T-Birds bear down in rout of Giants
KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds held their annual Teddy Bear Toss game Saturday night and the last place Vancouver Giants played the role of willing participants.
Seattle (25-15-3-1) dominated the Giants from start to finish, winning 6-1 in front of 6,146 loud ShoWare Center fans.
A night after an emotional loss to Everett, the T-Birds showed no signs of letting up against a struggling Vancouver (17-27-1-2) squad.
“I think we showed a little maturity out there,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “After a game like yesterday, a division game that was a tough loss, but we played well. To be able to come back and not overlook a team that’s not in your division and play well. Pretty much played well for the whole game.”
Mathew Barzal scored twice and added an assist in the win while line mate Ryan Gropp set up three goals. While those two paced the offense, the fans were there for the Teddy Bear goal.
They wouldn’t have to wait too long to throw their bears on the ice.
Turner Ottenbreit picked up a pass from Barzal at the blue line and fired a shot through traffic midway through the opening period. It beat Vancouver goalie David Tendeck for the defenseman’s fourth goal of the year.
Bears rained down from the crowd which caused a 20 minute delay as the players and team staff cleaned up the stuffed carnage.
“It’s pretty cool,” Ottenbreit said. “I’ve never really scored a goal like that before. It’s an honor.”
Gropp was planted in front of the net on the play and it looked like maybe he tipped it. After the game he clarified, and poked fun at his teammate.
“I didn’t touch it,” he said with a smile. “It hit the d-man’s skate. Otto’s shot was going like ten feet wide and it hit the Vancouver d-man’s skate, it’s pretty funny.”
When asked if that was a fair assessment of the shot, Ottenbreit had a different version of events.
“It was going wide but I don’t know about 10 feet,” he said laughing.
With the build up to getting the Teddy Bear goal, often a let down can occur afterwards. That wasn’t the case Saturday night as the T-Birds kept pouring it on.
Barzal would score his first of the night to make it 2-0 at the first intermission and the T-Birds were on their way. It was another strong night for Barzal, Gropp and Keegan Kolesar as Seattle’s top line is continuing to play in a dominating fashion.
“They’re playing well,” Konowalchuk said. “You can see again, it’s all three. Individually they’re playing at a very high level and then you put the three together, it’s a tough combination.”
Gropp would set up Seattle’s third goal with a highlight-reel worthy rush.
He took the puck into the Vancouver zone and weaved his way through and past three defenders. He then sent the puck to the goal crease where Alexander True had an easy tap in to make it 3-0.
“I was just trying to come with some speed and trying to get their D crossing over,” Gropp said of the play. “I was lucky enough to pull it inside.”
Seattle would continue to control the puck and the flow of play. They would add three more goals in the third period on markers from Barzal, Sami Moilanen and Luke Ormsby. Former T-Bird Calvin Spencer would score the lone goal for Vancouver to spoil goalie Rylan Toth’s bid for a shut out.
For the second straight night, the T-Birds dominated the puck possession. They outshot Vancouver 46-16 which comes on the heels of a similar shot advantage in Everett on Friday.
“It’s working hard without the puck,” Konowalchuk said of the puck possession. “It’s all over the ice. It’s in your end, getting back and working hard for pucks and getting in position to support each other to get out. If it’s at the other end it’s working hard to get the puck back.”
The T-Birds will take the two points and now prepare for their next game, this coming Tuesday in Spokane. Tuesday’s game was to be played this past week but severe weather conditions on the I-90 pass forced the league to postpone it.
• Seattle has won six straight against the Giants and will not see them again until the last day of the season.
• The T-Birds have bounced back after being shutout twice now. They were shut out by Everett back on Nov. 23rd only to come back the next game and score five times against Tri City.
• The T-Birds picked up ground on Tri City Saturday night as the Americans lost at home to Everett. Seattle pulled to within seven points of Tri City and still have six games in hand.
• A total of 6,795 bears were collected on the ice after Ottenbreit’s goal. The bears are donated to local fire, police and other agencies to hand out to children in need.