Thunderbirds make it five straight in 6-5 shootout win over Brandon
KENT – The Thunderbirds didn’t start well on Tuesday night but they sure found a way to finish.
After pulling to within one of the Brandon Wheat Kings at 5-4, they sent goalie Dorrin Luding to the bench for the extra attacker as the clock ran down to under a minute-and-a-half. Austin Strand made a nice play at the blue line to keep the puck in the zone. He then made a move to get past a defender and into the slot for a shot that was stopped. The rebound went to Zack Andrusiak who buried the puck to tie the game at five with 1:14 left.
That sent the game into overtime and eventually a shootout that saw all three Seattle shooters convert as the Thunderbirds beat Brandon 6-5 for their fifth straight win.
“They turned the puck over at the blue line,” Andrusiak said about his 22nd goal. “I saw Strander pick it up and I just tried to get to the net. Strander made a nice move there and got it to the net and I got a lucky bounce. It came in behind the goalie and I was able to bang it in.”
Seattle (25-16-4-2) had trailed 5-3 in the third period after Brandon’s Ty Lewis scored his second of the night five minutes into the frame. The Thunderbirds bounced back by getting a big goal from Dillon Hamaliuk at the 12:29 mark to set up the late game drama.
Five different Thunderbirds scored as they overcame a sloppy first half of the game that saw the Wheat Kings build a 4-1 lead in the second period.
“That wasn’t our best game,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said. “I think in the first 10 minutes we were drinking some of our own Kool Aid. There are no easy games in this league…Our team has to earn everything it gets, nothing is going to come easy to us and we learned a lesson.”
Andrusiak added two assists to his game-tying goal for his fourth straight multi-point game. It’s a span that has seen him rack up four goals and 11 points. The 19-year-old is having a career season and continues to play with a great deal of confidence.
“I think he’s worked hard at playing a 200-foot game,” O’Dette said. “We know he can score goals and is opportunistic, but a big part of his resurgence is his play defensively. He competes hard and that has led to his success.”
Tuesday ended well, but it was as struggle at the start
Connor Gutenberg would put Brandon (28-15-3-2) up at 6:55 when he fired a shot that Dorrin Luding got a piece of but couldn’t stop. The Wheat Kings controlled the early play and out shot Seattle 11-3 to start. Lewis’ first of the night, at 10:16, would extend the lead to 2-0 and the Thunderbirds were in a hole.
Playing four-on-four the Thunderbirds would get one back when Donovan Neuls raced past the Brandon defensemen and stuffed his 18th past Logan Thompson at 15:25.
The Thunderbirds hoped to take that momentum and carry into the second period and had an early power-play opportunity. It would backfire however, as Stelio Mattheos would bang home a shorthanded goal just over three minutes into the period to make it 3-1.
Five minutes later Linden McCorrister would snap a power-play goal past Luding to extend the Wheat King lead to 4-1.
“We couldn’t put two passes together early. Just fumbling passes,” O’Dette said about his team’s struggles. “They’ve got some fast forwards over there and they get on you quick. When you’re not transitioning the puck well and making good passes, you’re going to find yourself hemmed in.”
Down three goals, the Thunderbirds started to put strong shifts together late in the second and would cut the lead when Sami Moilanen found Jake Lee with a cross-ice pass. The rookie defenseman fired a wrist shot 14:48 for his third of the year.
Before the period would end, Andrusiak would force a turnover on a forecheck behind the Brandon net. He then found Noah Philp streaking into the slot and got him the puck for Philp’s 11th. That goal came at the 17:12 mark and pulled the Thunderbirds to within one goal heading into the final frame.
Lewis would put the Wheat Kings up 5-3 before the comeback began.
It started with Philp finding Hamaliuk crashing the net where he slammed home his 12th of the year. That allowed Andrusiak to tie the game and send it to overtime.
Luding would end the night with 24 saves, including a huge glove save in the overtime period. He would then stop one of the two Wheat King shooters he faced to win his fifth straight start.
“He made a monster save when it was 5-4 to keep us in there,” O’Dette said. “The timely saves when you look over the momentum of the game, those timely saves are big. We need to play better in front of him.”
The win sets up a big weekend home and home series with U.S. Division leading Everett. Seattle pulled to within six points of the Silvertips with a game in hand.
It was supposed to be a rebuilding year for the Thunderbirds but they keep finding ways to win games and all of a sudden are in the division race.
“We’ve got a great group of guys in the room,” Andrusiak said “The coaches believe in us. We believed in each other from day one and we did want to show everyone that this isn’t a rebuild year and we can still be contenders.”
• Philp, Strand and Neuls all converted in the shootout for the Thunderbirds. Philp switched sticks before his shootout attempt. “My tape job was pretty beaten up on the other one,” Philp said. “I wanted it to be clean so I switched it up.”
• Philp is now 3-for-5 on shootout attempts this season.
• Andrusiak not only has a multiple point streak but he has points in six straight as well as a four-game goal scoring streak.
• Neuls extended his scoring streak to six games.