Chiefs chop T-Birds


March 11, 2014, KENT (ISN) – The Spokane Chiefs defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds 6-4 Tuesday night at ShoWare Center. It was the first time this season that Seattle has lost to Spokane, making the season series 7-1-0-0 in the T-Birds’ favor.

Seattle’s record is now 40-23-2-4 after the loss, while Spokane moves to 39-24-3-3. The T-Birds have a two-point lead on the Chiefs for the fourth spot in the Western Conference with three games left to play for each team. Spokane plays the Everett Silvertips tomorrow, while Seattle does not play again until Friday, at home against the Portland Winterhawks. Everett is currently in the sixth spot and is five points behind Seattle and three points behind Spokane. A win by the Chiefs tomorrow would put them tied with the T-Birds in the standings, though Seattle would have one less game played.

In net for Seattle was Taran Kozun, who stopped 37 of 42 shots faced and is now 18-27-2-2. Kozun is 13-8-0-1 in his 22 games with Seattle this year. Eric Williams stopped 30 shots for Spokane, getting the win to make his record 32-17-2-2.

It took a few minutes for the T-Birds to find their offense, but a prolonged battle along the boards paid off in the home team’s favor two minutes in, giving them the game’s first power play. Mathew Barzal found Branden Troock on the doorstep during this man advantage, but Troock was in the midst of losing his balance and couldn’t get a good shot off. Spokane kept the T-Birds from garnering much else offensively during the power play.

Alexander Delnov just missed giving Seattle the lead at the five-minute mark. An attempted clearance by Williams bounced off a defenseman and went straight to Delnov, who ripped a shot from the slot. The shot beat Williams but bounced off the crossbar and to the boards, keeping the game scoreless.

Spokane scored first, taking the lead at 8:18. Riley Whittingham got the puck across the crease to Dominic Zwerger, who redirected it into the open net as Kozun attempted to slide across. Whittingham and Carter Proft had the assists on the goal that made it 1-0.

Delnov tied the game soon thereafter with a goal at 10:19. A two-man breakout saw Troock pass to Delnov, who took a shot from near the boards as Troock crashed the net to screen Williams. The puck slipped between Williams’ pads to make it 1-1.

Sam McKechnie quickly gave the T-Birds the lead, scoring under a minute later. Jaimen Yakubowski chased the puck to the end boards and threw it back towards the faceoff dot. McKechnie collected it and snapped it toward the net just as it passed the red line, beating Williams before he could get to the post. Yakubowski had the only assist on McKechnie’s seventh goal of the season, coming at 10:42.

Adam Helewka of Spokane tied the game again, scoring at 12:16 for the game’s third goal in a minute. Connor Chartier and Evan Fiala had the assists on the goal, giving Fiala an assist in his first ever WHL game.

The period calmed down in terms of scoring from there. Seattle had a few more chances in the later half, as did Spokane near the period’s conclusion. Kozun and Williams did well to stop what got to them, though both teams sent numerous shots wide or high of the goal. The Chiefs had the period’s last shot with two minutes remaining. Kozun stopped it with ease and dove on the rebound, ending the last scoring chance of the first.

Shots were 13-11 and faceoffs were 9-6, both in favor of Spokane after a 2-2 first period.

The Chiefs had two dangerous opportunities in the first minute of the second, the first of which went wide and the second of which was swept away as Kozun laid on his back to attempt to cover. The pressure from the visitors led to the T-Birds icing the puck.

While they lost the faceoff, Spokane scored on their next rush. Mitch Holmberg shot the puck from inside the faceoff circle. Kozun was able to catch the puck near his chest, but had it dislodged by Mike Aviani. The goal was reviewed and upheld by the officials, making it 3-2 at 1:37 of the second period. Holmberg and Jeremy McIntosh had the assists.

Barzal tied the game at 5:42 in the second. Barzal deked around his defender, leaving the defenseman on the ice as he made his way in front of the net. The 16-year-old’s shot was deflected away, but Seattle retained possession and got the puck out to Jared Hauf. Hauf’s shot from the point was also fought off, but Barzal got the rebound and bounced it off Williams’ back to get Seattle’s third goal.

The T-Birds took a penalty after the goal, giving Spokane their first power play of the game. The Chiefs had an excellent chance broken up by Jerret Smith’s stick, allowing Kozun enough time to dart across the crease and cover up the ensuing shot.

A mix-up between Proft and Kozun followed on the next possession after the power play’s expiration ended with offsetting penalties and 4-on-4 hockey for a full two minutes. Seattle had several rushes during this time, all of which were fought off by Williams. The only Spokane attacks of this time were snuffed out by Seattle’s defensemen, a feat that was repeated by the Chiefs on a few of the home team’s attacks as well.

Seattle took the lead on a Ryan Gropp goal at 11:19. Barzal won the faceoff in the offensive zone, getting the puck to Justin Hickman who got the shot on net. Gropp collected the rebound and was able to hold it long enough to get around Williams and a checking defender and throw it into the empty net. Barzal and Hickman had the assists.

