Top ten moments from the Thunderbirds 2018-2019 season: 6-10
The Seattle Thunderbirds have not played a game since the end of March and are well into their off season schedule. The NHL Draft is upcoming (June 21st and 22nd), followed by the CHL Import Draft (June 27th) and before too long, August will be here, and training camp will be underway.
There is plenty of news to come concerning the Thunderbirds but before it breaks and gets dissected, how about one last look at the season that was in 2018-2019?
It is most likely an overused sports cliche to describe the Thunderbirds past season as the tale of two halves, but that is what it was. The team looked dead in the water at the campaign’s midpoint, but some big moves made by General Manager Bil La Forge shook things up and led to a fun and entertaining finish — one that got them into the playoffs.
Starting with six through 10, here are the 10 most memorable moments from the 2018-2019 Thunderbirds season:
It was the regular season home finale for Seattle, who had just clinched a playoff spot the game before. The Thunderbirds were still one game under .500 and had two players sitting on career milestones. Captain Nolan Volcan needed one goal to hit 100 in his career while Matthew Wedman was one goal away from scoring 40 in a season for the first time.
Playing the Winterhawks, Volcan got his marker early in the second period as Seattle built a 3-0 lead.
“I knew I was at 99 and just tried to come into the game clear minded and lucky enough there to score,” Volcan said of becoming just the 13th Thunderbird-Breakers players to reach the century mark.
Wedman would notch number 40 at the start of the third period and the Thunderbirds would end up beating Portland 5-2. It was the first time a Thunderbirds player had reached the 40-goal mark since Prab Rai did it in 2009-2010.
It was a Saturday night late in January as the Thunderbirds headed down to Portland for the middle game in a three-in-three weekend. Seattle was one point out of a playoff spot and desperate for points. For 59 minutes the game had a been frustrating as the Thunderbirds were down 2-0 and it looked like a sure loss was laying at their feet.
As time ran down, the Thunderbirds pulled the goalie for an extra skater and Kubicek would score to pull them to within one, but with just 20 seconds left in the game. It was desperation time. Seattle won the ensuing faceoff, worked the puck around and eventually defenseman Jarret Tyszka got it at the top of the zone. He spotted Wedman, who was frantically banging his stick on the ice, open across the ice.
Tyszka put it on the big center’s stick for a game-tying slapper with just over two clicks left on the clock.
“That’s my first slap shot goal in my career,” Wedman said of his 19th goal of the season. “It felt pretty good.”
The Winterhawks would end up getting the win in overtime but the point picked up by the Thunderbirds turned out to be a huge momentum swing in their second-half playoff push.
As one of Seattle’s three 20-year-olds there were expectations for Philp as the season started. In the team’s sixth game, he showed that he was ready to live up to them.
Philp scored four goals – for his first career hat trick – against the Rockets in a game that saw the Thunderbirds streak out to a big lead before holding on a for a 9-6 win. It was an early salvo from Philp, who would go on to set career highs in goals (26), assists (49) and points (75) by season’s end. He did it in just 56 games, which was a career low, making his season even more impressive.
Seattle got contributions from other players that night. Dillon Hamaliuk set a new career high with three assists, Kubicek scored his first two WHL markers, while Andrej Kukuca and Jake Lee each chipped in with their first WHL three-point games.
The Thunderbirds power play went 4-for-5 on the night in what was their best offensive showing of the season.
“We’re happy with the offense and the way the power play executed but obviously we don’t want to give up six goals,” head coach Matt O’Dette said after the game.
Things had not gone well for the Thunderbirds against their Puget Sound rivals. The Everett Silvertips visited the accesso ShoWare Center in mid-February after taking the first six contests in the season series. The games weren’t close.
The Thunderbirds had been playing better heading into the contest, but Everett came out of the gates on fire, taking the first nine shots on goal. Ross was there for Seattle. He stopped all nine and would end the evening by setting a career high with 46 saves as the Thunderbirds beat the Silvertips 4-1 in front of a rowdy crowd.
“They came out hot and gave a good push right of the bat and Roddy was there to hold the fort down,” O’Dette said of his goalie afterwards.
Seattle moved five points ahead of Kamloops for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference with the win. The game got heated in the final seconds as a scrum broke out as the Silvertips pushed with six skaters.
The officials wanted to avoid trouble so gave all 11 skaters on the ice misconducts leaving Ross alone in his crease while the chaos was settled.
The Thunderbirds reward for making the playoffs was an opening round match up with the West’s top seeded Vancouver Giants. It didn’t start well as Seattle was pasted 7-1 at the Langley Events Centre in Game 1. It was a performance that the captain, Nolan Volcan, called ‘embarrassing’.
Coming right back to play the next night, Seattle wiped that bad taste from its mouth and evened the series with a gutty 4-1 win. Ross stopped 39 Vancouver shots, including 17 in the third period as the Giants pushed everything they had at the Seattle net.
Volcan led the way with a goal and a pair of helpers along with being a physical presence all night. He hit everything that moved and helped set the tone for the Thunderbirds to get back into the series.
“I think everyone wanted to come out here and prove something,” Volcan added afterwards. “Losing in a manner like that first game is a tough pill to swallow. We wanted to come out and lead with our best foot forward and bring our best game.”