teams in the league.
We also saw the debut of Ryan Gropp and the team won a game and lost one in a shoot out.
Who was good this weekend? Here are our three stars of the week.
Third Star - Ryan Gropp
There had been a lot of anticipation to see Ryan Gropp in a Seattle uniform and last Friday night we finally got a look at him. He didn't disappoint. On his first shift in his first game he found the back of the net to beat Eric Comrie. He had a pretty solid game in Tri City and probably should have an assist if not for Brandon Troock missing a wide open net. He also made a strong drive to the net in the third period and forced a hooking penalty. Steve Konowlahcuk also showed that he had trust in the young rookie as he selected him to take the last shoot out attempt.
Second Star - Keegan Kolesar
The first WHL goal party continued on Saturday night as Kolesar lit the red light for the first time with a power play goal early in the game against Vancouver. He added an assist later in the game and continues his strong play in his rookie season. Along with his two points against the Giants he also had a strong game Friday night against Tri City. As he continues to grow and get stronger he will be a force on the ice. The future looks bright for the big power forward and he may have just turned in his best weekend of the season and gets our second star.
First Star - Seth Swenson
Swenson is one of Seattle's three 20-year-olds this year and a lot is expected of him. So far he has not dissapointed. In many ways he is a jack of all trades, doing what ever is needed of him by the club. He is the team's top penalty killer and can play on the shut down line or play on a scoring line -- something he's done both of this year. This weekend he chipped in with three goals in the two weekend games. His first goal against Vancouver on Saturday was an example of the nice hands the big Colorado native possesses as he weaved his way through the defense and fired a wrist shot. He cinched the game away with an empty net goal and it should be no surprise that Swenson was on the ice at the most important part of the game.
So far this year Swenson has seven goals and is a plus-3 which is key since he is often matched up with the other team's top offensive lines. For his three goal weekend Swenson gets our first star of the week.
This week's honorable mention goes to a guy who only played in one game. The fact that Jaimen Yakubowski was in the lineup was noteworthy as he didn't arrive in Kent until after 4 PM for a seven o'clock game. After a quick skate with assistant coach Tyler Alos Yakubowski was ready to go. Playing for a new team, with unfamiliar teammates he played hard, with energy and was engaged from the start. While he didn't score he did get in a fight and was a factor all night.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Saturday, October 26, 2013 @ 9:40pm
Seattle's Keegan Kolesar parks in front of the Vancouver net during the T-Birds 5-3 win (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT - The Seattle Thunderbirds returned home Saturday night and came away with a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Giants. Seattle got two goals from Seth Swenson and 41 saves from Justin Myles to hold off the Giants and pick up their tenth win of the season.
A night after dropping a game where they didn't play well the T-Birds were happy to bounce back.
"That (bouncing back) is huge," Seth Swenson said afterwards. "Those losses are going to happen, there's always going to be close games, its nice to have an answer after that one instead of dwelling on it."
The T-Birds got on the board quickly in this one with an early power play goal by Keegan Kolesar as he banged in a loose puck in front of the net. It was Kolesar's first career WHL goal and came seven seconds into the Seattle power play. Kolesar has been getting regular shifts with the power play unit where he generally parks his large frame in front of the net - Saturday it paid off as he scored the greasy goal.
"It's not the most glamorous position on the power play," the rookie said of playing in front. "I'm happy, I like it, get some ice out there and when I get my chance I try to finish and just bear down."
Seattle (10-3-0-2) kept pushing and scored a couple of minutes later as Seth Swenson bullied his way through traffic and beat Vancouver goalie Peyton Lee with a wrist shot. The T-Birds appeared to be on their way to a dominant period until they got into some penalty trouble.
Coming off a game in Tri City where penalties changed the momentum the T-Birds took three consecutive penalties in the first and allowed Vancouver (3-9-1-1) back into the game when Travis McEvoy found a loose puck and beat Justin Myles. The goal brought the Giants to within one and the lead in shots on goal.
Unlike Friday night the T-Birds were able to pick up their game and drew a late power play after high sticking was called on Trent Lofthouse. Seattle again wasted no time on the power play and extended their lead when Shea Theodore fired a wrist shot that found its way through traffic and into the Vancouver net.
It was Seattle's second power play goal in as many tries and was refreshing after a night where they power play let them down. Both of the power play goals came early into the penalties with the T-Birds picking up both goals on only 15 seconds of power play time.
