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.
For Seattle (13-15-2-2), the loss was its first to Portland this season and third in the last four games. The team played a much more energetic, focused and disciplined game after Friday’s 4-0 shutout loss to Tri-City.
After his poor rookie campaign, there was almost zero buzz surrounding the forward from Winnipeg, Manitoba. Two short months have changed that. The word is out, and it would be more surprising now if Kolesar weren’t a high-round selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.
Yet, despite holding a 80.8 penalty-kill percentage, good for 10th in the Western Hockey League through 25 games, Seattle has allowed four goals in 11 power-play chances over its last two games. An uncommon lapse for a team normally sound.
A late third period penalty on Seattle’s Justin Hickman led to the game-tying goal by Everett’s Graham Millar. As the 10th shooter in the shootout, Carter Cochrane scored to give the Tips a 3-2 win in the game between U.S. Division rivals.
Kozun posted 37 saves and Justin Hickman scored both regulation goals as well as the lone shootout marker to lead the Thunderbirds to an important win as it heads on a 11-day, six-game road trip through the Eastern Conference.
In spite of 38 shots on goal, Seattle could not put a puck past Vancouver (7-8) goaltender Cody Porter in a 1-0 loss to a Giants squad that entered with a four-game losing streak. Vancouver’s Alec Baer scored the decisive goal, beating Taran Kozun at 12:46 of the third period.
Seattle’s 20-year-old captain scored two goals and added two assists to lead the team with four points in its 5-3 win over Spokane.
The Thunderbirds snapped a four-game losing streak Friday night by beating U.S. Division rival Spokane 5-3 in front of 3,454 at the ShoWare Center. A second-period Mathew Barzal goal opened the floodgates for a Seattle team that was struggling to score.