(1090 The Fan) — A strong 65-minute effort from Seattle wasn’t enough against one of the top teams in the league, Tuesday night, as it fell 4-3 to Kelowna in a sudden-death shootout.
The Rockets survived a two goal shoot-out deficit by storming back with three straight saves and goals on 3-of-4 attempts with Tyson Baillie providing the game-winner in front of 4,671 at the ShoWare Center. Jackson Whistle had 43 saves and Ryan Olsen had a goal and an assist to lead Kelowna (16-2-0-2).
It was a hard-fought, close battle all night between two of the top Western Conference squads coming in, Kelowna taking the 50-46 shots-on-goal edge. Kelowna entered with the best winning percentage and riding an 8-game winning streak.
The Rockets looked every bit as good as their record indicates. It took one of Seattle’s most complete efforts all season to earn a single point.
Seattle (12-8-1-3) spent nearly half the final period in the penalty box, yet killed off all nine minutes to keep the game tied and give itself a chance to win.
“Huge kill, huge kill. We didn’t really give them much at all…everybody buckled down,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said regarding his team’s penalty kill effort in the third period.
The game was tied at 2-2 entering the third period, but a couple quick shots from the Rockets had T-Birds goalie Danny Mumaugh scrambling and Madison Bowey capitalized to give the Rockets a 3-2 lead. Mumaugh finished with 47 saves on the night, but came up just one short.
The T-Birds answered late on their final power-play opportunity when Alexander Delnov deposited a rebound for his ninth goal of the season. With the game tied at 3-3, suddenly Seattle found itself spending an inordinate amount of time in the penalty box and unable to score the go-ahead goal.
It all started with a scary-looking hit from Roberts Lipsbergs on Kelowna defenseman Mitchell Wheaton behind the Rockets’ goal. Wheaton turned into Lipsbergs and lowered his head just as Lipsbergs collided with him against the glass. The hit left Wheaton on the ice for an extended period of time before he was carted off, and left Seattle on a 5-minute major with Lipsbergs sent to the locker room.
Seattle stood up to the challenge. Not only did it kill off the major, it killed off a subsequent Justin Hickman hooking penalty and eventually forced overtime. The overtime period was filled with several good chances and excellent hockey plays from both sides, only to end scoreless.
In the shootout, Mathew Barzal and Branden Troock scored for Seattle to put the team quickly ahead 2-0, however Justin Kirkland swept in from the left side of the ice and beat Mumaugh to keep the Rockets alive. A subsequent stop from Whistle on Shea Theodore and a Damon Severson goal, sent the shootout to sudden death. Baillie ended it two shooters later.
The loss was a difficult one for Hickman and the rest of the Thunderbirds’ squad to stomach against a team that it has had some serious battles against the past 12 months, most notably in last year’s playoff series.
“Against Kelowna we always know it’s going to be a good, long game and I thought for the most part we were good tonight,” said Hickman. “We played 65 minutes tonight…It sucks that we lost and we have two big tests this weekend again and we are going to come out hungry to get four points.”
Ryan Gropp scored at the 11:22 mark to give Seattle a 1-0 lead. Kelowna answered with a power-play goal from Severson at the end of the period — 19 seconds remaining — to tie the score at 1-1.
The two teams traded power-play goals in the second, with Kelowna taking a brief 2-1 lead thanks to its goal from Olsen at 10:28. It was Lipsbergs, though, whose diving reach for a rebound evened the score at 2-2 and put Seattle squarely back in the game.
“The guys battled hard. It was a good hockey game and I thought both teams played hard,” Konowalchuk said. “They brought their ‘A’ game and we brought a pretty good game as well. Unfortunately, we had to lose in a shootout.”
1. SEA Ryan Gropp 2 (Eansor), 11:22
2. KEL Damon Severson 6 (Merkley, Olsen), 19:41 (PP)
3. KEL Ryan Olsen 6 (Chartier, Stadel), 10:28 (PP)
4. SEA Roberts Lipsbergs 13 (Theodore, Troock), 13:55 (PP)
5. KEL Madison Bowey 9 (Goulbourne, Martin), 0:23
6. SEA Alexander Delnov 9 (Henry), 2:44 (PP)
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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