Thunderbirds drop preseason opener to Vancouver 4-2
EVERETT – The Thunderbirds opened their preseason schedule Friday morning with a lineup heavy on rookies and prospects.
One of those players, Graeme Bryks, got things going in the first minute of play. The 17-year-old center picked up a pass and rifled a shot that Vancouver Giants goalie Trent Minor got a pad on. The rebound came right back to Bryks and he scored to put Seattle up 1-0 just 53 seconds in.
“It was exciting,” Bryks said of scoring on his first shift of the preseason. “I just went out there and got a nice pass from (Zack Andrusiak). I shot quick and the rebound came right back to me and I just buried it.”
The Thunderbirds had the early lead but penalty trouble put them short handed for the majority of the first period and the Giants would capitalize with two power-play goals. Milos Roman and Cyle McNabb each converted Vancouver chances to give the Giants a lead they would not relinquish. Roman and McNabb would both score again as Vancouver would skate away with a 4-2 win at the Angel of the Wind Arena.
“I thought our guys battled back once we corrected the penalty trouble, we started to have more success and play in their end,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “There are some positives to take out of the game and this is a process. Way too many details to mention that need to be corrected as we go through the preseason, and we’ll do that. I thought for the most part the effort was there.”
Andrusiak added two assists for the Thunderbirds as did new import Andrej Kukuca. Cade McNelly scored in the third period to pull Seattle to within 3-2 before Roman ended the drama with an empty net goal.
Bryks started the game centering a line between Andrusiak and Kukuca. He’s one of the guys vying for a spot on the club and Friday’s showing should help. He came up last season and played in 10 games with Seattle and would score his first WHL goal.
“It was an amazing experience,” Bryks said about the call up last season. “It helped me a lot getting those games and that experience. I think it will help improve my game quite a bit.”
After his brief stint in the WHL last year he got sent back to play for the Spruce Grove Saints in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Bryks found the back of the net 11 times for the Saints, who would go on to win the AJHL title.
“It’s kind of hard to describe in words how perfect it was,” he said of the Saints championship run. “It was the most fun I’ve ever had playing hockey, being with those guys and that team. The reason we had so much success was because of how close we all were.”
Friday was also the debut for Kukuca, who joined the team Monday after clearing his immigration paperwork. The Slovakian import picked up the two assists in the loss but also displayed some of his offensive skill.
He made several good plays on Seattle’s power play chances and worked well with Andrusiak all game long.
“(Kukuca) made some stuff happen out there,” O’Dette said. “He’s a good right hand shot that every team needs on the power play. He’s a shooter and can shoot the puck, I’m pretty Impressed with his first game.”
• Defenseman Payton McIsaac also made his Seattle debut on Friday. McIsaac was picked up in a trade earlier in the week from the Saskatoon Blades and acquitted himself well. “I thought he was solid,” O’Dette said. “He played a lot, played within himself, logged a lot of good minutes for us. He held his own and I thought that was a nice first game for him.”
• Cole Schwebius got the start for the Thunderbirds in net and made 21 saves on 24 shots. Two of the three goals he allowed came on Vancouver power play chances. O’Dette was vague about who would be in net for Saturday evening’s game against the Everett Silvertips but hinted that there would be a chance that Liam Hughes plays.
• Seattle scratched a number of players Friday. The list included Hughes, Connor Roulette, Noah Philp, Matthew Wedman, Dillon Hamaliuk, Nolan Volcan, Simon Kubicek, Tyrel Bauer, Reece Harsch, and Jake Lee.
• Vancouver ended the game 2-for-6 with the man advantage while Seattle was 0-for-5.