Thunderbirds look to bounce back in crucial Game 4
KENT – As the Seattle Thunderbirds prepare for a critical Game 4 against the Everett Silvertips Friday night, they know they’ll have to do it without one of their top players.
After suffering an upper-body injury in Tuesday’s Game 3, Sami Moilanen looks like he won’t be in the lineup at the accesso ShoWare Center Friday.
“He’s got some more tests today,” head coach Matt O’Dette said before practice Thursday. “Most likely not going to see him.”
While that is certainly a blow to the Thunderbirds offensive attack, it also causes O’Dette to have to juggle his forward lines.
Moilanen is a part of Seattle’s top line, along with Nolan Volcan and center Matthew Wedman. In Game 3’s first period, the Thunderbirds out-played the Silvertips and piled 24 shots on Everett goalie Carter Hart. Moilanen was a big part of that and Seattle will need to have someone step up and provide the same spark.
Who that will be is undetermined yet.
“The whole team has to step up,” O’Dette said. “Sami’s an important guy that does a lot for us. We need our top guys to do more and we need our bottom six forwards to step up and do more and win their match ups. We need more from everybody.”
Blake Bargar joined Wedman and Volcan after Moilanen went out but O’Dette said he’s not sure yet who will be on that line Friday. There are some candidates however. Noah Philp could fit in on that line, as well as Bargar and even perhaps rookie Dillon Hamaliuk.
It will be an adjustment for sure, but perhaps not too big of a stretch.
“Guys have played together throughout the year on different line combinations,” O’Dette said. “Whatever lines end up being, guys are familiar with playing with each other.”
The Thunderbirds will look to build off that remarkable first period in Game 3 when they hit the ice for Game 4.
Everett allowed an average of 31 shots per game during the regular season so to get 24 in a period says a lot for how well the Thunderbirds played in that first. The issue in Game 3 was that Seattle could not sustain that effort.
“You look at that and we know we can play the right way,” Turner Ottenbreit said Thursday. “We know what happens when we play the right way. We just have to be consistent and do it for 60 minutes. We have to stay out of the box, play smart and stay together.”
Staying out of the box will be key again in Game 4.
O’Dette felt that his club lost some of its composure Tuesday night which led to Everett getting five power plays over the game’s final two periods. That played a big role in the lack of offense from the Thunderbirds and something that will have to improve in Game 4.
The special teams have been good for Seattle as it’s converted on three of its nine power-play chances and killed off 12 of Everett’s 14. The problem is the timing of the penalties and the number of them. Even if the Thunderbirds kill off penalties, the effort taxes the top players and can knock them off any flow they had on the offensive side of things.
“Too many five-on-three and four-on-three situations,” O’Dette said about the special teams. “You give teams that many opportunities in those situations, they’re going to score. It’s tough to hold teams off during those types of kills. We’ve put ourselves in those situations and that’s something that we can’t do.”
During Thursday’s practice the spirits of the Thunderbird players were high and the team was loose. They are only down 2-1 and there is no panic among the group. Despite that, they know how important Friday’s game is as a loss puts them on the verge of elimination with a trip back to Everett on the schedule.
“Just trying to stay happy and excited because Game 4 is a huge one back here,” Donovan Neuls said. “Just trying to stay ready for that one.”
Game 4 gets underway at 7:35 Friday evening.