Seattle smokes Spokane


February 7, 2014, KENT (ISN) – The Seattle Thunderbirds defeated the Spokane Chiefs for the seventh time in seven meetings this season, winning 4-0 Friday night at ShoWare Center. The win puts Seattle eight points ahead of the Chiefs in the standings, as the T-Birds now stand at 35-16-2-3 while Spokane is 31-18-3-2.

Taran Kozun started for Seattle and won to make his record 14-20-2-1. Kozun recorded his second straight shutout and third straight over Spokane, stopping all 35 shots. Kozun’s record is now 9-1-0-0 with Seattle. “I try and do the same thing for every game [and] take every team the same” said Kozun about his success against Spokane.

Eric Williams was in net for Spokane and took the loss to run his record to 26-12-2-1. He was relieved by Garret Hughson after Seattle’s fourth goal, who stopped two shots.

Speed and physicality were the themes of the game in the first five minutes. Mitch Elliot had a big hit off the opening faceoff, a trend that only intensified as the game went on. This pace led to a paucity of shots, with Spokane having the only opportunity early on, followed closely by a few big hits in response by Seattle.

While both teams were able to keep the physical trend up, the Chiefs had the offensive advantage and drew the first power play with 11:48 left. The man advantage almost made good 40 seconds in when a point-blank shot made it through Kozun’s pads. Seattle’s defense kept its composure and was able to clear the puck away behind the net before Spokane could knock it home, however, to keep the score deadlocked at zero as “the hockey gods were with [us]” and helped Kozun along. Justin Hickman added a block as the penalty expired as well.

Even strength hockey’s return calmed the game down, though neither team could create another offensive push. Mathew Barzal added the T-Birds’ second shot on goal to the board at 12:44, getting turned away by Williams inches outside the crease. That shot started an offensive push by Seattle that saw five shots on goal in a minute followed by a hooking call against Spokane.

Seattle couldn’t score on the power play, but appeared to take the lead seconds after its expiration. A Ethan Bear slap shot goal was waved off immediately due to incidental contact with the goalie and the game stayed at 0-0.

Russell Maxwell nearly put the home team ahead as the period ended, stealing the puck at center ice to create a breakaway. Maxwell’s shot went wide and the period ended scoreless. Shots were 12-10 Spokane and faceoffs were 7-6 in the visitor’s favor as well.

The T-Birds started the second period on the penalty kill due to a penalty near the end of the first period. The minute of power-play time for Spokane ended silently at the beginning of the second period. Branden Troock had a 1-on-1 breakaway opportunity just as the penalty ended, but once again Seattle missed the net wide.

The third Seattle breakaway of the game was also denied by Williams. After a strong shift with multiple big hits, Jaimen Yakubowski was able to gather the puck at center ice and skate ahead of the defense, only to have Williams get his pads together in time to make the save. The ensuing faceoff win by the T-Birds ended with another power play for the home team.

Barzal opened the scoring during the man advantage. The 16-year-old skated the puck up on his own, getting past the defense on the side boards and beating Williams from inside the faceoff circle to make it 1-0 at 6:29. Shea Theodore and Kozun had the assists after collecting the puck in the defensive zone and feeding it to Barzal.

The assist was Kozun’s fourth point of the year, tops amongst all WHL goalies and one more than Williams for the Chiefs. Kozun said that he “checks in on that every once in awhile” and was happy to find himself atop that statistic.

Williams made another great save for Spokane at 9:08. The T-Birds had a 3-on-1 breakaway that ended up with Barzal and Ryan Gropp alone in front of the net, only to have Williams stop the first shot and cover up the second. The scrum that followed resulted in offsetting penalties and a fight soon after play resumed.

The home team narrowly avoided disaster soon thereafter when the puck took a strange bounce off the end boards and careened back over the net. Kozun kept his head about him and was able to ensure the puck didn’t get behind him before Seattle cleared it out and started a rush that gave them a third power play.

Once again, the power play paid dividends, giving the T-Birds a two-goal lead. Branden Troock deked from the blue line to the far side of the net before throwing it in front. The puck took a bounce off a Chief and went into the net at 12:14.

