The Thunderbirds have been looking for some secondary scoring and Zack Andrusiak answered the call on Sunday night.
Andrusiak’s first career hat trick led the Thunderbirds to a 7-4 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes at the Enmax Centre on Sunday. It would be the third win in the last four games for Seattle, who moves to 2-1 on its six-game road trip. For the second night in a row, the Thunderbirds were paced by a huge second period where they scored four times to build an insurmountable lead.
Seattle (7-5-0-1) was playing its third game in three nights but showed no ill effects as it outshot Lethbridge (7-6-0-0) by a 32-20 margin and scored three times on the power play. Liam Hughes made a second straight start in net for the Thunderbirds and won his third game of the season by making 17 saves.
It was perhaps the most complete game that Seattle had played all year.
“We needed it,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “We knew it was going to be a difficult challenge. Lethbridge is a good team and they were off last night so we were expecting their best and our guys were ready to match that.”
Andrusiak scored back-to-back goals in the second period and then completed the hat trick late in the third with a one-timer on the power play. The three tallies give him six on the season as he has set a new career high just 14 games into the year.
“He’s a trigger man and when he gets some confidence going he can be pretty dangerous,” O’Dette said of Andrusiak. “We’re constantly working with him on all aspects of his game, to be a complete player. We’ll definitely take the scoring. He’s battled hard, he’s working on his compete and that’s improving. He’s moving in the right direction.”
Lethbridge’s Ryan Vandervlis got the Hurricanes going 1:33 into the first period when he picked up a loose puck in the slot and slid it past Hughes for his fourth of the season.
Seattle got that goal right back as Nolan Volcan put back a rebound after a Sami Moilanen bid was stopped at 3:32 for his third marker.
The early scoring would continue but it would be the Hurricanes who would strike next. Hughes made a save but the puck rebounded into the air and he couldn’t locate it when it landed. Josh Tarzwell did locate it and poked it in at 9:24 to give the Hurricanes a 2-1 first-period lead.
Down a goal, the Thunderbirds came out strong to start the second period and would tie the game again when Donovan Neuls scored his second in as many games on a three-on-one break. The goal came at 1:07 and was the third of the year for Neuls.
Seattle had momentum and would take the lead a minute later when Moilanen was stopped but the rebound came right to him and he flicked a backhand shot past Reece Klassen for his 10th.
The Thunderbirds weren’t done in the second. Elijah Brown stole a puck in his own end and started a rush the other way where he got it to Andrusiak at 12:37. The winger fired a shot over Klassen’s shoulder for his first of the night and it gave Seattle a 4-2 lead.
Andrusiak would pot his second of the night at 16:04 when he blasted a one-timer from the faceoff circle during a Thunderbirds power play to make it 5-2. When the horn sounded to end the second, the Thunderbirds had scored four times and had a three-goal lead.
A night after they gave up a third period lead, the Thunderbirds extended their lead in the third on Sunday.
Turner Ottenbreit picked up his first of the year when he blasted a slap shot from the point at 6:24. It was Seattle’s second power-play conversion and it hit Klassen but trickled through him to give the Thunderbirds a commanding 6-2 lead.
“A little bit nervous from the night before but we talked about it between periods,” O’Dette said about not having a repeat of Saturday. “They got a couple in the third but I think a lot of that is mental. Just getting over that negative feeling in the pit of your stomach and just get over it. We found a way to dig deep and capitalize, keep pushing and tack on a couple goals in the third period.”
Lethbridge would score two cosmetic goals off the sticks of Giorgio Estephan and Vandervlis before Andrusiak’s third goal served as an exclamation point with 38 seconds left.
Seattle will now get a couple of days off before continuing its road trip Wednesday night at Red Deer.
“Road trips are always fun, especially when you win,” O’Dette said. “This will just make our next two days a little bit more enjoyable.”
• Sunday was the last game that defenseman Jake Lee will play before heading off to play for Team Canada in the U-17 World Championships.
• Ottenbreit picked up an assist to go with his goal. He also got into a third-period scrap giving him the ‘Gordie Howe’ hat trick which is what players call scoring a goal, an assist, and getting into a fight in the same game.
• Saturday’s hero, Austin Strand, added two assists on Sunday and has a modest four-game point streak going. His 17 points on the year moves him into a tie for third in the WHL for defensemen scoring.
• Jarret Tyszka had two helpers as well on Sunday and is quietly having a strong start. He has yet to find the back of the net but the Montreal Canadiens prospect has 10 assists in 12 games.