Seattle (23-19-3-3) picked up an important victory over Spokane Sunday to claim sole possession of third place in the U.S. division only to surrender a late lead in Kamloops Wednesday. The team travels to Prince George for a pair of weekend games still searching for consistency.
When the season began, Lipsbergs was a part of a large contingent of players vying for the three overage spots on the T-Birds’ roster. Ultimately, Lipsbergs was forced to leave. Hickman’s injury opened up the opportunity to return, one that he jumped at.
Taran Kozun’s 2.23 goals against average in 32 starts through January 4 is tops among all qualified Western Hockey League netminders. That reliability between the pipes has kept Seattle (20-16-2-3) in nearly every game, giving it hope for an aggressive playoff push in the second half.
The 19-year-old forward was acquired from Prince Albert Thursday by the T-Birds in exchange for a conditional sixth-round selection in either the 2015 or 2016 Bantam Draft.
Despite being without 40 percent of its scoring at one point, Seattle went 5-1 in the first six games out of the holiday break to climb into the sixth position in the Western Conference standings.
Rookies Donovan Neuls and Nolan Volcan provided the goals and goaltender Taran Kozun posted 24 saves to lift the Thunderbirds to their sixth consecutive win Friday.
Keegan Kolesar scored two goals and added an assist to lead Seattle (17-15-2-2) to just its second win in five games against division-leading Everett (21-11-3-1). Ethan Bear had a late goal to go with two assists, and reserve goaltender Danny Mumaugh had 28 saves in his sixth start.
Ryan Gropp and Jerret Smith each had a goal and an assist while goaltender Taran Kozun provided 22 saves to lead the Thunderbirds to their fourth win in five games against their rival.
Down their top two centers in Mathew Barzal (lower body) and Alexander True, the latter competing in the 2014 World Junior Challenge for Team Denmark, the Thunderbirds moved captain Justin Hickman to the center position on their top line.
Just as thoughts of a disastrous first-half conclusion began forming, Seattle (14-15-2-2) answered with two late goals from Donovan Neuls and Ryan Gropp to earn a 5-4 victory in front of 5,099 at the ShoWare Center.