THUNDERBIRDS

Late goal sinks Thunderbirds against the Moose Jaw Warriors

Oct 21, 2017, 10:39 PM | Updated: Oct 22, 2017, 9:32 am
New Seattle captain Nolan Volcan has played 263 games for the Thunderbirds (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)...
New Seattle captain Nolan Volcan has played 263 games for the Thunderbirds (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)
(Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – Seattle Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette was looking for a spark Saturday night against the Moose Jaw Warriors.

In an attempt to generate more scoring up and down the lineup he put his lines into the blender. It nearly worked as the Thunderbirds created a ton of offensive chances and 32 shots but struggled to score goals in a close 3-1 loss to the Warriors. It would turn out to be a frustrating affair for Seattle.

“We fought hard and we made a mistake late and that was the difference,” O’Dette said after.

The mistake came late in a game that looked like it was headed to overtime. With just 1:15 left in the third period, Moose Jaw’s Justin Almeida knocked home the puck during a scramble in front of the Seattle net for the game-winner. Moose Jaw (9-3-0-0) would add an empty-net score from Noah Gregor to seal the deal.

Almeida’s goal wiped out a strong performance by Seattle goalie Liam Hughes, who made 32 saves and kept his club in it.

“It’s tough, we’ve been talking lattely about big plays at key moments of the game,” Nolan Volcan said. “Just a key mistake like that, don’t have enough gas for the change. Its little things like that end up biting you.”

Creating a ton of chances like Seattle (4-4-0-1) did on Saturday was frustrating enough. On top of that, O’Dette didn’t think his club got a fair shake from the officials.

As the game wore on, there were some key non-calls that could have given the Thunderbirds power-play chances. Seattle ended the night with just two power-play opportunities and failed to score on either.

It’s the second game in a row that the Thunderbirds have felt slighted by the referees.

“They’re playing extremely hard and it’s frustrating when you don’t get a fair shake,” O’Dette said. “We earned some calls there in the third that weren’t called. I’ll have to watch the video and asses it. Those were choices by the refs, not to make those calls for whatever reason. It’s a tough pill to swallow but we have to do it and get ready for tomorrow.”

Equally frustrating was the number of times that Seattle came close to scoring.

With the score still tied, they created a number of chances, including one created by Volcan and new linemate Matthew Wedman. They got Moose Jaw goalie Brody Willms down and out of position while the puck laid in the crease in front of an empty net. Before a Seattle player could find it, the Moose Jaw defense was able to clear it to safety.

It was that kind of night for a Thunderbirds team that is struggling to score consistently.

“It’s just not finding those loose pucks in time,” O’Dette said. “They’re there, they’re at our feet and we just can’t find them. That’s how we’re going to have to score goals, by being gritty and get to the net.”

After a scoreless first period, Tanner Jeannot got the Warriors on the board at 5:14 of the second period after a quick passing play sprung him in alone and he slid the puck past Hughes for his fourth of the year.

Seattle was generating chances and just missing but finally cashed in three minutes later. Elijah Brown forced a turnover in the Moose Jaw zone and after his shot hit the cross bar, Sami Moilanen was the first to the rebound and banged home his ninth of the season to tie the game at one.

That set up the late game dramatics for Moose Jaw as the Thunderbirds lost their second game in a row. The Warriors are one of the best teams in the WHL and Seattle played with them for most of the night, but in the end just couldn’t find the win.

“That’s a good team we played against,” O’Dette said. “I thought we gave them all that they could handle but we’re disappointed with the way it turned out.”

The Thunderbirds will get a chance again as they will be back in action Sunday afternoon in Everett for the first regular season game against the Silvertips.

Notes

• Russian import Nikita Malukhin made his Seattle and WHL debut on Saturday. He had been recovering from an injury that he suffered in preseason. Defenseman Tyson Terretta was also back on Saturday after getting over an injury of his own.

• Defenseman Turner Ottenbreit served his last game of the six-game suspension he received from the league. He will be back in the lineup Sunday in Everett.

• O’Dette mixed up his lineups and it seemed to work as the team created a number of scoring chances. He mentioned after the game that he was most likely going to stick with the new lines on Sunday.

• Moose Jaw is coached by former Seattle Breaker, and longtime NHL player, Tim Hunter. It was the second time Hunter was behind the bench in Seattle and the second time he has beaten his old junior franchise.

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