"It was good to have them (the power play) bounce back after a game that the power play could have been a deciding factor," Steve Konowalchuk said. "Yesterday we had some point shots but we weren't in front (of the net). We thought we were but we were a foot off to the side...today it was get back and make sure we just shoot everything."
The T-Birds had a two goal lead going into the second period and extended it early as Roberts Lipsbergs slid a puck past Lee to give Seattle what seemed like a comfortable 4-1 lead. It was Lipsbergs team leading 11th goal of the season.
It was at this point of the game when the T-Birds started taking penalties. Once again they gave Vancouver momentum and after two Carter Popoff power play goals, one in the second and another early in the third, suddenly the game was tight.
"It was a good start," Konowalchuk said. "That's the bottom line, you can win a lot of hockey games with a good start. The middle part of that game I thought we put in about as minimal amount of effort you can and get by. You play with fire when that happens."
Vancouver had clearly gained some momentum at that point and that's when Myles stood tall, keeping Vancouver at bay until Swenson put the game away with an empty net goal with under a minute left in the game. It was Swenson's second of the game and came a week after he was on the ice when the T-Birds went off sides on what would have been an easy empty net goal during their loss to Prince George last week.
"This one went a lot smoother to say the least," Swenson said with a laugh.
Saturday night was also the debut of newly acquired Jaimen Yakubowski who along with Sam McKechnie were picked up from Lethbridge earlier in the week. The two players arrived in Kent at 4:15 Saturday afternoon, took a quick skate and Yakubowski felt ready to play. Konowlachuk didn't hesitate to put him in the lineup.
"I asked him if he wanted to play and he said 'yeah', " Konowalchuk said of his new player. "He definitely helped us, Troocky got bumped up there and he went in on their line and that was our most dependable defensive line in the third period. It was a great job by him and I sure like the spark and energy he brings."
Seattle is on the ice next against the Brandon Wheat Kings on Tuesday at the ShoWare Center.
Brandon Troock left the ice in pain late in the second period. He did not return and Konowalchuk did not know the extent of his injuries.
A night after surrendering six power play chances to Tri City the T-Birds gave Vancouver seven more on Saturday. Taking penalties is a trend that has plagued Seattle somewhat as only four teams in the WHL have given up more power play chances than Seattle has.
McKechnie did not play according to Konowalchuk because he had not been able to skate as much as Yakubowski had while the two players were home awaiting a trade from Lethbridge.
Tuesday's opponents, the Brandon Wheat Kings, are led in net by Connor Honey's twin brother Curtis Honey. Needless to say you can bet Connor would relish a chance to play against his brother but Konowalchuk said his chances of returning were a 'long shot'.
Yakubowski saw plenty of ice time, did not figure in the scoring but did get in a fight and played hard all night.
Roberts Lipsbergs is off to a 'Cy Young' start. The baseball moniker is often given to hockey players who score a lot of goals without assists, thus having their stat line read like a baseball pitchers win-loss record. Lipsberg's reads 11-5. Cy Young indeed.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide.
Saturday, October 26, 2013 @ 4:52am
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
Thursday, October 24, 2013 @ 8:49pm
Jaimen Yakubowski scored 32 goals and added 18 assists last season for Lethbridge (WHL.ca photo)
By Tim Pigulski
The Thunderbirds announced another blockbuster move on Thursday evening, acquiring 19-year-old forwards Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam Mckechnie from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for 19-year old forward Riley Sheen, 17-year-old forward Carter Folk, and a third-round draft choice.
Reports are that Lethbridge General Manager Brad Robson had spoken to at least 15 teams regarding his two forwards and had narrowed that list down to five earlier in the week, including the Thunderbirds.
"The advantage we had [over other teams] is that we had a [19-year-old] and they wanted players to play right now," said Seattle GM Russ Farwell. "They didn't want just futures. There's not a lot of depth in the league so it's hard to give up players who can play right now. If you want to add a 19, you have to give one up, which put a lot of teams out of the running. I think we had a little more that Lethbridge was looking for. We were maybe a little more motivated to do it and we got on it right away."
Yakubowski and Mckechnie had both been sent home last week after requesting trades from the Hurricanes. Neither had been able to get their offensive games going for a Lethbridge team that currently sits in last place in the Eastern Conference with a 2-11-0-1 record, which included a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Thunderbirds on Oct. 5.
