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Philp pots four as Thunderbirds offense leads the way in Kelowna

Noah Philp of the Seattle Thunderbirds celebrates one of his four goals Wednesday during the T-Birds 9-6 win in Kelowna (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

Wednesday was a night of firsts for the Seattle Thunderbirds in a game that turned into a high-scoring affair.

Noah Philp recorded his first career hat trick — and added a fourth goal for good measure — Dillon Hamaliuk assisted on three goals in a game for the first time, Simon Kubicek notched his first two WHL goals while Andrej Kukuca and Jake Lee had three-point nights for the first time in their WHL careers.

Seattle scored nine goals in all as it held on to beat the Kelowna Rockets in a wild 9-6 contest at Prospera Place in Kelowna. The Thunderbirds were seemingly in control the entire night despite allowing six goals against.

“We’re happy with the win and the two points,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “Just the way the game unfolded it turned into a run-and-gun game, which we didn’t necessarily want. We would have liked to play better defensively, but sometimes games go that way. We’re happy with the offense and the way the power play executed but obviously we don’t want to give up six goals.”

The Thunderbirds power play was clicking for the second straight game. They ended the night with four power-play goals on five attempts. After starting the season with a 2-for-20 streak they now have seven power-play scores in the last two games, both against Kelowna.

Prior to Wednesday, the power play was coming close but has now found some success.

“I think it’s a matter of executing,” O’Dette said of the power play. “We’ve been working on it a lot and the execution wasn’t quite there. We come up with game plans for every opponent and we executed the game plan tonight against Kelowna’s penalty kill.”

Scoring early, and often, Seattle (4-1-1-0) never trailed on the evening.

Philp got things going 6:49 into the opening period with his first of the night, on the power play and Andrej Kukuca would get his second goal in as many games just under two minutes later. The Rockets are off to one of the worst starts in franchise history so getting two quick scores helped the Thunderbirds set the tone.

“You want to come out and dictate the pace of the game and getting a lead against a team that’s struggling is important,” O’Dette said. “You can seize momentum and carry that through the rest of the game.”

Despite falling behind early, Kelowna (1-8-0-0) would manage cut the lead in half at 13:28 when Nolan Foote scored on a power play.

Seattle would answer back, as it would all night.

Philp would complete the first-period hat trick with two goals, just over a minute apart, to build a 4-1 lead late in the first period. Philp had never scored more than one goal in a game prior to Wednesday night, much less a single period.

“He’s taken big steps over the past two years and its kind of the way that power play set up tonight, he was the guy getting those opportunities,” O’Dette said of Philp. “He cashed them in. It’s nice to see him score some goals and hopefully it gives him some confidence.”

After Kelowna’s Leif Mattson would cut the lead back to two Seattle would add another when Zack Andrusiak scored his fourth of the season on a top-shelf wrister with just eight seconds left in the opening frame. As the teams skated off the ice Seattle had matched its season high for goals in just the first 20 minutes.

The offensive fireworks weren’t over.

Jaxan Kuluski would extend the Seattle lead 6:44 into the second period with his first of the season before the Rockets pushed back. Two quick goals, less than a minute apart, from Kyle Crosbie and Conner Bruggen-Cate would make it 6-4 and with half the game left to play, suddenly things got tight.

The Thunderbirds again had an answer.

Kubicek blasted his first career goal from the point two minutes later and Philp would notch number four less than a minute after that. In the blink of an eye the Thunderbirds had restored their four-goal lead as the teams headed into the final period of play.

“You want to respond after they score and I think we did that,” O’Dette said. “Sometimes habits can get away from you in these types of games and a lot of times you have these leads you want to harp on good habits because they have to take some chances to tie the game up. If you play the right way you’ll get more chances to score.”

The third period would get a little sloppy but Mattson would score again for the Rockets before Kubicek recorded his second of the night for Seattle’s ninth goal. Lassi Thomson would score a cosmetic goal with just under three minutes left to finish off the scoring and give the official scorers a breather for the first time all evening.

The Thunderbirds will head back home for a Saturday night match up with the Edmonton Oil Kings at the accesso ShoWare Center. They’ll be happy with the nine goals but still have work to do.

“We’re not a team that’s happy with giving up six goals,” O’Dette said. “So, we’ll have some meetings to address that and we have a good Edmonton team coming up and we’ll have to clean up some of that defensive game.”

Notes

• Hamaliuk had his five-game goal scoring streak snapped but turned play maker for his second three-point night of the young season. He’s picked up points in all six Seattle games. “Those three assists that he got weren’t cheapies,” O’Dette said of Hamaliuk. “He made those plays happen. He created with winning races to loose pucks and he’s playing well for us. He’s proven that he’s not just a power forward. He can go up and down the ice, he can do more things than that.”

• Goalie Liam Hughes played in front of his hometown crowd Wednesday and made 27 saves on 33 shots. James Porter got the start for the Rockets but was relieved by Roman Basran  after allowing the fourth goal.

• The nine goals were the most that Seattle has scored since Dec. 17th of 2017 when they scored 10 against the Chiefs in Spokane.

• Seattle got a scare late in the first period when Lee appeared to be shaken up after a hit behind the Thunderbirds net. He limped off the ice but returned to start the second period. His good start continues as he now has six points in six games.