The visitors almost scored less than a minute later. Spokane beat Kozun with a shot in the slot, but the puck rebounded straight out off the crossbar and was eventually punched away by the Seattle defense as Kozun lay sprawled across the crease.

The Chiefs second power play came with five minutes left in the second period. Spokane tied it on the power play with a shot from deep in the zone. Hudson Elynuik scored the goal, with the assists going to Cole Wedman and Marcus Messier at 15:51 of the second period.

Williams made a spectacular save for Spokane with 2:30 left in the game. Seattle gathered the puck at the point after a clearance attempt bounced off a loose stick. Evan Wardley’s shot made it through traffic and rebounded off Williams, who was able to slide across and reach out for Roberts Lipsbergs’ rising shot immediately after.

Seattle’s second power play of the game came with 30 seconds left in the period after a delay of game call on Spokane following an icing. The T-Birds had a few chances before the period ended, but their power play carried over into the third period for another 1:38.

The shots in the second period were 15-12 Spokane and faceoffs were tied, with each team winning 13 faceoffs.

The T-Birds had a full minute of pressure on the power play, but weren’t able to score despite numerous chances. Spokane iced the puck after the penalty expired, forcing them to take a timeout to rest their group of penalty killers who had been on the ice for almost two minutes straight without a change. The Chiefs escaped the danger thanks to a faceoff win.

The first penalty of the period went against Seattle, putting them a man down for two minutes at 6:05. The visitors almost scored when Kozun was knocked to the ice, but the Chiefs couldn’t get a handle on the puck to get a shot on goal and sent it wide, allowing Seattle to clear the puck and hold it in the other end for crucial seconds.

An equally pulse-pounding chance came at the penalty’s end. Kozun tried to handle the puck behind the net, only to have it squirt in front. Seattle’s defense was able to tie up the Chiefs’ sticks and get the puck away, giving Kozun time to recover.

Troock sent a breakaway chance high before the 10-minute mark, just missing the net. It was the end of a sequence that so both teams have odd man rushes broken up. Seattle had a 2-on-1 stopped by Williams earlier, followed by Wardley checking his man off the puck on a 1-on-1 Spokane breakaway.

The Chiefs scored at 14:34 to take the lead. Spokane created a turnover just in front of the net and was able to throw it into the crease, where it dribbled away from Kozun and was poked in by Aviani for his second goal of the night. Keanu Yamamoto had the only assist to make it 5-4.

Chartier added an empty net goal with 1:23 left, intercepting a pass in the neutral zone to make it 6-4 and seal Spokane’s win.

Shots in the third period were 15-11 Spokane and faceoffs were 12-8 Spokane.

Seattle hosts the Winterhawks on Friday at 7:35 pm before visiting Portland on Saturday at 7 pm. The last regular season game for Seattle will be Sunday at Tri-City against the Americans. Saturday’s game will be the last regular season home game of the year for the T-Birds.

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 – 1, Spokane, Zwerger 16 (Whittingham, Proft), 8:18. 2, Seattle, Delnov 29 (Troock, Wardley), 10:19. 3, Seattle, McKechnie 7 (Yakubowski), 10:42. 4, Spokane, Helewka 23 (Chartier, Fiala), 12:16. Penalties – Sozanski, Spokane (holding), 1:52. Kolesar, Seattle (major-fighting), 4:32. Bechtold, Spokane (major-fighting), 4:32.

Second period – 5, Spokane, Aviani 36 (Holmberg, McIntosh), 1:37. 6, Seattle, Barzal 14 (Hauf, Hickman), 5:42. 7, Seattle, Gropp 17 (Hickman, Barzal), 11:19. 8, Spokane, Elynuik 3 (Wedman, Messier), 15:51 (pp). Penalties – Hickman, Seattle (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:42. Wardley, Seattle (roughing), 6:19. Aviani, Spokane (slashing), 6:19. Kozun, Seattle (roughing-served by Barzal), 7:42. Proft, Spokane (goaltender interference), 7:42. McKechnie, Seattle (tripping), 14:45. Bench, Spokane (delay of game-served by Yamamoto), 19:37.

Third period – 9, Spokane, Aviani 37 (Yamamoto), 14:34. 10, Spokane, Chartier 13 (unassisted), 18:37 (en). Penalties – Hauf, Seattle (holding), 6:05.

Shots on goal – Seattle 11-12-11 34, Spokane 13-15-15 43. Goalies – Seattle, Kozun 42 shots-37 saves (18-27-2-2); Spokane, Williams 34-30 (32-17-2-2). Power plays – Seattle 0-2; Spokane 1-3. A – 5,721. Referees – Sean Raphael, Adam Griffiths. Linesmen – Ryan Gibbons, Nathan Van Oosten.

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