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Andrusiak and Ormsby looking for bigger roles with Thunderbirds

Monroe product Luke Ormsby excited to play bigger role with T-Birds (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – There is no truth to the rumor that new Seattle Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette has a sign hanging outside of his office that reads ‘Forwards wanted, inquire within’.

The losses that the defending champions are facing in the forward group has been well documented and O’Dette will be watching the competition in training camp and preseason to see who is going to step up to fill some of those openings.

There are young guys looking to make the team for the first time as well as some returning players who were limited to lesser roles last season and will be fighting to play bigger roles. Two such players are Zack Andrusiak and Luke Ormsby.

Both players were with the Thunderbirds last year – Andrusiak played in 52 games and Ormsby 65 – but were relegated to third or fourth-line minutes. With the graduation of five of Seattle’s top nine forwards, both players have a chance to play a bigger role for the T-Birds.

“There’s tons of opportunity all over and I’m looking forward to it and I know everybody is,” Andrusiak said Saturday morning. “It’s created some good competition in camp so it’s going to be a fun journey.”

Ormsby agreed and said he started thinking about the opportunity as soon as last season ended.

He headed to Arizona to train and get ready to take that next step and the chance to play more was a huge motivating factor.

“I want it so bad,” the former Sno-King minor hockey player said. “Who wouldn’t want to be the home town boy defending the championship? I spent every day in the gym and I can’t even tell you the last time I took a day off. I’m really excited.”

Ormsby and Andrusiak had some moments last year, especially at times when Seattle was dealing with multiple injuries. They also got to practice and work day in and day out with some high-caliber hockey players – players who are now all in pro hockey.

Both guys beamed with smiles when they thought back to what they learned from last season’s experiences.

“There was a lot to learn,” Andrusiak said. “I pride myself from being an offensive guy so getting to play alongside, and getting see guys like Barzal, Keegs and Groppy was pretty fun. I learned a ton from them. Just the way to play and how to create more ice, they were a lot of help.”

The Yorkton, Sask. product did put up big offensive numbers before getting to the WHL but circumstances have yet to allow him to show off that skill. This year he will have a chance to play more, which should allow him to spread his offensive wings.

Last season was an adjustment for him as he was asked to play a non-offensive role in the bottom-six forward group.

“That was probably the first time in life I really had to change to that role,” he said. “It was hard to adapt at first. Once I got into it I felt like I did a good job, I had to do what I had to for the team and obviously we came up big with the win.”

Ormsby, who grew up a T-Birds fan in Monroe, displayed a great deal of speed and grit last year. Also playing mostly in the bottom-six, he played hard each shift and is excited to get going this year.

Like Andrusiak, he learned a lot from the older group last year – one player in particular was a big influence.

“I had the pleasure of living with Scott Eansor my first year here and he kind of took me under his wing,” Ormsby said. “I looked up to the guy as a big brother almost. I got to see how he worked, I mean, when he was injured he was still in the gym three, four hours a day. His leg is in a cast and he’s still working out. He was an animal and that’s what it takes to get to the next level.”

Ormsby was looking to get even faster this summer and so far in camp looks like he might be a beat quicker than he was last season. He credits work with his trainer which included some hikes in the Arizona heat combined with a lot of squats.

He says he’d love to win another championship but for now is looking at some pretty simple short-term goals.

“I want to get the highest spot possible I can to help my team,” he said. “Every night I want to help my team win.”

In Saturday’s morning scrimmages, Ormsby and Andrusiak played on a line together and had some chemistry. They even teamed up for the scrimmage-winning score as Ormsby found Andrusiak in front of the net for a late goal.

Was that a preview for the coming season? Time will tell, but for now the two players are looking forward to playing a bigger role.

“We’re the defending champs so everyone is going to be hunting us every night,” Andrusiak said. “I know coming into it, there’s been a lot of talk, counting us out. I don’t believe in that at all. The guys we have coming back, a lot of people don’t realize how good we are and what we can do. I think we are going to surprise a lot of people.”