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Thunderbirds squeak out 3-2 shootout win over Vancouver

Thunderbirds goalie Liam Hughes stops Vancouver's Brad Morrison during Tuesday's win in the shoot out. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds were home Tuesday night and once again, found a way to pull out a win.

Facing the Vancouver Giants, Seattle grinded out a 3-2 shootout victory in front of 4,008 fans at the Accesso ShoWare Center. The Thunderbirds never trailed but also weren’t able to pull away from a game Giants squad.

“We make it exciting, that’s for sure,” head coach Matt O’Dette said.

Seattle (4-2-0-1) got another goal from Sami Moilanen while goalie Liam Hughes made 33 saves to pick up his first win in a Thunderbirds sweater. In the shootout, Noah Philp and Zack Andrusiak both converted while Hughes shut the door at the other end to seal the victory.

The game was a defensive struggle but the Thunderbirds were able to hold on, despite Vancouver (2-3-0-1) erasing one-goal deficits twice on the night.

“Guys dug deep and we had a couple of extended shifts in the d-zone,” O’Dette said. “We bend but we didn’t break. Guys were doing everything they can to keep the puck out of our net.”

Keeping the puck out of the net was something Hughes did for most of the night.

His first start came last weekend in Portland and he allowed six goals in a game that saw Seattle give up a ton of shots. Like Matt Berlin on Sunday, Hughes bounced back with a strong performance.

“He was great,” O’Dette said. “We knew he was capable of that. We see him in practice, he’s got the talent. Just get him a little bit of confidence and get him going and its big for him. This should be a good boost.”

Seattle wasted no time Tuesday night and got on the board 1:50 into the contest when Sami Moilanen scored his eighth of the year. The Finn entered the Vancouver zone and after seeing no passing options available, he ripped a wrist shot past Vancouver’s Todd Scott.

Moilanen continues to be hot and that makes it easy for linemates like Nolan Volcan, who picked up an assist on the early goal.

“When he’s that hot, I just give him the puck and usually head to the net because he’s going to make the goalie make the save,” Volcan said of his teammate. “With the hot stick he’s putting those in right now.”

The Giants got that goal back 3:47 later when Brayden Watts flew down the wing and fired a shot over Hughes’ shoulder. It was the fourth on the season for Watts.

Austin Strand would give the Thunderbirds the lead back in the second period at 12:50 on the power play with one-timer from the circle. It would be the defenseman’s fourth goal of the year as his fine start continued.

Vancouver’s Brad Morrison would square the game late in the second period just after a Giants power play ended when he swept a puck past Hughes with just 38 seconds left in the period.

Neither team could find the back of the net in the third period, forcing overtime.

In the shootout, the two goalies forced it to go to an extra shooter before Andrusiak scored to put Seattle up one. Hughes stopped Morrison at the other end and the celebration was on.

Notes

• Strand’s goal was his fourth of the year, all four coming on the power play and puts him second in the league in scoring for defensemen.

• Moilanen is tied for second in league goal scoring. He trails Swift Current’s Tyler Steenbergen who is off to a staggering start with 15 markers.

• The win was Seattle’s eighth straight win over the Vancouver Giants. Seattle last lost to the Giants on September 25th of 2015.

• Tuesday was Volcan’s 200th career regular season game in the WHL. He has also played in 44 post season games with the club.