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Thunderbirds outlast Everett in wild preseason clash

Thunderbirds import Andrej Kukuca scored the game-winning goal Saturday in Everett (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

EVERETT – Preseason games are supposed to be dull affairs used to assess roster hopefuls and rarely offer much drama. Nobody told that to the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips Saturday night.

The two rivals put on an entertaining show that featured lead changes, comebacks, late game heroics, some anger, and an overtime snipe. In the end, Seattle’s Andrej Kukuca raced down the wing and loosed a wrist shot that beat Everett goalie Blake Lyda at 3:58 of overtime to give the Thunderbirds a 5-4 win.

“Typical Everett-Seattle game,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “It’s just two competitive teams that ramp it up when they play each other. It was probably a fun game to watch.”

Seattle entered the third period down 3-1 but would cut the lead to 3-2 on a Nolan Volcan goal and then scored two power-play goals 50 seconds apart to take a lead. The first came from Graeme Bryks and the second from 20-year-old Mike MacLean.

MacLean has been getting a lot of minutes on the power play in the preseason so far and cashed in. He’s one of four Seattle 20-year-olds currently on the roster. They only get to keep three so his future with the club is uncertain.

Saturday, he made a case for himself.

“That’s why he’s there,” O’Dette said about MacLean on the power play. “A big body and he can create some room for himself. I thought he had a strong game.”

While he doesn’t know what the future holds for him, MacLean is just trying to stick to doing what is asked of him.

“I have a role to play,” he said. “Everybody on the team has a job and if they do their job they’ll have success. I’m just trying to play my role.”

Everett would force overtime with a late goal by Jake Christensen – his second on the night – at 18:44 of the third period. It would be a power-play goal and came with the goalie out of the net, making it a six-on-four chance. Each club would end the evening going 2-for-8 on the power play.

In Overtime, Kukuca would win it with his first goal as a Thunderbird. The Slovakian import added two assists and has five points in the two games this weekend. Seattle’s other import, Simon Kubicek, made his debut on Saturday.

Kubicek arrived in Seattle on Friday and was in the lineup the next night. He scored a first-period goal on a wrister that tied the game at one and would add an assist in the third period. It was an impressive debut considering he had one skate Friday afternoon right off the plane and most likely doesn’t know the names of his teammates yet.

“Just played smart,” O’Dette said in assessing the Czech defenseman’s play. “Reads the play really well. Doesn’t try to do too much. Makes the right play at the right times and that’s all you can ask for on your D…that’s a pretty impressive debut for him.”

Both of Seattle’s imports have had a strong showing in Everett this weekend. They’ve combined for two goals and five assists. That bodes well for the Thunderbirds.

O’Dette stated prior to the weekend that he was looking for the team to make progress from game to game. There were times on Saturday where they were controlling the pace and tempo. They did get in penalty trouble at times, especially in the second period when Christensen scored on a prolonged five-on-three chance.

“We cleaned up some stuff through video,” O’Dette said. “I thought if we kept the game five-on-five we’d be in good shape but obviously that was a problem tonight. I thought some guys entering the lineup gave us some great games.”

The Thunderbirds will get a chance to progress more Sunday afternoon when they take on the Spokane Chiefs at the Angel of the Winds Arena. Face off is set for three o’clock.

Notes

• Two ex-Thunderbirds were in the lineup for Everett on Saturday. Luke Ormsby played and scored a second-period goal to put the Silvertips up 2-1. Defenseman Sahvan Khaira made his Everett debut after being acquired earlier in the summer in a deal with Swift Current.

• Liam Hughes got the start for Seattle and after giving up a goal to Sean Richards on the game’s first shot he would  play solidly. He ended the night with 30 saves on 34 shot attempts which included several sprawling saves to keep the game in reach. O’Dette said that Eric Ward would most likely play on Sunday.

• Cody Savey had a strong game on Saturday by delivering several big hits. Savey appeared in one game for the Thunderbirds last year and looks to offer a physical, grinding game. “I’ve had a physical (part) of my game for my whole life,” Savey said. “I’d like to continue that.”

• Off the ice the Thunderbirds are in need of a new Video/Hockey Operations Coordinator. Nick Redding has held the position but is leaving for an coaching opportunity. The club said that they will begin the search to fill the spot immediately.