Thunderbirds young guns spark comeback win over Tri-City
EVERETT — While something more contemporary was playing in the Thunderbirds dressing room after their 4-3 win over Tri-City Saturday, it would have made sense if they were blaring ‘The Kids Are Alright’ by The Who.
Seattle’s young players would carry the day at the Angel of the Winds Arena in the Delta Hotels Preseason Classic. Jared Davidson, a second-year player, would score the game-winner with just 17.7 seconds left on the clock. It was Davidson’s second of the night and broke a 3-3 tie to give the Thunderbirds their second win on the preseason.
The Thunderbirds got a big night from their 2018 draft class in the win as well.
Lucas Ciona scored a goal and added two assists, while fellow rookie Conner Roulette scored a goal to go with an assist.
“You want to see that compete,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said of his rookies. “Kids working hard and battling. They’re certainly doing that. Obviously Lucas with another big night. He’s a big strong kid who’s proving to be a force. I credit all the young guys.”
Ciona, 16, has rampaged through both games he’s played.
He’s been a physical force, scoring twice and Saturday was joined by the remainder of the 2018 draft class, Kai Uchacz, Mekai Sanders, Sam Popowich, Reid Schaefer, and Roulette.
It was the first game of the preseason for Roulette and he was dangerous. His second period tip-in of a Ciona shot would tie the game after Seattle had twice fallen behind by two goals.
“It felt really good to get the monkey off the back,” Roulette said. “It shocked me and I had a smile on my face for a bit there. It was fun to finally get back on the ice after that long year of waiting. After this long week, it was fun to get the legs moving and play as a team for once.”
There may not be a player who enjoys being on the ice as much as Roulette does.
He can’t help but show the joy that he has playing.
“I’m always playing with a smile on my face,” he said, unsurprisingly, with a smile. “When guys kind of chirp me for wearing a cage I find it funny. Everything out there makes me smile. I don’t let anger get the best of me, I just smile and have fun.”
For the second straight night, Seattle fell behind 2-0 early in the first period.
Saturday, Tri-City’s Sasha Mutala got the Americans on the board on their first shot, 1:06 into the game, on a wrap-around that beat Seattle’s Blake Lyda. Just over three minutes later, Kyle Olson made it 2-0 with a power-play goal scored from the point.
“I think our focus tomorrow will be a better start,” O’Dette said. “It’s not a recipe to win every night, to go down two goals. We’re pretty resilient…preseason or not, it’s nice to come back and get a win.”
Davidson would score at 18:56 of the first on a Seattle power play to cut into the lead but Tri-City would reinstate its two-goal advantage 2:20 into the second period on a goal from Tyson Greenway.
Ciona would score three minutes later on the power play when he tipped in a shot from Simon Kubicek. Roulette followed that up at 9:33 of the second when he would deflect in Ciona’s shot from the top of the circle.
After the two early goals, Lyda would settle down and end the night with the win, and 35 saves.
“He slammed the door shut,” O’Dette said of his goalie. “The team wasn’t ready to go off the hop. He definitely made a few big saves there in the second half of that game, kept us in it. Great response, that shows some maturity, going down early and not getting frustrated.”
The Thunderbirds will look for the weekend sweep Sunday when they will take on the host Everett Silvertips at 7 pm.
• Saturday was a homecoming of sorts for Lyda. He was picked up in an offseason trade by Seattle after playing for the Silvertips. He suffered an injury last year that kept him out of the WHL and limiting him to five games total.
“It’s a little weird that we weren’t playing Everett here,” Lyda said. “But it was good to be back here.”
• Rookie Brendan Williamson was playing in his first WHL action and helped set up the game-winning goal. He beat out an icing call and got the puck to Payton Mount who took it to the net. Mount’s shot was stopped by Tri-City goalie Beck Warm but Davidson was there to bang it in.
“I thought it was going to be more physical than it was,” Williamson said of his first game. “Everyone is so skilled here, so they use their talent to play the body. It was really fun. I liked it.”
• Penalties were an issue again for Seattle as the Thunderbirds were short-handed eight times. O’Dette said the penalties were a combination of young players playing against an opponent for the first time and the officials calling the games closer in the preseason.
• Seattle did not play Michael Horon, Jordan Gustafson, Keltie Jeri-Leon, Graeme Bryks, Henrik Rybinski, Tyler Carpendale, Jaxan Kaluski, Matthew Wedman, Brecon Wood, Baron Thompson, Spencer Penner, Hunter Donohoe, Owen Williams, and Roddy Ross.