At the end of the day, the big birds out of the Seattle Thunderbirds nest were too much for a young Kootenay Ice squad to handle.
In a quick turnaround from Friday night’s 3-2 overtime setback to the Brandon Wheat Kings, the Ice battled the Thunderbirds, but simply couldn’t battle through the exhaustion of two games in less than 24 hours, falling 5-2 to the visitors from Seattle Saturday afternoon at Western Financial Place.
“There are good parts and then there are parts that aren’t good,” said Luke Pierce, head coach of the Kootenay Ice, Saturday afternoon. “We have to take the things we didn’t like and learn from them. For our team, it’s understanding that you’ve got to know your body.
“We looked tired. When that happens — and it’s going to happen over the course of the year — you have to adjust the way you play the game, be a little more basic and follow the plan that’s laid out because your brain isn’t going to react and think as quickly.”
A couple quick second period strikes from the Thunderbirds changed the complexion of the game and it was the visitor’s top line doing all the damage.
Only 13 seconds into the middle period, forward Nolan Volcan went hard to the net and was rewarded, redirecting a point shot from defenceman Jared Hauf to give the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead.
Only 1:11 had ticked off the clock after Volcan’s marker before Mathew Barzal deflected another point shot past a helpless Wyatt Hoflin and just like that, Seattle was out to a 3-1 lead early in the second period.
“We had a five-minute lapse there, right at the beginning of [the second period],” said Bryan Albee, Ice defenceman, Saturday afternoon. “They capitalized early then we got back to what we were doing but for some reason, for three or four minutes there, we got back to bad habits. Good teams are going to capitalize on those chances.
“We’ve got to find a way to play a full 60 [minutes]. That second period really hurt us.”
Thunderbirds forward Ryan Gropp extended the lead one further midway through the second period, ringing a hot shot off the iron and past Hoflin for a 4-1 advantage.
With the gap growing, tempers flared in front of the Ice bench late in the period as Matt Alfaro, Roman Dymacek, Luke Osterman and Nolan Volcan mixed it up. All four were assessed 10-minute misconducts, while Alfaro drew the lone roughing minor at the end of it all.
Allbee was the catalyst as the Ice opened the scoring less than five minutes into regulation to give the home team an early jump on the game.
After Thunderbirds forward Matthew Wedman collided with Hoflin, drawing a goaltender interference penalty, the Ice power play wasted no time making the visitors pay. Allbee took a pass from partner Tanner Lishchynsky and absolutely hammered it through Flodell to give the Ice a 1-0 edge in the first period.
The second-year defenceman was originally credited with his second goal of the season, but he knew the real story at the end of the afternoon.
“The first one, I think they got it wrong,” Allbee said with a smile. “I think [Austin] Wellsby got a piece of it. It was a nice tip by him.”
Shortly after the game, league officials made the correction and credited Wellsby with his second goal of the season.
The 1-0 lead didn’t last long as the Thunderbirds power play struck back eight minutes later.
After Ice defenceman Dylan Overdyk was exiled to the penalty box for hooking Thunderbirds forward Donovan Neuls, forward Keegan Kolesar snapped a low shot from the left that side that Hoflin kicked right to the stick of Ryan Gropp.
The Kamloops native had nothing left but to deposit it into the open cage to tie the game 1-1.
On the very next shift following Gropp’s tally, Ice right wing Max Patterson — another Kamloops native — thought he had restored the one-goal lead for the home team, only to have it waved off.
The official ruling on the ice was “incidental contact” on Flodell, who was bowled over on the play with no chance to make the stop.
Kolesar added to the Seattle lead in the third, registering a power-play tally on a 5-on-3 opportunity with Philp and Jared Legien serving minor penalties.
Perhaps the highlight of the third period came towards the midway mark of the final 20.
With Seattle’s top line buzzing and moving the puck efficiently in the offensive zone, defenceman Turner Ottenbreit took a backdoor pass. Staring down an empty net with Hoflin swimming, the Thunderbirds blue-liner fired low along the ice, only to have Hoflin reach back and pull the puck off the goal line with the paddle of his stick.
The effort from Hoflin will certainly stand as a save of the year candidate, and very well could take the cake. It electrified the 1,788 in attendance at Western Financial Place.
After Wellsby stole his first power-play effort, Allbee cashed in on the power play later in the third period with Thunderbirds forward Alexander True in the box.
The native of Prince George took a feed from captain Philp below the goal line, stepping to the top of the right circle before wiring one high blocker side, beating Flodell.
“It was really nice [to get involved offensively],” Allbee said. “I know Luke’s line [Philp] has been carrying us this year and it’s got to be a lot of pressure on them to be relied on every night. It’s nice for someone else to contribute, whether it’s the defence or maybe another line.”
Unfortunately for Allbee and the Ice, there was no more offense to be found as the Thunderbirds took off with a 5-2 win.
Flodell made 22 saves by the time the afternoon was over, collecting his fifth victory of the season.
At the other end, Hoflin battled traffic from the likes of Kolesar and 6-foot-7 Gustav Olhaver all afternoon long, turning aside 30 pucks when all was said and done.
Despite being on the bottom end of back-to-back losses, there’s reason for hope in the Ice dressing room, as a young club showed it could stick with tough of the WHL’s toughest on consecutive nights.
“We showed that we can play with those teams,” Allbee said. “We took Brandon to overtime and I think we had a lot of chances to win that game as well.
“[Saturday against Seattle], even though we lost, when we’re playing our game we can compete with those teams and that’s a pretty big positive to take out of it. We know we can do it, we’ve just got to play that way and find a way through 60 minutes.”
The Ice well get some much needed rest this week before hosting the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday, Nov. 6 at Western Financial Place.
Daily Townsman Three Stars:
1) LW Ryan Gropp, Seattle (2G, 1A)2) C Mathew Barzal, Seattle (1G, 1A)3) D Bryan Allbee, Kootenay (1G, 1A)
Notes: The Ice went with D Cale Fleury (upper body), D Tyler King (knee), D Dallas Hines and RW Jaedon Descheneau (upper body) Saturday… The Thunderbirds scratched C Scott Eansor, RW Jamal Watson and D Brandon Schuldhaus…