"Both of these guys have real solid reputations, character-wise," said Farwell of the two newest T-Birds. "[Being sent home] in this case didn't influence our decision much, although it usually does. Guys often ask for trades and walk out on their team, and that's not usually something that makes them more attractive. I thought things transpired differently here though. They asked for a trade and their coach chose to send them home; they didn't try and force it. We have scouts who knew their history and we felt we knew enough that it wasn't going to be an issue."
Last season Yakubowski, a 5 feet 11, 202 pound left wing, scored 50 points in 66 games, including 32 goals, to go along with 126 penalty minutes.
"We just didn't think we were deep enough in some areas, on our special teams and in some other areas," acknowledged Farwell. "Yakubowski is a 30-goal scorer and also had 14 fighting majors. He plays with a real grit and his style will fit in and be good for us."
Mckechnie tallied 43 points on 26 goals and 17 assists while playing in all 72 games. Before this year, the Airdrie, Alberta native had not missed a single game while playing two full seasons with the Hurricanes.
"He's a real worker and responsible guy on both sides of the puck," said Farwell of Mckechnie. "He'll fit in real well and add to our special teams. Both guys will fill out our roster and give it a more complete feel. We can put together four very solid lines now."
Sheen, a talented left wing acquired prior to last season from Medicine Hat, arrived in Seattle with an offensive pedigree but this season displayed not only a strong defensive acumen, but the willingness to accept any he was assigned.
"Sheen had been good and he was a hard guy for us to give up," said Farwell. "He was a key guy for us to trade to get these two guys, and it's hard to get something without giving something up."
Folk, on the other hand, hadn't seen much playing time this year but displayed a fearlessness that any team would be glad to have.
"I think he's going to develop and be a very hard guy to play against, but he wasn't playing here and had we added anyone he just wasn't going to get an opportunity. He's been a good soldier here, but just because of where we're at as a team, it didn't look like there was going to be much playing time for him."
The trade shows that the Thunderbirds are planning on making a big run this year, likely fueled by a fast start and the recent addition of Ryan Gropp, as well as defenseman Adam Henry, a former teammate of Yakubowski and Mckechnie's in Lethbridge. Sitting at 9-3-0-1 and tied for fourth place in the Western Conference, the acquisition of two more players with two-way potential will put Seattle in an even better position to dethrone the Portland Winterhawks as the class of the U.S. Division.
"[The trade] says we think our team is competitive and has a chance," said Farwell when asked of his expectations. "But we didn't think we were quite there yet. This just looked like a good move for us to give us a chance and keep us in the race. We have to grow and we haven't won anything yet, and these guys didn't come from a winning situation so we're not expecting them to lead us, but the character is strong enough that we think they can grow with us and we felt they were good additions. We've shown we're competitive and I don't know if there's a more physical team in our division, and I think that's how we're going to be successful."
The main concern with this trade seems to be that the Thunderbirds have further cluttered their 19-year-old age class, currently occupied by forwards Justin Hickman, Connor Honey, Branden Troock, and defensemen Henry and Evan Wardley. Import picks Alex Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs, both 19 as well, appear unlikely to be with the team during their overage seasons. As the league only allows a team to carry three 20-year-olds, the roster will look very different next season than it does now.
"The last couple of years, the prices have gotten so expensive at the deadline that we just thought that now might be the time to act and fill out or team rather than later. We originally inquired for one player, and then eventually asked what it'd take to get both." said Farwell of the package he received. "They weren't offered as a package deal, but Carter was really attractive to them and this trade really fills out our team in a way that gives us real balance and allows us to come at you from a number of different ways."
Having missed a bit of time due to being sent home, it's unlikely that we'll see either player suit up. Certainly not Friday, according to Farwell, but Saturday remains a slim possibility, with Tuesday remaining the goal.
"They haven't been practicing so we'd like to see them practice and get out there with the team. Depends how quickly they get going. Saturday isn't impossible, but definitely not Friday."
The Thunderbirds now feature a roster laden with veterans and four lines that should be able to match up against any team's best. After a stronger start than most expected, Seattle continues to build on a foundation that looks like it's ready to compete sooner rather than later.
Follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski.
Thursday, October 24, 2013 @ 5:08pm
Riley Sheen will be chasing pucks for Lethbridge after Thursday's trade from Seattle (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
Seattle Thunderbirds General Manager Russ Farwell on Thursday announced a block-buster trade involving four players. Seattle has acquired 19-year-old forwards Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam McKechnie from the Lethbridge Hurricanes in exchange for Riley Sheen, Carter Folk and a third round pick in the 2015 Bantam Draft.
