(1090 The Fan) — A big weekend began as a big letdown for Seattle as it got drubbed by I-5 rival Portland 5-2, Friday.
The two teams entered separated by just one point atop the Western Conference standings, Portland (13-3-0-1) leading with 25. After Friday night, the separation between the two teams was visibly more than that.
Brendan Leipsic and Taylor Leier each scored two goals, while the team’s co-scoring leaders, Oliver Bjorkstrand and Nic Petan, added two assists apiece to help carry the Hawks to their 10th consecutive win.
While Seattle (11-4-0-2) battled its own lethargy, the Winterhawks simply skated past them. The Hawks held a 3-0 lead before 10 minutes had been played. In fact, Seattle didn’t earn its first shot-on-goal until after the 15-minute mark, and by then Portland had all but tucked this one safely away in the win column.
Asked how frustrating the first period was, Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk did not mince words.
“Really frustrating. Guys (were) not ready to play,” Konowalchuk said. “Not too many the first period were ready to play. We weren’t physical, we were not even trying our gameplan. I thought about half of the guys were able to snap into it to give us a little bit but the other half weren’t able to get going.”
“I don’t know how we come out and have turnovers in the neutral zone almost first five shifts in a row. You’re not even ready to win, you’re not even committed to winning,” added Konowalchuk.
Leipsic, who finished tied for the WHL lead in scoring last year with 120 points, put Portland on the board early, setting the tone right away for how this pivotal early season matchup would go.
After back-to-back penalties from the T-Birds in the span of 16 seconds (Branden Troock for interference and Seth Swenson for tripping) yielded a 5-on-3 advantage, Leipsic slid to the left corner of the goal crease, and slid home a one-timer after a beautiful set up by Bjorkstrand at 3:45.
Leipsic added his second goal of the game 7:21 in, when he roofed a wrist shot from the mid-slot past T-Birds goalie Justin Myles. A minute later, defenseman Garrett Haar scored his second goal of the season on a slap shot just in front of the blue line to give the Hawks a 3-0 lead and silence the 3,557 in attendance at the ShoWare Center. Myles, who finished with 36 saves, struggled early.
A mini turning point in the second period, occurred after T-Birds defenseman Evan Wardley was sent off the ice at the 2:31 mark for leveling Hawks forward Adam De Champlain. De Champlain remained face down on the ice for several minutes and had to be helped off the ice by his teammates.
In the subsequent 5-minute major power play, the T-Birds nearly changed the tide of momentum by scoring a short-handed goal and not allowing one against. Instead, the two teams traded goals and Seattle found itself still trailing by three, 4-1.
The exchange occurred when Seattle’s Erik Benoit was unable to get the puck off of his stick after a terrific pass by teammate Seth Swenson set him up perfectly after a 2-on-1 breakaway, Instead of scoring, Benoit went down in a heap into Hawks’ goalie Brendan Burke and Portland streaked the opposite way with Leier beating Myles to make it 4-0.
Moments later, Jaimen Yakubowski did score the short-handed goal the T-Birds had been searching for, but it was too little, too late. The opportunity to turn the momentum had come and gone.
“If we get one bounce here or there, maybe it could change the game,” Seattle defenseman Shea Theodore said afterwards about the missed opportunity in the second period. “But overall we just weren’t good enough tonight.”
Seattle was out shot 41-22 on the night (trailed 32-8 after two periods) and suffered its first loss at home after starting out 6-0-0-1.
Are the players giving the reigning WHL-champion Portland squad too much respect?
“I don’t know what exactly is going through our guys’ head to have a start like that,” answered Konowalchuk. “If it’s too much respect and they’re not working hard or they just don’t want to work hard, you’re not working hard. That’s the bottom line…We talk all the time, it’s not an excuse orientated business — you either get the job done or you don’t.”
Seattle will have to get the job done Saturday in the second of two important weekend games when it travels up Interstate-5 to face its in-state rival Everett (10-3-2-0), if it hopes to maintain the momentum of the good start it has built. The Silvertips are also off to a hot start and are breathing down Seattle’s neck in the Western Conference standings.
1. POR Brendan Leipsic 9 (Bjorkstrand, Petan), 3:45 (PP)
2. POR Brendan Leipsic 10 (Petan, Texeira), 7:21
3. POR Garrett Haar 2 (Turgeon, Iverson), 8:20
4. POR Taylor Leier 10 (Bjorkstrand, De Leo), 7:01 (PP)
5. SEA Jaimen Yakubowski 2, 7:28 (SH)
6. SEA Justin Hickman 4 (Troock, Theodore), 2:55
7. POR Taylor Leier 11, 19:02 (EN)
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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