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T-Birds sharp in win over the Saskatoon Blades

Thunderbirds captain Turner Ottenbreit carries the puck up ice during Seattle's 4-1 victory Tuesday night (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – Seattle captain Turner Ottenbreit knew he would have to put in some extra work on Tuesday night at the ShoWare Center.

Against the visiting Saskatoon Blades, the Thunderbirds were short two veteran defensemen due to injury and Ottenbreit responded. The 20-year-old did a little bit of everything as he was seemingly on the ice at all times, played physical, set up a goal, and took the most shots of any Seattle player on the night.

With their captain leading the way, the Thunderbirds would clamp down on the Blades and pick up a much needed 4-1 win at home. Seattle got goals from four different scorers while goalie Matt Berlin shut the door by kicking out 26 shots.

For Ottenbreit, the night was extra sweet as it came against the team that he began his WHL career with, before being traded to Seattle.

“Every time you play your old team, it’s exciting,” he said. “That’s the team that drafted me and I started my career there. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here today. I’m grateful for everything they did for me.”

The win for Seattle (13-13-2-1) was a strong bounce back from a disappointing home loss Saturday night against Kamloops.

Saturday, the Thunderbirds gave up a late goal to lose, something that has been plaguing the team of late. Tuesday night, they entered the third period with a tenuous 2-1 lead, looking to erase the trend.

They did just that at the 1:25 mark when Zack Andrusiak threw a puck out in front of the Blades net where Dillon Hamaliuk was parked. The big winger blasted his fifth goal of the year past goalie Nolan Mailer to extend the Seattle lead to 3-1.

“Insurance goals are important for us right now, with the way the bounces have been going,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “We came out with some energy to start the third, it helped create that goal. We needed that cushion.”

After a first period that left the two clubs tied at one, Seattle took things over in the second. They flooded the Saskatoon (11-15-2-1) zone and fired 17 shots at Maier, while the Blades only mustered three at Berlin.

Ottenbreit set up what would end up being the game-winning goal three minutes into the flurry.

His point shot was stopped by Maier but the puck rebounded off Sami Moilanen, who was parked in front of the goal. Initially the goal was waived off by the officials who felt that Moilanen had kicked it in the net. Video review however, showed that wasn’t the case and Moilanen had his team-leading 16th marker of the year and gave Seattle a 2-1 lead it would carry into the third period.

It wasn’t just the assist that made Ottenbreit’s game big – he was named the first star – but it was his physical presence and his strong play in the defensive zone.

“He rose to the challenge,” O’Dette said of his captain. “He took it upon himself to raise his game. With the match up there with (Cameron) Hebig and (Braylon) Shmyr, two dangerous players, he took the challenge to shut those guys down and he did a good job.”

The two leading scorers for the Blades would end the night pointless.

Blake Bargar got the Thunderbirds off to a good start on Tuesday just over two minutes into the game as he sprung himself up ice with Tyler Carpendale on a two-on-one. It took Bargar two attempts to get the centering pass through but when he did, Carpendale was there to tap it home for his third goal in four games.

Four minutes later, Seth Bafaro’s shot from the point got through traffic and past Berlin to tie the game at one but that would be as close as Saskatoon would get.

Bargar scored a goal on an empty just before the final horn to punctuate the win and get the Thunderbirds back in the win column.

“It’s huge,” Ottenbreit said of the win. “Last couple of games were some tough endings for us, we knew we had to bear down. Huge points for us the rest of the way.”

Notes

• Carpendale’s goal was his third in the last four games as the rookie seems to have found his legs after starting the season dealing with an injury. “He’s a big guy who can skate and does the simple things well,” O’Dette said of Carpendale. “Drives the net, get pucks in and out and you get rewarded when you drive the net.”

• Not to be outdone by his teammate, Hamaliuk’s third-period goal was also his third in four nights.

• Austin Strand and Aaron Hyman were the two veteran defenseman out of the lineup on Tuesday. Both were listed as day-to-day injuries. Rookie Cade McNelly was recalled and was in the lineup.

• Ottenbreit was originally drafted by the Blades in the 2012 Bantam Draft. He only played 12 games, over two seasons, with them before being traded to Seattle for Adam Henry early in the 2014-2015 season.