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With emergence of Hughes, T-Birds deal Berlin to Kootenay

Matt Berlin amassed a 19-9-4-2 record in parts of two seasons with the T-Birds, helping them to a WHL Championship (T-Birds Photo)

On Monday, the Thunderbirds announced that they had traded 19-year-old goaltender Matt Berlin to the Kootenay Ice in exchange for a fifth-round pick in the 2018 Bantam Draft.

Berlin, who was acquired from the Spokane Chiefs in October of 2016 for a conditional pick in the 2018 Bantam Draft, amassed a 19-9-4-1 record over parts of two seasons with Seattle. The 6 foot 3 Edmonton, Alta. native was acquired last season to back up Rylan Toth after Carl Stankowski missed much of the season with an injury.

The emergence of Liam Hughes since the holiday break was part of what made Berlin expendable. Hughes, who had been injured prior to the break, hadn’t played in about a month and a half. In four games since returning, he is 4-0-0-0 and has stopped 129 of the 140 shots he has seen, good for a .921 save percentage.

When Hughes went down with an injury, the T-Birds acquired another goaltender, Dorrin Luding, from the Everett Silvertips. It was clear at the time that Seattle, with Stankowski remaining on the injured list, was planning to make some moves in their crease with four goaltenders on their roster.

“Right now (the trade) was to make room for Hughes and give Berlin a chance to play,” said T-Birds general manager Russ Farwell. “It also opens a roster spot for Stankowski in case he progresses but I wanted to give Berlin a chance was the main reason.”

The Western Hockey League trade deadline is this Wednesday, January 10, at 2 p.m. Pacific Time.