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Thunderbirds snap losing streak with big win against the Pats

Seattle goalie Roddy Ross ducks for cover during the Thunderbirds 6-3 win in Regina. Ross won his first WHL start (Keith Hershmiller/Pats)

The Thunderbirds returned to the spot they won the WHL Championship on Sunday and perhaps felt a bit of that magic left over from 2017.

Playing at the Brandt Center in Regina, Seattle got Matthew Wedman and Andrej Kukuca back in the lineup along with the debuts for newly acquired Henry Rybinski and Michael Horon, both picked up in trades earlier in the week. Kukuca would be a welcome return as he scored twice to help the Thunderbirds pull away from the Pats in the third period to break their seven-game losing streak with a 6-3 win.

Wedman also chipped in with a goal while Noah Philp scored twice for the second straight game.

“It gave us a boost of energy,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said about getting guys back in the lineup. “I think special teams could have been a little bit better but all in all it was a pretty good game by the guys.”

In the end, it was quite a dominating performance for a Seattle (12-20-4-0) team that outscored the Pats 4-0 while playing even strength. Rookie goalie Roddy Ross made his first WHL start and picked up the win by making 19 saves and not allowing any even-strength goals. He becomes the first Seattle goalie to win in his first WHL start since Carl Stankowski did so in 2016.

“We wanted to limit the opportunities against him,” O’Dette said. “I thought we did that, especially five-on-five. We gave up some opportunities on the PK but, he was solid and pretty positive first start for him.”

After the struggles this season and the whirlwind past week, the win felt good for the Thunderbirds.

“It was big,” O’Dette said. “Obviously, this road trip was an opportunity for us to reset and there’s a couple of teams that are struggling a little bit and every game is important but some feel more important and this one was. Its nice to get on the winning side and get some positive vibes going in the room and its something to build on.”

Seattle opened the game by dominating the Pats in the first period to the tune of a 20-4 shot advantage. However, Regina goalie Dean McNabb wouldn’t flinch and neither team could score. McNabb ended the night by making 41 stops.

It would be a different story the rest of the way as Seattle would take a one-goal lead three times only to see Regina (12-28-1-1) come back to tie on three power-play goals. After Regina tied it at three at 4:16 of the third, it would be the Thunderbirds power play that would go to work.

Jarret Tyszka would score his second of the season off of a point shot while on the power play to give the Thunderbirds the lead for good at 8:59 of the third. Kukuca would then notch his second of the night from right in front on a five-on-three power-play chance, four minutes later, to put Seattle up 5-3.

Seattle’s power play struggled early in the game but would end up 2-for-5, which is impressive considering all the new pieces in place.

“We make adjustments throughout the game and try to fix some of the problems,” O’Dette said about the power play and the special teams. “Our last PK was a lot better as well as those last power plays, we simplified a little bit. Tyszka got one to the net and then managed to capitalize on our five –on-three. Its nice to chip in on some power-play goals.”

Philp would score his second, and fourth in two games, late in the game for the exclamation point.

It was another night with new faces in the Seattle lineup. Most notably was new forward Henry Rybinski who was acquired Friday from Medicine Hat. He played on the top line alongside Nolan Volcan and Wedman and would pick up his first Seattle assist in the second period when he helped set up Wedman to give the Thunderbirds a 2-1 lead.

“He looked good, he did some good things,” O’Dette said. “Its an adjustment for him, obviously he doesn’t know our systems real well yet, but that will get better. You can tell that he has some natural ability and I like his compete out there, you can see he battles for pucks. He fit right in on that line.”

It was a good night for a number of Thunderbirds. Rookie Payton Mount assisted on two goals, as did Volcan, and seven Thunderbirds recorded at least one point.

Despite all the new players, the Thunderbirds ended the night with 47 shots on goal and out shot the Pats 47-22. It was the second straight game they topped the 40-shot mark and they have nine goals in their last two games.

“I think we want to put a lot of shots on net,” O’Dette said. “It gives us an opportunity to crash the net and gives us second opportunities and I think when we’re doing that and when we are going to the net we have some success. We’re a team that prides itself on crashing the net.”

The Thunderbirds will take some new found confidence forward on their Eastern Swing , which will continue Tuesday night in Saskatoon as they take on the Blades.

Notes                                                                      

• Defenseman Zach Ashton picked up an assist for his first point as a Thunderbird and will now face his former team in Saskatoon on Tuesday.

• Mount has quietly put together a six-game point streak where he has a goal and five assists. The rookie forward as 14 points in 25 games this year.

• Seattle is off to a good start to the swing on the power play. After Sunday, it’s gone 3-for-6 in two games against Brandon and Regina.

• Micheal Horon, picked up in the Liam Hughes trade with Lethbridge, made his Seattle debut on Sunday.