Yakubowski and McKechnie were two of Lethbridge's top scorers last year as Yakubowski potted 32 goals and 50 points. McKechnie chipped in 26 goals and 43 points for the Hurricanes. The point totals were good for second and third on the team in scoring and first and second in goal scoring.
The Hurricanes are off to a horrible start on the ice and turmoil off it. Both Yakubowski and McKechnie had requested trades from the club and elected to return home until a trade was made. The situation in Lethbridge appears to be a pretty negative one when two of your returning leading scorers want out at the same time. Neither player had been off to a great start to this year - each with one goal a piece.
In return the T-Birds are losing Sheen who is coming off his best week of the season and had three goals and eight points in 12 games with Seattle this year. He is the key piece going back to Lethbridge and Seattle will have to find someone to bring the energy and hard work that he brought every night. Folk had appeared in seven games for Seattle and had yet to register a point.
This is the second trade that Seattle and Lethbridge have consummated with each other. Seattle picked up defenseman Adam Henry two weeks ago in exchange for defenseman Griffin Foulk. After his first home game with Seattle Henry was all smiles to be with the T-Birds which may say a lot about the situation with the Hurricanes.
Tim Pigulski will have more analysis on this trade later on tonight so check back with us for that.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Tuesday, October 22, 2013 @ 7:37pm
Riley Sheen had a strong week for the T-Birds (photo Seattle Thunderbirds)
By Andrew Eide
Our three stars feature returns this week after taking a Ryan Gropp inspired break last week. With the big news breaking last Wednesday there was a lot of excitement for an already exciting season. The T-Birds had an up and down week that saw them drop games they probably shouldn't have and ended the weekend with a solid 6-3 win against Swift Current.
Despite the two losses there were some good performances from Seattle players this week. Here are our three stars of the week - feel free to tell us who you're three stars were.
Third Star - Shea Theodore
The T-Birds star defenseman had a good week for Seattle as he picked up a goal and three assists. He has had a strong start to the year and has a nice four game point streak -- along with points in seven out of his last nine games. Since returning from Anaheim the first round draft pick looks stronger at both ends of the ice. He mentioned after Saturday's game that he learned some tricks from the NHL defenseman he played with in the Ducks camp. That is all good news for Seattle as Theodore is off to a hot start and is always a candidate to take a game over.
Second Star - Mathew Barzal
It's unclear what is more impressive about Barzal's start to his rookie year. Is it the fact that he leads the team in scoring with 19 points? Is the fact that he also leads the team in plus/minus with an impressive plus-10. Whichever it is the young center had a solid week again making plays for the T-Birds. He ended the week picking up four points in the three games as he continued to set up his teammates in good scoring areas. Barzal is now carrying an eight game point streak into this weekend's games -- that's pretty impressive as well.
First Star - Riley Sheen
Sheen was Seattle's best player in their loss at Kamploops last week and he carried that great play into the weekend. He was rewarded with a promotion to the Branden Troock-Alex Delnov line and he stepped up with two goals and an assist. Sheen has always displayed tremendous offensive acumen, but along with that he has been a versatile player for Steve Konowalchuk. He kills penalties, he is aggressive on the forecheck and often is asked to shut down the opponents top lines. Our own Tim Pigulski asked him about his role with the team after Saturday's game against Swift Current.
"I like to fashion myself as a two-way player," Sheen said. "I try to play both ends of the ice well and contribute offensively when I can. Steve (Konowalchuk) says we've got to keep it tight in our own end, try to do the right things back there and a strong defense leads to a strong offense."
Sheen is off to a good start with eight points in the team's first 12 games to go along with his fine defensive play.
Russ Farwell - It's not often that we give the general manager of the team a star but with the arrival of Ryan Gropp to Seattle we have to recognize Farwell here. There was a ton of speculation and gnashing of teeth over whether or not the former first round bantam pick was going to come to Seattle. Farwell stayed the course, kept the lines of communication open and accepting and finally was able to land their guy.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Saturday, October 19, 2013 @ 9:15pm
By Andrew Eide
KENT - A night after letting a lead slip away against Prince George, the Seattle Thunderbirds learned from their mistakes and held on to beat the Swift Current Broncos 6-3 on Saturday night at the ShoWare Center in Kent. Seattle built a three-goal lead only to see the Broncos cut it to one before Seattle put the game away in the third period with two goals.
Seattle picked up goals from six different players, and Justin Myles made 24 saves to pick up the win.
