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T-Birds run out of gas in loss to Americans in Kennewick

Seattle goalie Dorrin Luding did all he could to give his club a chance Sunday night at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

Facing a number of odd-man rushes and breakaways, he had steered the Thunderbirds to a 1-0 lead through two periods against the Tri-City Americans. Seattle turnovers led to more chances and it caught up with the Thunderbirds in the third as Tri-City scored three times to come back and win 3-2.

The Thunderbirds were playing their third game in as many nights and that schedule may have caught up with them.

“There was a little bit of fatigue there,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “I don’t think we were efficient enough in moving the puck. Not getting the puck deep into their end, which led to a lot of D-zone time for us over the course of the game. Especially in a three-in-three, it can wear you down. We needed to play more in their end and we didn’t.”

Luding ended the night allowing two goals on 34 shots, which included several breakaways. Most notable was a stop on Detroit Red Wings’ first-round pick Michael Rasmussen in the first period.

That allowed Seattle (26-18-4-2) to grind out a goal for the lead and give the Thunderbirds a shot at stealing a win.

“He was good,” O’Dette said of his goalie. “He made some big saves. Their guys got behind us a couple times and ‘Luds was there to slam the door and keep us in the game.”

With the Thunderbirds nursing the one-goal lead in the third, Tri-City (25-16-7-0) would tie it seven minutes into the period on a two-on-one that was finished by Riley Sawchuck. It would be the first of two scores on the night for Sawchuck and his seventh of the year.

While killing a penalty, another Seattle turnover ended up on the stick of Tri-City’s Morgan Geekie alone in the slot. He buried his 17th at 12:50 to put the Americans ahead for good. Sawchuck would add an empty net goal to make it 3-1 as time was running out.

Puck management was an issue all night for the Thunderbirds.

“The puck’s got to get 200 feet into their zone,”O’Dette said. “We didn’t get pucks deep, especially in the first half of the game and it led to a lot early D-zone time. By the third period we could have used some extra energy and we couldn’t get it.”

Zack Andrusiak tipped in a goal with the extra skater late to give Seattle a glimmer of hope but they could not find the equalizer in the remaining seconds.

Seattle had chances on the power play but failed to score on its four attempts while the Americans converted on one of their five chances. O’Dette felt that the energy expended chasing the puck in their own end hindered his power-play as well.

“Our top guys played a lot of minutes,” the coach said. “It all factors in it. When they’re called on the power play they don’t have much juice to make the right plays.”

The Thunderbirds got the 1-0 lead 3:43 into the second period when Matthew Wedman snapped his 11th of the season off a rush. It was the second straight night that Wedman would find the back of the net.

The loss drops Seattle to nine points out of the division’s top spot but they stay ahead of Tri-City by one point for third place. In a strange scheduling quirk, the team will have a full week off and not play again until next Saturday when they host the Victoria Royals.

“We’ve had a good stretch,” O’Dette said. “A couple of close games that didn’t go our way so I don’t think we have to reinvent the wheel or anything like that. I think some rest will be good for us and kind of revisit a couple of our systems throughout the week and be ready for next Saturday.”

Notes

• Sami Moilanen was again a scratch Saturday which meant 2017 first-round pick Payton Mount played his second WHL game. O’Dette switched up the lines and put Mount on a line with Donovan Neuls and Blake Bargar.

• Defenseman Turner Ottenbreit assisted on both Seattle goals Sunday to pull him to within two points of his career scoring mark set last season when he recorded 32 points.

• Andrusiak has picked up at least one point in eight of his last nine games.

• Rasmussen was playing his second game with the Americans since returning from an injury that had kept him out of the lineup since Dec. 16th.