The Seattle Thunderbirds were in Medicine Hat on Saturday and had to get past the first place Tigers, some bad bounces, and some questionable calls.
Despite that adversity, they scored twice on goals from captain Turner Ottenbreit in the final nine minutes to erase a 3-1 Tigers lead to force overtime. Unfortunately for Seattle, the Tigers would score 11 seconds into the sudden death period on Mark Rassell’s second goal of the night as Medicine Hat would prevail 4-3.
All in all, Seattle ends its seven-game road trip with a 5-1-1-0 record.
“We’re disappointed we didn’t get it done in overtime but I think we can be happy with how hard we worked and the results we got on the trip,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after.
O’Dette and the Thunderbirds had to deal with more than just the Tigers Saturday at the Canalta Centre as there were a couple of pivotal calls that went against them.
In the third period, Medicine Hat (10-6-0-0) took a 3-1 lead at 9:45 when Rassell scored his first goal on a tap in after a tic-tac passing play. The Tigers got the puck after a Seattle (9-5-1-1) turnover at its own blue line but it was how that turnover happened that was controversial.
On the play, it appeared that Seattle’s Matthew Wedman was taken down which caused him to lose the puck. There was no call on the play and nothing the Thunderbirds could do about it.
Earlier, in the second period with Medicine Hat up 2-0, it appeared that Donovan Neuls had cut the lead when he flipped a puck over the Tigers goalie Michael Bullion and over the goal line. Bullion dove back and got his glove on the puck just after it appeared to cross the line. The goal was waived off by the official on the ice and the replay didn’t show a clear shot of the puck crossing the line.
“Not much of an explanation,” O’Dette said about what he was told. “They just said it was inconclusive and didn’t know that it went over. I thought from the overhead view it went in. I’d have to see more of the angles.”
Despite all that, Ottenbreit got Seattle back to within 3-2 at 11:15 of the third when he fired a slap shot through traffic that beat goalie Jordan Hollett – who had come in to replace the injured Bullion. With time running out and the extra skater on the ice, Ottenbreit would square the game with his second of the night at 18:18 from nearly the same spot on the ice.
The goals were the second and third of the year for the captain and his first multi-goal game of his WHL career.
“It’s good for him,” O’Dette said of Ottenbreit. “With our D banged up a little bit I think he logged in 30 to 35 minutes, if not more. He just sticks with it and it’s nice to see him get rewarded.”
The Thunderbirds got into some early penalty trouble in the first period and it would end up costing them a goal.
On the Tigers’ second power play in the first ten minutes, Ryan Chyzowski potted a rebound off of Liam Hughes for his eighth goal of the season. Hughes turned in another strong performance Saturday and ended with 23 saves.
Medicine Hat would extend its lead early in the second period. A battle for the puck behind the Seattle net was won by the Tigers and it was thrown out in front to Hayden Ostir who buried it at 1:26 to make it 2-0.
After the waived off goal in the second, Seattle would cut the lead to one at 9:48 when Nolan Volcan got the puck to Blake Bargar who had speed. He streaked into the Medicine hat zone and ripped a wrist shot past Bullion for his third of the year and set up the third period dramatics.
The Thunderbirds pushed the pace all night and created a number of scoring chances. Not only did the calls not go their way, neither did the bounces. They hit three posts and on several occasions had the Medicine Hat goalie down while banging away at a loose puck in the crease. They just couldn’t find enough of those pucks to put the game away.
None of that hindered the effort however and getting the point in the standing was an accomplishment.
“I give our guys a ton of credit,” O’Dette said. “They dug deep and never stopped battling and found a way to tie the game up. That was a huge point. That’s the way our team has been this year, a resilient group. No matter what happens in the game, they keep plugging away.”
After two weeks on the road, the Thunderbirds will climb back on their bus and make the trek back home. They’ll have a week off to recover, practice, and get ready for the Tri City Americans at home next Friday night.
They’ll do so coming off a successful road trip.
“When we come out here and have that kind of success it’s a good sign for our team moving forward,” O’Dette said. “We look forward to this trip every year. It’s nice to get it early in the year so you can get that bonding time and a lot of time spent together with the guys. You can see them playing hard for each other and coming together.”
• Seattle Defenseman Tyson Terretta picked up an assist on Ottenbreit’s first goal to pick up his first career point in the WHL.
• The Thunderbirds had chances on the power play Saturday but ended up going 0-for-5.
• Austin Strand assisted on Ottenbreit’s second goal to extend his point streak to seven games.
• Bullion left the game in the second period after a collision with Seattle’s Cade McNelly. The Tigers’ goalie had come out of his crease to play a loose puck and the two players collided. A goalie interference penalty was called on McNelly.