The win was a nice rebound from Friday night when the Thunderbirds gave up two goals in the last three minutes to Prince George en route to a shoot-out loss. After building a 4-1 lead in the second period the T-Birds saw Swift Current strike twice to cut the lead to one - this time Seattle buckled down and held on for the win.
"It was huge," Shea Theodore said. "We kind of let that one slide in the third period against P.G., so our goal going into today, especially the third period, was to to hold that lead. We did the right things and got the win."
The two teams only play once a year and in the first period it seemed like the two clubs were feeling each other out. Steve Konowalchuk called it a "chess match," and despite the Broncos scoring first on a Colby Cave goal Seattle played pretty well.
In the second period, however, the T-Birds poured on the pressure. Justin Hickman got into a fight with Bobby Zinkan a minute into the period and that seemed to spark the team. The T-Birds started controlling the play, got their forecheck going and tilted the ice.
"I thought at the end of the first period we got a few big hits that I think carried over into the second period," Konowalchuk said. "I thought physically we paid a price, we finished our checks, were hard on pucks and I think we wore them down throughout the game."
Seattle tied the game up when Riley Sheen deflected a Jerret Smith shot past Swift Current goalie Landon Bow. It was the second game in a row that Sheen has scored as he has played well this past week - even getting promoted to the Brandon Troock-Alex Delnov line.
"I just got back to basics," Sheen said. "Kind of kept things simple and pucks are just starting to fall my way. I'm finding the net and my teammates out there."
Seattle didn't relent after that goal as it scored three more times in the second on goals by Seth Swenson, Troock and Roberts Lipsbergs. It seemed like the game was all wrapped up until Julius Honka's slap shot beat Myles with less than a minute in the second to cut the lead.
The Broncos pushed the play early in the third and picked up another goal by Coda Gordon nine minutes in, and suddenly the strong sense of deja vu was in the air.
Saturday night was different, though, as Seattle got back into its game and four minutes later Jared Hauf blasted a shot from the point that found net and gave the 3,269 fans in attendance reason to cheer again. Justin Hickman potted a goal from the slot a minute later and the game was clinched.
"Our guys stayed composed," Konowalchuk said about the game getting close. "We went back at it. You could hear it on the bench from guys (saying) 'we're fine'. When it's that soon that something like that (Friday's game) happened, it's in your mind a little bit but the guys kept playing. It was good, a little bit of adversity there but the guy's buckled down, it was a good learning experience."
Like they have for a majority of the young season, Seattle got contributions from up and down its roster. Its six goals were scored by six different players, which speaks to their depth. Theodore didn't score but picked up two assists and was plus-3 on the night. Since returning from the Anaheim Ducks camp he has been strong for Seattle and is off to a start that could lead to a monster season.
"Coming from an NHL camp I've felt stronger," the defenseman said. "I've really tried to build off my start and I'm still going strong."
The T-Birds ended the weekend on a good note and after dropping Friday night's game are back on track. It was a solid bounce-back win against a good team from the Eastern Conference and Seattle ends up picking up three of the four possible points this weekend.
"We had a good week here of practice," Konowalchuk said. "We're still working on some stuff, but it makes it much more enjoyable to come to the rink."
Seattle's next game is Friday, Oct. 25, in Tri City for the fourth meeting already between the two clubs.
Mathew Barzal picked up an assist in the game and now has an eight-game point streak going for himself. He continues to lead the club in scoring, which is impressive for a 16-year-old rookie, and is plus-10 on the season.
Coming into the game it was thought that special teams might play a big role in the out come. Swift Current has one of the best power plays in the league but has struggled killing penalties. However, as the game played out there were very few power-play chances for either team - both had two power plays and did not convert.
Saturday's game was the return of former T-Birds Connor Sanvido and Andrew Johnson. Sanvido played three full seasons for Seattle and picked up an assist in the game.
With its six goals scored on Saturday Seattle is now averaging more than four goals per game, and only the Portland Winterhawks have scored more goals on the season. Seattle has found the twine 53 times.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andyeide
Friday, October 18, 2013 @ 10:13pm
Seattle's Branden Troock carries the puck during the T-Birds 5-4 loss Friday (photo Seattle Thundberbirds)
By Andrew Eide
KENT - The Thunderbirds kicked one away Friday night. Leading 4-2 with under three minutes left in the game they allowed the Prince George Cougars to score two goals to tie it and go on to win in the shoot out 5-4. This is one that Seattle should have had.
