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Rybinski’s overtime winner keeps Thunderbirds hot in Kelowna

Seattle goalie Roddy Ross celebrates after the Thunderbirds 3-2 overtime win in Kelowna (Photo by Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

New Seattle Thunderbird forward Henrik Rybinski picked an opportune time to score his first goal since joining the club.

Tied at two in overtime Wednesday night in Kelowna, Rybinksi took the puck into the Rockets zone along the boards at the 2:38 mark. He made a quick move to the slot and lifted a backhand shot over goalie Roman Basran for the 3-2 win.

The Thunderbirds bench emptied on to the Prospera Place ice and mobbed Rybinski as they had earned a big two points and pulled further ahead in the race for the playoffs.

“I thought the guys played well,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “I didn’t think the first 40 was our best, it was OK, but not our best. Guys turned it up in the third and got back to our style and the way we needed to play to be successful and spend time in their end. I thought it wore them down a little bit.”

Despite not scoring a goal for Seattle prior to Wednesday, Rybinski has been productive. He had chipped in with 12 assists in his 11 games and routinely causes havoc on the forecheck. It seemed like only a matter of time before the 17-year-old found the back of the net.

“He’s been playing fantastic for us,” O’Dette said. “Just an engine out there. He’s been working his butt off every game and it’s nice to see him get rewarded with a big overtime goal. No better time to get your first as a Thunderbird than in overtime.”

For Seattle (19-22-5-1) it was the first overtime win of the season, after starting with six straight such defeats. The Thunderbirds got goals from Matthew Wedman and Tyrel Bauer along with 26 saves from goalie Roddy Ross in the victory.

The rookie goalie improves his record to 6-1-0-1 since signing with Seattle on New Year’s Day. Ross was tested late in the third period when the Thunderbirds had to kill off an extended five-on-three Rockets power play with the score tied at two. It was the second straight game where Seattle was down two men at a crucial point in the game.

“Great job by the killers,” O’Dette said. “(Assistant coach Kyle Hagel) has these guys prepared. We probably have more experience than any PK in the world on the five-on-three. It’s incredible how many five-on-three’s we’ve had this year. Credit to the PK, to kill a full two-minute five on three with five minutes left in the third is enormous.”

Kelowna (20-24-4-1) was kept alive by Basran’s 35 saves as the Thunderbirds heavily outshot the Rockets 38-28. The Thunderbirds continue their hot streak and have only lost once in regulation over their last 10 games, with a record of 7-1-1-1.

The Thunderbirds had to come back twice on Wednesday, despite carrying the play for the majority of the game. Kelowna got on the board first after a bad bounce off the end boards ended up in front of the Seattle net and was deposited by Mark Liwiski at 8:03.

Wedman would then score his team-leading 22nd goal of the season with 54 seconds left in the first period to tie the game.

The Rockets would again take a one-goal lead in the second period, this time while shorthanded. Klye Crosbie notched his sixth of the year at 15:02 when he was allowed to skate untouched into the slot and fire a wrist shot. Seattle would again get the game square with under a minute left.

This time it would be Bauer who fired a shot with just 45 seconds left in the second. It was the big defenseman’s second goal of the season, and second in as many games.

Wednesday was a game that the Rockets nearly stole. Seattle pushed the pace for most the night but Kelowna had chances late.

“You try to fight off those feelings that you let a team hang around and you might get a bad bounce,” O’Dette said. “But I think our guys are believing that these games are going to come out in our favor now, with the way we’ve been playing. We feel like we’re earning more bounces and breaks and I don’t think that at any point the guys didn’t think we weren’t going to win this game.”

The red hot Thunderbirds will come home to face another big test this weekend when they kick off a home-and-home with the U.S. Division leading Everett Silvertips Friday night at the accesso ShoWare Center.

Notes

• Wedman’s goal gives him 47 points on the season which matches his career high set last year in 72 games. He has also scored four times in the last three games.

• Ross continues to be a revelation for Seattle. In his nine games, the only nine he’s played in the WHL, he not only has won six times but has a 2.30 goals-against and a .922 save-percentage. “He played well,” O’Dette said of the goalie. “Just calm and in control. He doesn’t get too wound up by much going on around him.”

• Seattle started the night a point ahead of the Kamloops Blazers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Blazers lost to Vancouver in overtime Wednesday night to get a point, making the two points the Thunderbirds earned that much bigger.

• Seattle played its second game without captain Nolan Volcan. The 20-year-old suffered an upper body injury Saturday night in Portland and is listed as out week-to-week.