THUNDERBIRDS

Thunderbirds snap three-game slide by beating Prince George

Jan 16, 2018, 10:18 PM | Updated: 10:22 pm

Forced into the starting role Tuesday night in Prince George, Seattle Thunderbirds goalie Dorrin Luding was up to the task.

Making only his sixth appearance with Seattle, Luding recorded 28 saves to backstop the Thunderbirds to a 5-2 win over the Cougars at the CN Centre. Luding bailed his team out as they survived early turnovers and four Prince George power plays. That allowed Donovan Neuls to score twice to pace the offense as Seattle ended its three-game losing streak.

“He stepped up,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said after. “Was very confident in there and made some big saves for us when we weren’t playing well there for stretches.”

Luding hadn’t started a game for Seattle (21-16-4-2) since December 9th when he lost at Spokane. He hadn’t appeared in a game until this past Saturday, when he came in to replace the injured Liam Hughes in the second period against Portland.

Getting that period-and-a-half of ice time may have helped Tuesday, as he was sharp right from the start.

“That was important; he hadn’t been in for a while,” O’Dette said. “Obviously under the circumstances you don’t want to see Hughes go down there but I think that game time that he had helped him prepare for tonight.”

Luding needed to be sharp early on as the Thunderbirds struggled to manage the puck which led to turnovers and a couple of odd man rushes in the first period. Luding stopped them and gave Seattle a chance to get back into the game.

Prince George (17-21-4-3) would score first but the Thunderbirds would bounce back and eventually build a lead, despite not playing their best hockey.

“It was a little sloppy for us at times but we managed to get the job done,” O’Dette said. “I thought we could have played a much more efficient game. I thought when we got a couple of goals there, we started playing a little loose and got off our game plan.”

For the fourth game in a row, the Thunderbirds fell behind early. It would be Max Kryski who would open the scoring for Prince George when he tipped a shot past Luding at 7:08 of the first period.

Seattle didn’t waste any time to get that goal back however as just over a minute later, Neuls picked up a turnover in the slot and snapped his first score of the night.

“Shifts after goals are key moments of the game to seize momentum back,” O’Dette said of Neuls’ answer. “We had a few good shifts there after their goal and got it back quickly. Then we went ahead, so that was key. We have to have a better start and not give up that goal.”

Their lead would come late in the period, with just 31 seconds left, when a Nolan Volcan shot hit Prince George goalie Tavin Grant and trickled over the goal line. It would be Volcan’s team leading 19th of the year and gave the Thunderbirds momentum heading into the second period.

Midway through the second, Seattle would score a couple of goals 26 seconds apart to take a commanding lead. First, it was Austin Strand who flung his 15th goal of the year from the point at 8:26. That was followed up at by Neuls, who would tip a Dillon Hamaliuk shot past Grant for his second of the night and 16th on the year.

Seattle got into some penalty trouble in the second period and ended up going to the box three times. The penalty kill unit had been struggling and while it would give up a goal to Jackson Leppard on the third power play to cut the lead, they would end the night killing off three-of-four chances.

“It was better,” O’Dette said of his penalty kill unit. “I thought their power play is hard to pin down, they have a pretty good power play and we needed to be on our toes. That stretch there, we took a few penalties and needed to step it up and we did.”

Luding would add six saves in the third period to keep the Cougars at bay and Blake Bargar added the exclamation point with an empty net goal in the game’s final seconds.

The Thunderbirds will stay in Prince George for a rematch Wednesday night and they know they will have to tighten up their game.

“We’ll need to be better tomorrow,” O’Dette said.

Notes

• Hughes showed up on the injury report Tuesday afternoon, listed day-to-day with an upper body injury. He was hurt Saturday in Portland when he was hit by the Winterhawks’ Skyler McKenzie.

• Volcan’s goal was his 19th and sets a new career high in points with 45.

• For Neuls, the two goals establish his new high for goals in a season with 16 and he has seven markers in his last six games.

• Hamaliuk added an assist on Tuesday for his fifth point in the last three games.

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