Thunderbirds buck Broncos in thrilling 7-6 shootout win
KENT – What was a tongue-in-cheek joke on Friday, turned into a game winning strategy Saturday for the Thunderbirds.
Head coach Matt O’Dette joked the night before that he would have to go pretty far down the list of players before he would tap defenseman Turner Ottenbreit in the shootout. But after seven shootout rounds hadn’t decided anything Saturday, O’Dette looked to Ottenbreit.
The captain responded as he skated down the ice and beat Swift Current Broncos’ goalie Joel Hofer through the five hole. At the other end, Dorrin Luding stopped Andrew Fyten and his teammates mobbed him on the ice to celebrate a 7-6 win over one of the league’s top teams.
So, is Ottenbreit going to be a mainstay in the shootout from now on?
“I don’t see why not,” the big defenseman said. “When (O’Dette) actually said it, it was kind of a shock. I didn’t know what to do. I scored yesterday five hole so I went down there and thought ‘I’ve got nothing else’ so just tried to get it on net. It worked, it’s all fun.”
O’Dette said that after seeing his captain score on a breakaway the night before, he just had a feeling.
“It was just karma,” the coach said. “Just the stars aligned for that with the events the last two nights. When he was going down there I just had a feeling it was going in.”
It was a back and forth game that saw Seattle (24-16-4-2) give up a three-goal lead in the third period against the high-powered Broncos. The Thunderbirds played a strong two periods to start the game and got goals from six different goal scorers and two power-play conversions but would run out of gas in the third.
“They’ve got a great offensive team and when they throw the kitchen sink at you there you can get hemmed in there,” O’Dette said of the third period. “We were leaking oil and I think fatigue did play a factor there.”
After falling behind early in the first, on a goal from Glen Gawdin, Seattle would respond.
A night after his hat trick, Nolan Volcan would score on the power play, five minutes into the first, for his fourth goal of the weekend. It was ‘Teddy Bear’ night at the ShoWare Center and 6,142 fans littered the ice with stuffed animals. The animals are collected and donated to local charities.
For Volcan, it was his 24th of the year as he continues to find the back of the net.
“I think just shooting the puck really, that’s all I can say,” Volcan said. “Right now I’m hot for whatever reason so I’m going to keep shooting them and hope they keep going in.”
The T-Birds would then take the lead on a goal from Sami Moilanen only to have Swift Current (33-10-3-1) square it up on a big shot from Colby Sissons before the end of the period.
Seattle would dominate the second period, scoring four times and outshooting the Broncos 15-3. Donovan Neuls gave the Thunderbirds the lead 58 seconds in on a power-play snipe for his 17th score. That was followed by markers from Matthew Wedman and Zack Andrusiak.
Gioirgio Estephan would score late in the period to cut the Seattle lead to 5-3 but Noah Philp would pick up a loose puck less than a minute after that goal and score to give the Thunderbirds what felt like a commanding three-goal advantage.
“Obviously we were fading there at the end,” O’Dette said about the third. “It’s been a long week for us but guys found a way to get it done. That was impressive, it took years off my life.”
Swift Current would come out firing, outshooting the Thunderbirds 17-5 and would get goals from Tyler Steenbergen and a second from Estephan to pull the Broncos to within one. It would be part of a five-point night for Steenbergen.
Holding onto a slim lead, the Thunderbirds got a scare when goalie Doring Luding went down after being contacted in the crease. He lay on the ice in pain for quite a while and it looked like he might have to come out of the game.
He would stay in however and make some key saves down the stretch.
“I’m still trying to figure out what a goalie interference call is, I haven’t figured it out yet,” O’Dette said of the play. “But he hung in there. Great job by him, gutsy to stay in the game and he stopped some pretty good shooters there to get the win.”
The Broncos would find a way to tie the game with under two minutes to go and their net empty. Beck Malenstyn took a shot that Luding got a part of but the puck trickled behind him. Malenstyn was able to find it and tap it home to send the game into overtime.
Neither team scored in the extra frame and it would go to a shootout. It gone down to the seventh round and O’Dette made the call to Ottenbreit for the win.
It would be a big win for the Thunderbirds, who have won four in a row and knocked off two of the elite teams in the WHL this weekend. They now hold onto to third place in the U.S. Division and remain six points out of first.
“There’s a lot of confidence,” O’Dette said of his team. “We knew tonight was going to be difficult and be somewhat of a measuring stick for us, if we could get the job done it would be a statement to how we’re plying I think the belief in the room is starting to build up.”
• Volcan’s teddy bear goal was his seventh in his last five games. O’Dette was happy to see the goal come early on. “It’s my nightmare when that drags on,” the coach said. “It’s somewhat of a weight off our shoulders. We cashed in on that power play, the power play did a good job and we got the one we needed.”
• The Thunderbirds get credit for a seventh goal with the shootout win. It’s the third straight game that they have reached the seven-goal mark.
• Luding stopped 26 shots on the night for his fourth straight win in net and Saturday was his first career shootout.
• Andrusiak added two assists to his goal, giving him three straight games with multiple points and extended his point streak to five games.