T-Birds salvage a point despite struggling against Tri-City
KENT – The Thunderbirds came up a handful of seconds short from pulling off the most unlikely of comebacks Friday night.
After playing a sloppy game for 55 minutes and getting heavily outshot they would score three goals in the final five minutes of regulation to force overtime against the Tri-City Americans.
Donovan Neuls tied the game at five with seven seconds left in regulation when he fought off a defender and slid his seventh goal of the season past Americans goalie Beck Warm. The Accesso ShoWare Center crowd of 5,233 were in a frenzy as the Thunderbirds had been dead in the water just a few minutes prior.
Jordan Topping would silence the crowd however, when he broke down the ice alone with 45 seconds left in overtime and made two moves to get Seattle goalie Dorrin Luding down on the ice so he could lift a shot over him. That sent the loud crowd home disappointed as Tri-City escaped with a 6-5 win.
Seattle (13-13-3-1) earned a point in the standings, but that didn’t satisfy head coach Matt O’Dette.
“That was hands down, our worst game of the year,” he said of his team’s effort.
After taking a 2-1 lead in the first period, the Thunderbirds were on their heels in the second period as Tri-City (14-10-3-0) erupted for four markers, outshooting Seattle 16-5 and took what seemed to be a commanding 5-2 lead.
“Some of our key guys weren’t there tonight,” O’Dette said. “Its uncharacteristic for us, we were getting out battled, out-jumped. We’re usually the team out working teams and that wasn’t the case tonight.”
Down 5-2 with time running out the Seattle comeback started at 14:37 when Nolan Volcan deflected a shot past Warm on a Thunderbirds power play. Two minutes later, at 16:54, it would be Zack Andrusiak who would score from the circle while on the power play.
The Thunderbirds would then pull the goalie for the extra skater and that would set up Neuls’ dramatic goal with time running out.
“Credit to the guys to keep battling and not fold the tent,” O’Dette said. “For once, we stole a point from someone else so that’s a nice change of pace, but it wasn’t a good enough effort tonight.”
There were early signs that it would be a quirky game as Tri-City opened the scoring on a goal that went off a Seattle stick and past starting goalie Matt Berlin just under six minutes into it. The goal was credited to Brett Clayton, his first of two on the night, and gave the Americans the early advantage.
Matthew Wedman would waste no time getting Seattle square as he fought through a check while driving the Tri-City net. He punched the puck in for his third of the year to even the game at one.
The Thunderbirds would crash the net later in the period, at 15:53, and after several Seattle players took a swing at the puck, it would be Noah Philp who found it and deposited it past Warm.
It didn’t take long in the second period for Tri-City to knot the game up again. Just under two minutes into the middle frame, Morgan Geekie set up Michael Rasmussen in front the net for the big winger’s first of two on the night. Rasmussen would add another a few minutes later and the Americans had Seattle reeling.
Clayton would then pot his second of the night and the period would end with another Seattle mix up in the defensive zone that resulted in Riley Sawchuk scoring with under a minute left.
The Thunderbirds would limp off the ice after 40 minutes down three goals and being outshot 25-10.
“Second period was atrocious,” O’Dette said. “It started with the back check. We decided not to pick up and it was kind of a downhill spiral from there. It was sloppy and uncharacteristic for us.”
Seattle would end the night being outshot 41-17 but still, somehow, found a way to get a point out of it.
The club will move on to play the Spokane Chiefs Saturday night in Eastern Washington and hope to build off the finish, while forgetting the start.
“There’s a lot of character in there,” O’Dette said. “We know that, it’s been shown all year. That was just another example. I mean, it wasn’t our best night, but we kept trying to plug away.”
• Seattle was again without defensemen Austin Strand and Aaron Hyman, which left it playing with three rookies on the back end. That proved to be a tough match up as the Americans feature some of the league’s best forwards.
• O’Dette said after the game that neither defenseman would be available to play on Saturday, so Seattle will again be playing with a young blue line.
• Berlin made 20 saves on the night but would be relieved by Luding to start the third period. O’Dette said the move was more about trying to spark the team in front of Berlin and not an indictment of his play. Luding would stop 15 shots in relief.
• Seattle’s struggling power play got on the board Friday night, going 2-for-4. Tri-City would end the night 1-for-4 with the man advantage.