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Thunderbirds still have work to do after loss to Vancouver

Henrik Rybinski was the only T-Bird to score as the Vancouver Giants won 5-1. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds will have to wait another day for their playoff party.

With a chance to clinch the final wild card spot in the Western Conference the Thunderbirds could not get past Vancouver Giants goalie David Tendeck. The Arizona Coyotes prospect made 38 saves to lead the B.C. Division champion Giants to a 5-1 win over Seattle at the accesso ShoWare Center Tuesday night.

Seattle (28-29-6-2) played well at times, outshooting Vancouver 39-24, but the Giants leaned on their goalie, were opportunistic on offense and won the special teams battle to get the win.

“I think our special teams could have been better, that was the difference in the game,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “I think watching the video we probably out chance them and out zone-timed them but that’s not what counts. We came up short and have to regroup quickly.”

Henrik Rybinski scored his eighth goal for Seattle but that would be the only shot to get past Tendeck. Vancouver (47-15-2-2) was paced offensively by a couple of scores from Lukas Svejkovsky and a 2-for-4 night on the power play.

The Thunderbirds didn’t get help from the Spokane Chiefs, who lost to the Kamloops Blazers, leaving Seattle’s magic number at two. Seattle will have to try to clinch a playoff spot Wednesday in Tri-City against the Americans.

Vancouver jumped out to a 3-0 lead on goals from Justin Sourdif, Svejkovsky, and Alex Kannok-Leipert to set up a big moment in the second period. Rybinski scored with under four minutes in the period, to cut the lead and give the Thunderbirds some life.

That momentum lasted 20 seconds however as a Seattle turnover ended in Svejkosvsky scoring his second of the night to restore Vancouver’s three-goal lead and stop any potential momentum for the Thunderbirds.

“That goal gave us some life and then it got zapped pretty quickly after that,” O’Dette said. “We made a mistake on the break out and next thing you know, it’s a three-goal lead again.”

Coming into the game the Giants were 30-1 when ahead after two periods and wasted no time to add to their lead.

Defenseman Dylan Plouffe would score his seventh goal of the year, just 43 seconds into the third period, on a power play that would push the lead to 5-1 and make the rest of the game academic.

It was a frustrating night for Seattle, who wanted to clinch a playoff spot in front of their home fans.

“Our guys played real hard, played real well,” O’Dette said. “A couple of mistakes tonight. We’ve got to shake it off and get back at ‘er.”

It looked good early for the Thunderbirds. They outshot the Giants 15-8 to start the game but missed on two power-play chances. That allowed the Giants to take a 1-0 lead when Sourdif was allowed to walk off the half boards and slide his 22nd goal past Roddy Ross.

Seattle would end the night 0-for-5 on the power play.

“I think just guys trying to make tougher plays than we had to, trying to hit seams that weren’t there and forcing shots once and a while,” Seattle captain Nolan Volcan said about the power play. “I think we’ve just got to regroup and our power play has been really good lately…we’ve just got to try to be better tomorrow.”

Ross made 12 saves and was pulled after the Giants scored their fifth goal, early in the third period.

It was only his fifth loss on the season and the first regulation defeat for the Thunderbirds since Feb. 17th, a span of seven straight games.

“You definitely can’t fault him,” O’Dette said of Ross. “He’s been playing great for us and it was one of those things where you’re managing his minutes. We’ve got some big games coming up and the fresher we can keep him, the better off we’ll be.”

Cole Schwebius came in to relieve Ross and stopped all seven shots that he faced.

The Thunderbirds will have 24-hours to regroup as they will be on the ice Wednesday evening in Kennewick with another chance to clinch a playoff spot. The magic number is still set at two points, but they only have three games left on the regular season schedule.

“There’s a lot of urgency,” Volcan said. “We don’t want to leave it down to the last game by any means. We want to secure that spot and start thinking about playoffs. We’re going to come ready to play tomorrow.”

Notes

• With the win, the Giants took over sole possession of first place in the Western Conference. The Everett Silvertips lost Tuesday in Portland to allow Vancouver to jump ahead of them in the standings. If the playoffs ended today, Vancouver would be Seattle’s first-round match up.

• Seattle’s path to the playoffs remains the same. A win Wednesday against Tri-City or a Kamloops loss in regulation to Victoria will give Seattle the wild card spot.

• Svejkovsky’s goals give him nine on the season. He played last year with the Wenatchee Wild and hails from Point Roberts, Washington.

• The two teams split the four-game season series with both winning two games in the other’s home arena.