(1090 The Fan) — With Taran Kozun in front of the net, the Seattle Thunderbirds look invincible.
Friday brought another game and another win for Kozun and the T-Birds as they held on for a 2-1 victory over Everett. Since the 19-year-old goaltender came over to Seattle at the January 10th trading deadline, Kozun is 7-0 with a .956 save percentage. He had another 24 saves Friday night and held the Silvertips scoreless the entire third period to make sure his team’s 1-goal lead held up.
Mathew Barzal and Ryan Gropp each had a goal and an assist to provide the scoring for the Thunderbirds.
Seattle (32-15-2-3) has now won 10 of its last 11 games. With 20 games remaining, the team has its sight firmly set on winning the U.S. Division and getting home ice for the playoffs.
It certainly helps having a goaltender who is locked in the way Kozun is right now. Kozun was asked after the game, Friday, what has inspired his turnaround. After all, he was just 5-19-2-1 with a .897 save percentage with Kamloops.
“Just the team in front of me is a little better,” said Kozun. “We play a solid defensive game night in, night out. They’re making my job easier.
“Winning’s a blast. You can’t complain about that.”
The Thunderbirds weren’t complaining as Gropp’s second period goal held up. The 17-year-old rookie forward collected a loose puck to the right of Everett goaltender Daniel Cotton and deposited it in the roof of the net at 7:21 to put Seattle ahead to stay.
The two teams traded goals in a pretty even first period. Seattle got on the board first when Barzal ricocheted a shot off Cotton’s pad and into the goal from a horrid angle on the left wing. The goal came at 13:34 to give the T-Birds a 1-0 lead.
Josh Winquist beat Kozun from the right point for his 32nd goal of the season, and the lone goal of the night for Everett, 19:05 into the first period.
The two teams came in on opposite trajectories. While Seattle remains as hot as any team in the Western Hockey League, Everett (25-19-7-1) has now lost six straight and has just five wins since the beginning of December.
With the calendar now turning to February, Seattle currently sits second in the U.S. Division standings with 69 points looking up at reigning division champion Portland with 75. The two teams meet for the eighth time this season, Saturday in Portland.
Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk has his team playing confidently and on a mission as the playoffs creep closer.
“We definitely want to battle for that home ice (advantage) in the first round,” Konowalchuk said. “Portland is not out of our sights. We have a goal and we believe we can do it.”
Motioning to his team’s locker room, the coach added: “They’re having a lot fun in there.”
1. SEA Mathew Barzal (8) (Gropp, Wardley), 13:34
2. EVT Josh Winquist (32) (Pufahl, Nikolishin), 19:07 (PP)
3. SEA Ryan Gropp (13) (Hickman, Barzal), 7:21 (PP)
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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