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Thunderbirds resiliency has paid off so far in young season

Henrik Rybisnki's strong start has helped the Thunderbirds overcome early in the season. (Larry Brunt/Chiefs)

The Seattle Thunderbirds skated away from Spokane Sunday night after a back-and-forth 5-4 overtime win against the Chiefs thanks to a goal from Conner Roulette with 13 seconds left in the extra frame.

In many ways, the Thunderbirds probably should have lost that game.

They gave up power-play goals on each of Spokane’s first three attempts and allowed the Chiefs to tie the game in the third period. Early on, for the first two periods to be exact, the Thunderbirds didn’t manage the puck well and could not get their game plan on the tracks.

Seattle overcame all those in-game problems and came away with two points.

“We’ll take the win with some resiliency from our guys and we’ll be happy on the bus ride home,” head coach Matt O’Dette said after the game.

It’s early in the season but the Thunderbirds have shown a great deal of resiliency this year.

In season’s past, allowing three power-play goals and blowing a third-period lead would have meant defeat. This year has been different. Whether it’s maturity or rookies who don’t know any better, these Thunderbirds have found a way to overcome adversity.

“There’s more belief and more positivity,” O’Dette said. “Our young guys bring us energy and our leadership has been good. Guys like (Henrik) Rybinski have led the way for us. I can’t say enough about how well he’s playing.”

Rybinski had a monster game Sunday. The Florida Panthers prospect assisted on three Seattle goals and ended the night with a plus-4 rating. The biggest assist came in overtime when he drove the net taking two Spokane defenders with him which left Roulette all alone in front.

A perfect pass later and Seattle was celebrating at center ice.

It helps overcoming obstacles when a guy like Rybinski is playing the way he has so far this year. He’s a point-per-game player through eight games but his contribution goes beyond. He’s forechecking like a machine, creating turnovers, and giving Seattle positive possessions.

“He’s a guy that you definitely can’t measure with goals, he does so many good things for our team,” O’Dette added.

The newfound Thunderbirds resiliency wasn’t just on display Sunday night in Spokane, it’s been there all season.

Last year, Seattle failed to comeback and win a game in which it trailed by two or more goals. The Thunderbirds checked that box off in game one of this season after falling behind  the Chiefs 2-0 in the second period. In that same game the Thunderbirds allowed Spokane to tie it late and still came away with a victory.

On March 27th the Thunderbirds fell behind the Portland Winterhawks 2-1 in the second period only to respond with two of their own in the last two minutes of the period on their way to a victory. Four days later they trailed the Everett Silvertips 1-0 after two periods and came back with a pair of third period goals against the league’s toughest goalie to win.

Sunday night was the third time that Seattle was able to come back after trailing to start the  third period. These were all obstacles that the Thunderbirds struggled with last season.

Having more resiliency doesn’t mean that Seattle won’t lose games this year. They will. But so far they’ve been in every game and have avoided a contest where the wheels come off – something that happened too much last year. They’ve hung in and have fought to the end, like they did Friday night in Everett when their best period was the third period but just couldn’t get past Dustin Wolf in net.

The young players are getting extra ice time this year and will benefit from the early season success. They’ve seen what it takes to overcome adversity during a game and how to fight through it.

They’re going to need to tap into this resiliency the rest of the way this season.

In Sunday’s game, center Matthew Rempe left the game with a lower body injury. It’s unknown how long he’ll be out but he’s a critical part of the Thunderbirds attack.

“He’s a big body in front of the net he takes away the goalie’s eyes and retrieves loose pucks down low,” O’Dette said. “You want to have strength down the middle and Rempe is a big part of that, and we’ll need guys to step up in his absence and we will moving forward.”

Even if Rempe is back in the lineup sooner than later, O’Dette and Seattle will need the youthful resiliency to fill in for Roulette and goalie Thomas Milic. Both players will be leaving the team after this weekend’s action to go and play for Canada at the U18 World Championships in Texas.

It’s a great opportunity for rookies to step up and get in the action. That’s what this whole season is about, the development of young players. That development includes on ice skills, but it also includes how to overcome injuries, bad periods in a game, allowing three power-play goals, and being resilient.