"We gave two points away and lost a point for ourselves," Steve Konowalchuk said of the loss. "Tough way to lose it when you've got a two goal lead there in the last couple of minutes in the game."
Seattle scored what appeared to be the game clinching goal with just over three minutes left when Justin Hickman fed a pretty pass to rookie Ethan Bear on the doorstep to beat Cougars goalie Ty Edmonds. It was Bear's first career WHL goal and gave Seattle (8-3-0-1) what should have been the winner.
The Cougars didn't relent however.
Prince George (6-6-0-1) scored less than a minute later when Klarc Wilson chipped the puck over Seattle goalie Danny Mumaugh to cut the lead back to one. With Edmonds out of the net for the extra skater the Cougars attacked the Seattle zone and Troy Bourke's managed a shot that was initially stopped by Mumaugh but trickled just over the goal line to tie the game.
"You know they're going to come at you," Steve Konowalchuk said after the game. "You've got to be smart and know your assignments, we should do a better job of closing out the game. You have to give them (Prince George) credit, they didn't quit playing."
Seattle started the game much the same way they played in Kamloops - sloppy. The Cougars controlled the early play and picked up the first eight shots of the period. They also got the early goal when rookie Jansen Harkins put back his own rebound for an early 1-0 Prince George lead.
The T-Birds tried to get some energy back into the period with some big open ice hits from defenseman Evan Wardley who was back after missing four games with an injury. That gave Seattle a little bit of life back but it wasn't until they got a couple of power play chances before they picked up their tempo.
Seattle was on their first power play when Brandon Troock stick handled through the Prince George defense and drew a second penalty. On the resulting five-on-three Shea Theodore hit Roberts Lipsbergs with a laser pass on the door step. Lipsbergs doesn't miss from there and collected his ninth goal. More importantly he gave Seattle some life.
"We did start slow," Justin Hickman said. "I thought we found our legs and we picked it up in the second ten. I thought we carried the play for most of the first after the ten minute mark. Another start, mental errors, not being prepared."
In the second period the T-Birds came out strong led by Troock who was physical and plowed his way in on the net but lost the puck. The puck went to Erik Benoit in the slot who fired it past Edmonds to give the T-Birds the lead.
Seattle was feeling good at that point but one shift changed the momentum. Prince George had Seattle's fourth line trapped in their own end for what felt like an eternity. The shift ended with a Seattle penalty that the Cougars cashed in on when Chase Witala fired a shot past Mumaugh.
Suddenly the T-Birds found themselves back on their heels.
Riley Sheen got the momentum back in their favor late in the period when his pass attempt was blocked and rebounded right back to him. He whistled a wrist shot past Edmonds to give the T-Birds a lead just before the end of the second. It was a strong night for Sheen as he played with a lot of energy and got rewarded with the goal - giving the T-Birds a one goal lead going into the third period.
After the third period dramatics the teams went to the shoot out and both goalies made things tough. Edmonds and Mumaugh matched each other as it took six shooters to settle the whole thing with Jordan Tkatch converting for the win.
Seattle now has dropped two games in a row to teams that are below them in the standings. That is not a trend that they want to continue with moving forward.
"We've got to have a short memory loss here," Hickman said. "We still got away with the point but we've got to be better tomorrow. Swift Current is a good team and they're going to come in and not give us anything so we've got to come out prepared to get the two points tomorrow."
The T-Birds won't have long to wallow in this loss as the Swift Current Broncos come to the ShoWare Center Saturday night. The Broncos have been an early season surprise and will be another tough match up for the T-Birds.
After a tough loss like Friday night, getting to play the next night may be the perfect fix.
"It will be good to get right back at it," Konowalchuk said. "I think guys are ready to get going and get jumping in there."
Seattle and Swift Current face off at 7:05 Saturday night.
The two teams combined to put 95 shots on goal Friday night. Ty Edmonds made 40 saves while Mumaugh stopped 46 shots.
Seattle's power play had been scuffling a bit for them but Friday night they went 2-for-4 and looked like they had some good chemistry.
The overtime game was the third time in four games at home that have gone to a shoot out. It is also the second time that Seattle has surrendered a game-tying goal late at home. It was also Seattle's fifth overtime game on the season - tops in the WHL.
Swift Current lost at Portland Friday night by a score of 5-4. Like Seattle they now have lost two in a row setting up a game Saturday between two desperate teams.
The anticipation of seeing Ryan Gropp make his T-Birds debut will have to wait a bit. He is still nursing a lower body injury and most likely won't play Saturday against Swift Current.
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