Still on the power play thanks to a delayed call just before Troock’s goal, Seattle struck again. Barzal ripped a pass through the defense and across the offensive zone to a waiting Gropp, who fired the puck into the net before Williams could slide across. Hickman had the secondary assist at 13:07.

It was the third power-play goal of the night for the T-Birds. “Specialty teams were huge” said coach Steve Konowalchuk, who noticed that the team was “working hard to get set up and shot some pucks” en route to their success.

Shots were even at 14 in the second, while faceoffs favored Seattle 13-11.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the second period’s expiration put the home team a man down to start the third. Kozun had his work cut out for him at the beginning of this penalty kill, twice having to sprawl across the crease and search through a mass of bodies for the puck. Even so, the T-Birds kept the Chiefs from scoring despite six shots, leaving the score at 3-0.

Gropp made it 4-0 at 6:38 with his second of the night. The winger collected a pass and skated across the zone before calmly flipping a backhand shot over Williams’ shoulder. Barzal and Jared Hauf had the assists.

Spokane had the first power play of the period at 13:19 after a tripping call. Nothing came of the attack thanks to the T-Birds’ penalty kill, putting the game back at even strength. The home team took the opportunity to get back on the attack, pinning the Chiefs in their own zone until the two-minute mark saw a clearance.

The game wound down with a bit of heated play, as the teams combined for 38 penalty minutes in the last two minutes. No more scoring occurred, leaving the game 4-0 in Seattle’s favor.

Shots were 9-5 Spokane in the third period and faceoffs were 7-6 Spokane.

The T-Birds don’t play again this weekend and will next play Monday against the Rockets in Kelowna at 2 pm. Seattle’s next home game is this upcoming Friday at 7:35 pm against the Tri-City Americans.

T-Birds single game tickets for the 2013-14 season are available online at the T-Birds website and at the ShoWare Center box office. The ShoWare Center Box Office is open Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday game days at 10 a.m. and Sunday game days at noon.

T-Birds season tickets are currently on sale. Season tickets can be purchased by calling the T-Birds office at 253-239-7825.


First period – No scoring. Penalties – Theodore, Seattle (interference), 8:12. Hascic, Spokane (hooking), 14:04. Lipsbergs, Seattle (cross-checking), 19:07.

Second period – 1, Seattle, Barzal 10 (Theodore, Kozun), 6:29 (pp). 2, Seattle, Troock 21 (Yakubowski, Henry), 12:14 (pp). 3, Seattle, Gropp 14 (Barzal, Hickman), 13:07 (pp). Penalties – Sozanski, Spokane (hooking), 5:07. Gow, Spokane (roughing), 9:08. Chartier, Spokane (roughing), 9:08. Hickman, Seattle (roughing), 9:08. Barzal, Seattle (roughing), 9:08. Proft, Spokane (charging), 9:29. Proft, Spokane (major-fighting), 9:29. Lipsbergs, Seattle (instigator), 9:29. Lipsbergs, Seattle (major-fighting), 9:29. Lipsbergs, Seattle (10-minute misconduct), 9:29. Bobyk, Spokane (high-sticking), 10:59. Sozanski, Spokane (slashing), 12:14. Hickman, Seattle (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00.

Third period – 4, Seattle, Gropp 15 (Barzal, Hauf), 6:38. Penalties – Troock, Seattle (tripping), 13:19. Proft, Spokane (roughing), 18:33. Proft, Spokane (major-fighting), 18:33. Whittingham, Spokane (major-fighting), 18:33. Yakubowski, Seattle (major-fighting), 18:33. Wardley, Seattle (major-fighting), 18:33. Wardley, Seattle (instigator), 18:33. Wardley, Seattle (game misconduct), 18:33. Elliot, Seattle (high-sticking), 18:45. Helewka, Spokane (interference), 19:38.

Shots on goal – Seattle 10-14-5 29, Spokane 12-14-9 35. Goalies – Seattle, Kozun 35 shots-35 saves (14-20-2-1); Spokane, Williams 27-23 (26-12-2-1), Hughson 2-2. Power plays – Seattle 3-4; Spokane 0-5. A – 3,957. Referees – Adam Griffiths, Jeff Ingram. Linesmen – Kevin Boris, Tim Digby.