Thunderbirds rebound to dump Rockets 4-1
KENT – Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette was not happy with his club’s performance Friday night in Everett so it made sense to see the Thunderbirds come out with emotion Saturday night against the Kelowna Rockets.
The Thunderbirds managed the puck better, found some life on their power play and would pick up a big win. Four different goal scores found the net for Seattle while Liam Hughes returned to kick out 44 shots as the Thunderbirds rebounded with a 4-1 win at the accesso ShoWare Center.
“That’s more our cup of tea so to speak, playing to our identity a little bit more,” O’Dette said. “Every guy stepped up, every guy was challenged to raise their game. I thought the D being short-staffed really stepped up and all those kids played well.”
Seattle (3-1-1-0) got another goal from Dillon Hamaliuk Saturday while Andrej Kukuca potted his first WHL goal to go along with an assist in the win.
The Rockets don’t call Tacoma home anymore, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell with the emotion that Saturday’s game had. The two teams combined for 83 minutes in penalties, three game misconducts and a near goalie fight.
It’s the kind of emotion that can galvanize a team.
“We’re always going to battle for each other,” O’Dette said. “It seems like we’ve been in a galvanizing situation every game. I don’t know why that is, but it’s been a lot of donnybrooks breaking out. It’s just guys competing hard and backing each other up. We like to see that while at the same time control our emotions.”
It didn’t take long for the Thunderbirds to get going Saturday as Kukuca banged home a rebound on Seattle’s first shift, just 46 seconds into the game. That put the Thunderbirds up 1-0 and helped set the tone.
The Thunderbirds entered the game in a 2-for-20 slump on the power play but would convert early in the second period when Hamaliuk one-timed a rebound off a Noah Philp shot at 2:54 of the second. It was his fifth goal of the season and he extends his regular season goal-scoring streak to six straight.
“I’m just trying to play my game and try not to over think anything,” Hamaliuk said. “I just try to go out there and take pucks to the net and get lucky sometimes.”
Seattle would end the night 3-for-7 on the power play as it finally found some rhythm.
“We spent a lot of time on video on that one today,” O’Dette said. “Simplified in a couple areas there. It wasn’t pretty at times, but we stuck with it and tried not to let the frustration sink in …we kept our composure and stuck with it and got some nice late ones there.”
Later in the second period tensions rose as Nolan Volcan raced for a loose puck in the Kelowna zone. Rockets goalie Roman Basran raced out of his net and the two players collided outside the faceoff circle.
The result was a five-minute major and game misconduct to Volcan, who had his night end.
“I thought he was trying to play the puck and he might have even touched the puck first,” O’Dette said about the play. “When a goalie slides at you like that, I don’t know what he can do. I don’t think there should be any follow up to that, we missed him for half the game for no reason.”
Kelowna (1-7-0-0) took advantage of the power-play and Kyle Topping cut the Seattle lead in half when scored on a rebound at 15:15 of the second.
In the third period, Jake Lee would strike on the power play to extend the Seattle lead.
He got the puck at the point and waited out a Rockets defender before unloading on a big slap shot for his first goal of the season.
“I kind of read him coming over going for the block,” Lee said of the goal. “I knew he was going to slide out of control, so I just held that extra second, waiting for him to slide out of the way.”
The Thunderbirds would add another power-play goal later in the third off of Zack Andrusiak’s stick to end the scoring.
With the win, the Thunderbirds will now head on the bus for a rematch in Kelowna on Wednesday.
• Hughes was strong for Seattle after missing Friday’s game with a lower body injury. “He’s been a rock back there,” O’Dette said. “He gives us a chance to win every night and gives us a key save when we need him to.”
• Reece Harsch was a scratch Saturday after being hit in the head by Everett’s Sean Richards. For the play, Richards was suspended by the league. Rookie Luke Bateman was recalled by Seattle Saturday and made his WHL debut.
• Kelowna goalie Roman Basran made 28 saves but also was assessed eight minutes in penalties, six of them in the first period. During a scrum in front of Hughes late in the third period, Basran raced down the ice to get engaged and was given another two minutes for leaving the crease.
• The Thunderbirds have not allowed an even-strength goal since last Friday’s game in Vancouver.