(1090 The Fan) — Spokane will look forward to its next month being Taran Kozun-free.
The Seattle (35-16-2-3) goaltender posted his third consecutive shutout against the Chiefs by stopping 35 shots in a 4-0 win, Friday at the ShoWare Center. In the three shutouts dating back to January 14th, Kozun has 92 saves without allowing a shot past him. It was also his fourth shutout in 10 starts with Seattle.
Whether or not Mitch Holmberg and company will admit it for Spokane (31-18-3-2), Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk commented postgame that Kozun’s efforts could be worthy of being in the heads of the Spokane skaters.
“It does a little bit, no doubt about it,” said Konowalchuk. “They have to work for their chances and when you finally get a chance…he’s there to make a big save. It can get frustrating.”
Kozun improved to 9-1 with a .962 save percentage and 1.18 goals against average in his tenure with the T-Birds. He even added an assist to take over sole possession as the leading scorer among all Western Hockey League goalies.
Ryan Gropp scored two goals, Mathew Barzal remained hot with a goal and two assists and Branden Troock scored his first goal since returning to the T-Birds’ lineup.
With the victory, the T-Birds improved to 7-0 against their cross-state rival. This one started a little slowly for the Thunderbirds in their coach’s eyes, but the team finished strongly.
“Spokane came out pretty strong in the first ten minutes,” Konowalchuk said. “They played smarter. I didn’t like the first ten minutes, we were sloppy with the puck.
“I thought we got going after that fairly good to get the lead…Pretty good solid win after the first ten minutes.”
After a scoreless first period, things opened up in the second 20-minute stanza and Seattle took advantage with a trifecta of power-play goals.
Barzal netted the first when he took an outlet pass from Shea Theodore and skated the length of the ice to beat Chiefs’ goalie Eric Williams at 6:29.
A few fights broke out at that point, with Barzal, Justin Hickman and Roberts Lipsbergs each taking five minute majors for fighting. They didn’t result in power plays, but the fights may have rattled Spokane just a little because the team responded with a couple of sloppy penalties which put them further behind.
Troock scored at 12:14 when the Chiefs’ Colton Bobyk took a high-sticking penalty at 10:59. Less than a minute later, it was Gropp finding a wide open net from the right wing with a man advantage thanks to a Matt Sozanski slashing penalty.
The T-Birds finished the night 3-for-4 on the power play while Spokane was 0-for-5.
Gropp capped the scoring with his second goal of the game on a nifty backhand attempt which he flipped over the left shoulder of Williams at 6:38 in the third period.
The two teams separate for 32 days before playing again March 11th. Spokane, which now trails Seattle by eight points for fourth place in the Western Conference race, will likely use that time to forget about Kozun whose recent dominance over the team is inexplicable even to the goalie himself.
“The first period there, a couple went through the five hole and ended up not going in and I was pretty shocked. But I guess the hockey gods are with me and everything’s working out,” said Kozun.
“It’s pretty amazing actually. I just try and do the same for every game and it seems to work out really well (against Spokane).”
1. SEA Mathew Barzal (10) (Theodore, Kozun), 6:29 (PP)
2. SEA Branden Troock (21) (Yakubowski, Henry), 12:14 (PP)
3. SEA Ryan Gropp (14) (Barzal, Hickman), 13:07 (PP)
4. SEA Ryan Gropp (15) (Barzal, Hauf), 6:38
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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