Thunderbirds bounce back to douse Blazers 4-3 in Kamloops
The Seattle Thunderbirds were back on the ice Sunday looking to wipe the bad taste from Saturday’s blowout loss from their mouths.
Taking on the Kamloops Blazers on the road, the Thunderbirds scored two power-play goals and leaned on goalie Matt Berlin to steer them home for a 4-3 win, their first of the season away from the ShoWare Center. Berlin, a night after getting pulled in the second period, made 32 saves on the night to get his third victory of the year.
“He was solid,” head coach Matt Berlin said about his goalie after the game. “That’s what we were looking for from Berlin. We had a talk this morning and we put the faith in him to get it done and he responded. That’s another good sign, when your goalie can bounce back after a night like last night.”
Seattle (3-2-0-1) was out shot by Kamloops (0-8-0-0) by a 35-15 count but thanks to Berlin, were able to overcome and get two points.
Berlin gave up six goals on just 20 shots Saturday, but rebounded nicely on Sunday.
With Seattle clinging to a slim one-goal lead late in the game the Blazers had the extra skater on the ice to try and find the equalizer. Berlin made two big stops during that sequence, including a glove save with just over two seconds left on the Sandman Centre scoreboard.
Clearly, the six goals allowed on Saturday didn’t affect him.
“You have to have a short memory,” O’Dette said. “A lot of times the next game is less than 24 hours away and that was the case tonight and ‘Berles got his mental game straight and he had a good performance.”
The Thunderbirds entered the game trying to avoid a hangover from the loss the night prior, as well as having to contend with a desperate Kamloops squad, still looking for its first win of the season.
Seattle knew it was going to get a full on effort from the Blazers, who are off to the worst start in franchise history.
“I think we had two desperate teams playing tonight,” O’Dette said. “They’re looking for their first win there, I think they’ve been a little bit snake-bitten, they’ve played hard. We had a tough game last night, so two desperate teams. Give Kamloops credit, they gave us everything we can handle and I think we’re fortunate to get the two points.”
The Blazers opened the scoring at 5:35 of the first period when Jackson Shepard deflected a shot from the point past Berlin. The Blazers had struggled to start the season and the 1-0 lead represented their first lead in their first eight games.
Despite getting outshot 12-4 in the first, Seattle would get the game even at 11:42 when Jarret Tyszka’s shot was stopped by Kamloops’ Max Palaga but Noah Philp jumped on the rebound and scored his second of the year to tie the score at one.
Austin Strand would score on a wrist shot through traffic 1:52 into the second period while on a Seattle power play. It would be the defenseman’s third of the season and gave the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead.
The Blazers would get even five minutes later when Berlin made a save but Brodi Stuart was there for his second of the season. The two teams would then exchange scoring plays in a wild stretch of play.
Reece Harsch made it 3-2 when his point shot made it through a sea of bodies for his second of the year at 7:54 of the second. Just 28 seconds later Kamloops tied it back up when Nick Chyzowski split the Seattle defense and beat Berlin.
The Thunderbirds would cap the second-period scoring at 11:32 when Sami Moilanen would tip a Tyszka shot past Palaga for his team-leading seventh goal.
Seattle’s power play is off to a good start to the season and ended the night 2-for-4. Special teams were key on Sunday as the Thunderbirds also killed off all five of Kamloops’ power-play chances, including two big ones in the third period.
“It’s an effort-based system in a lot of ways,” O’Dette said of his penalty kill unit. “If you put forth the effort and compete, win battles, and commit to blocking shots you can have a successful penalty kill.”
The Thunderbirds were able to bounce back after a tough loss on Saturday and while it wasn’t pretty at times, the effort and compete were there. They continue to be a young team, prone to some mistakes, but Sunday night they found a way to win.
“It was a gritty win,” O’Dette said. “We’re happy with the two points on the road. We’re not satisfied with the way we played on the whole. Our special teams played well, but there’s a lot we can improve on five-on-five.”
Seattle will return home for a Tuesday night match up with the Vancouver Giants.
• Strand continues to provide offense from the blue line for Seattle. He added an assist to his second period goal to give him eight points on the year. He also led the Thunderbirds with three shots on goal Sunday night.
• Nolan Volcan was held off the score sheet on Sunday and had his five-game point streak snapped.
• Getting secondary scoring is going to be key for Seattle and Philp is emerging as a candidate to do just that. His two-points on Sunday give him a three-game point streak and he continues to show chemistry with Matthew Wedman and Dillon Hamaliuk.
• Before the game, the Blazers announced that former Thunderbird Nic Holowko had left the team to attend Simon Fraser University. The 20-year-old forward played for Seattle from 2014 through 2016.