Four-goal second period lifts Thunderbirds in win against Red Deer Rebels
KENT – The Thunderbirds had to hang on Friday night against the Red Deer Rebels but were determined not to blow a lead for the second straight game.
Seattle built a 5-1 lead in the second period thanks to a 19-shot barrage and two goals from Henrik Rybinski. The four-goal second proved crucial as the Rebels stormed back to within one in the third period before Matthew Wedman found the empty net to send the Thunderbirds to a critical 6-4 win at the accesso ShoWare Center.
“I thought the guys played well,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “Obviously a really good 40 minutes. We haven’t been in that type of position too many times this year, 5-1 going into the third, so, we’ve got to learn how to manage that a little better.”
Red Deer (29-20-4-1) scored three times in the third period to cause some unease on the Seattle bench but the Thunderbirds found a way to hold on and extend their lead in the race for the last Western Conference playoff spot to three points.
It was a career night for Henrik Rybinski, who scored twice for the first time in a WHL game, and he was helped by two Wedman goals as well as scores from Noah Philp and Andrej Kukuca. The newcomer, Rybinski, has been strong since joining the Thunderbirds in a trade with Medicine Hat in January.
In his 20 games with Seattle he has four goals to go with 14 assists. The Seattle coaches had wanted to see him take the puck to the net more and he did just that Friday night.
“He did shoot when he had the opportunities there,” O’Dette added. “The two goals he got was from him crashing the net, which he does well already. It’s nice to see him shooting pucks at the net.”
Rybinski’s first of the night came on a second-period power play when he deflected a Philp pass from the slot to make the score 3-1. The goal was originally credited to Philp as the official scorers thought it deflected off a Red Deer player and past goalie Byron Fancy.
It was later changed officially to be Rybinski’s goal.
“Yeah, it is Rybinski’s,” Philp said of the play. “We went in the huddle and I said ‘is that yours, I think it hit you’ and he said ‘yeah’.”
Rybinski would add his second goal of the game, and the second period, at 15:14 of the period when he crashed the net and poked in a puck from in close to make it 5-1.
Seattle (22-27-5-1) was buoyed by the return of Nolan Volcan, who had missed the previous nine games due to an upper body injury. He had been listed as out week-to-week on the latest injury report but was able to recover enough to play Friday.
“I was talking to the doctor when I went in for x-rays and he said there’s a possibility (of playing),” Volcan said. “Just being out on the ice is huge but I still have a bit of recovering to do. There are some plays where I got to hold back a bit and be a little bit smart. It’s great to be back.”
The captain played a lot of minutes and took four shots on the night. He was physical and showed no ill effects of the hurt wrist.
“It surprised all of us,” Philp said. “We kind of knew leading up to the week but he’s a warrior and having him back is a big spark for us. He’s a warrior for us every night and we knew that if anyone was going to come back, it would be Volcs.”
After the Thunderbirds and Rebels played to a 1-1 first period tie, Seattle would erupt in the second period.
They outshot the Rebels 19-9 in the period, on their way to an overall 44-30 advantage on the night. Wedman would open the scoring after a nice set up from Sean Richards. After Rybinksi scored on the power play, Kukuca stole an exit pass and ripped his 20th of the season.
For Wedman, it was the fifth straight game with a goal and extended his point streak to six straight games while Kukuca scored his fourth goal in his last three outings. Rybinski would score his second of the period and the 4,575 in attendance began to party.
“We were pretty relentless on the puck in the O-Zone,” O’Dette said of the second period. “Every time their D tried to get it out we were hunting them pretty good and creating turnovers. Once they got it out in the neutral zone we got it back in quickly and didn’t allow them to change and had them hemmed in for a good stretch of that period. All that adds up.”
Red Deer made it interesting in the third with goals from Alexander Alexeyev, Oleg Zaytsev and Reese Johnson to make it 5-4 before Wedman sealed the victory with the empty net.
The win was a good start to what is going to be tough weekend for the Thunderbirds who will host Everett Saturday night before travelling to Portland Sunday.
“We just have to take care of our bodies now and carry it into the next couple of games,” Philp said.
• Seattle ended the night 1-for-5 on the power play and now have power-play goals in six of their last seven games.
• Volcan had played in every game for Seattle before getting hurt and said it was tough watching from the press box each night. “We’re so tight with Kamloops that it’s tough to sit out and watch those games,” he said Friday. “That was the biggest thing for me, to get back as quick as I could.”
• The Thunderbirds were still without defenseman Simon Kubicek and O’Dette didn’t have a defnintive return date for the Czech import.
• Seattle moved three points up on the Kamloops Blazers for the last playoff spot with the win. The Blazers were in Kennewick Friday where they lost to the Tri-City Americans 5-3.