Thunderbirds open road trip with gritty 2-1 win in Swift Current
With time running out Friday night, former Seaatle Thunderbird Lane Pederson had a golden opportunity to stick it his former team one last time.
With his Swift Current Broncos trailing Seattle 2-1, Pederson got the puck to the right of the T-Birds’ net with a lot of room and a lot of twine to shoot at. It was hard to see if Seattle goalie Rylan Toth got a piece of the shot or if it just went wide, but either way it missed, and the T-Birds opened their road trip with a hard fought road win.
“It was a gritty road win for us,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “I thought their team was definitely ready to play but so was ours. We talk about finishing the game and go the distance, grinding it out. I thought our guys stuck with it with a good third period.”
Seattle went ahead in the third period on an Ethan Bear power-play goal and clamped down on the Broncos to hold on for the win. Bear added an assist as Ryan Gropp notched his first while also setting up Bear’s go-ahead score.
Toth was solid for the T-Birds to pick up his third win by making 29 saves. The 20-year-old goalie made 17 of those saves in the second period, with the score tied, when the T-Birds were heavily outshot 17-7.
“He had a strong game all night,” Konowalchuk said of Toth. “There were more shots in the second but at the start of the game there were three or four point-blankers that he got to keep our feet under us.”
Seattle’s much maligned penalty kill unit had its best night of the young season, killing off all five Swift Current chances including three big ones in the third period. That killed off any momentum the Broncos could muster in their comeback bid.
Defensively the T-Birds shut down Swift Current for the final four minutes until Pederson got his last-second chance with the extra attacker on. Despite three power-play chances in the final 20 minutes, the Broncos only mustered six shots on goal.
Seattle now has a modest streak of nine straight penalties killed without allowing a goal over its last three games.
“I thought our special teams in a tight game were the difference,” Konowalchuk said. “They’ve been able to get some more chemistry, guys have had a little more practice at it and it helps. You start to get some kills and you start to calm down.”
The T-Birds fell behind five minutes into the contest when another former Thunderbird, Calvin Spencer, was able to beat Toth with a shot from the high slot. Seattle would fight back to even the score when Gropp fired a hard and accurate wrist shot from the circle that beat Broncos goalie Taz Burman.
Seattle would get off its game a bit in the second period but Toth would keep it even and get the T-Birds into the third period. Seattle opened the third with a quick power-play chance that it didn’t convert, but it went right back to the power play and Bear blasted a big slap shot through traffic that Burman got a piece of but couldn’t squeeze his pads on. The puck trickled through him and over the goal line to give Seattle all the offense it would need.
It was a good road win to open a long road trip as the T-Birds will stay in the Eastern Conference over the next week. They’ll be back in action on Sunday afternoon when they take on the red-hot Regina Pats.
“It’s always good to get the first one and start to feel good about yourself,” Konowalchuk said. “But we’ve got to make sure that for tonight we enjoy it for a couple of hours but then get back to work tomorrow.”
• Pederson and Spencer were just two of five former T-Birds in action for Swift Current Friday night. Burman, Kaden Elder and Sahvan Khaira all played against their former club.
• Jarret Tyszka had two assists Friday night for his second career multiple-point game.
• Seattle has played three games since Bear was left off Team WHL. In those three games he has two power-play goals and three points. He downplayed being left off the team last week but perhaps there was some extra motivation.
• The WHL doesn’t keep face-off stats but Scott Eansor was a monster at the dot on Friday, especially late in the game as the T-Birds were nursing a one-goal lead. He won a couple of big draws at center ice that forced Swift Current to keep Burman in net longer than it wanted to.