Thunderbirds pad wild card lead with 6-3 win over Tri-City
KENT – A night after seeing his 11-game point streak snapped, Seattle Thunderbirds center Matthew Wedman wasted no time getting back on the scoresheet.
Playing the Tri-City Americans at the accesso ShoWare Center Sunday night, Wedman scored his 36th goal on a first-period power play to erase an early 1-0 deficit and would go on to add another along with an assist as the Thunderbirds finished a three-in-three weekend by earning five of the available six points with a 6-3 win.
His second goal of the night, number 37 on the campaign, came on another power play in the second period when he got the puck in low, spun and roofed a shot to make it 4-2 and send Seattle on its way.
“Honestly, I don’t even really know how it went in,” Wedman said of the second goal. “Somehow I got it in there. It was a nice pass by (Noah Philp) and I’m glad it went in.”
The win padded the Seattle lead on the Kamloops Blazers for the Western Conference’s final wild card slot to seven points. While the Thunderbirds were winning at home Sunday, the Blazers lost in overtime to the Vancouver Giants.
Seattle (26-28-6-2) had contributions up and down its lineup with five different goal scorers. Noah Philp added three assists, a night after he had a 10-game point streak snapped in Everett. Andrej Kukuca chipped in with a goal and assist, as did Henrik Rybinski, while depth players Brecon Wood and Graeme Bryks also found the back of the net.
“We’re looking for guys to kind of step up and seize their opportunities to solidify themselves on those lines,” Seattle coach Matt O’Dette said of his bottom six. “We haven’t seen guys separate themselves yet, some guys haven’t had a lot of opportunity. Wood was good, Bryks was good with the goals for us. I thought (Payton) Mount had a really good game and we need that.
“We had guys log a lot of minutes over the weekend and they might be a little bit fresher. They needed to step up and they did.”
Cole Schwebius got the start in net for the Thunderbirds and made 23 stops to pick up his fourth win of the year.
The Thunderbirds had a good night on the power play. Both of Wedman’s goals came with the man advantage as Seattle ended the evening 2-for-7. After a January where the power play was a struggle, the Thunderbirds have found some consistency.
“I think (it’s) just confidence,” Wedman said. “Good puck movement and guys are willing to shoot the puck, we‘re getting good traffic in front of the net and I think that’s been helping.”
Tri-City (33-25-2-1) started the game strong and had the Thunderbirds on their heels. The Americans thought they had scored twice but the plays were reviewed and no goals were awarded. Sasha Mutala would then score a legitimate goal to give the visitors a 1-0 lead four minutes into the contest.
After a long, tough game Friday night, the Thunderbirds took some time to ramp back up.
“That can happen sometimes,” O’Dette said. “It’s either you come out hot and the other team is flat. We were the team that was on their heels early. It took us some time to wake up.”
Wedman’s goal late in the first got the Thunderbirds going and that momentum carried over into the second period where Seattle would score three times on goals from Kukuca, Wood and Wedman’s second.
When the second period horn sounded, the Thunderbids skated off with a 4-2 lead.
“It’s starts with the power play,” O’Dette said about the turnaround. “We got a couple there…you’ve got to generate offense and opportunities from your power play, and I think it kind of can spark the other parts of your game and you can get offense going five-on-five as well.”
In the end it was a solid bounce back for the Thunderbirds after an emotional night Saturday in Everett. After being shutout for 64 minutes they came back and found the offense Sunday.
“We were just trying to keep our heads up,” Philp said. “We thought we played well against Everett, we thought we put up a pretty damn good game and coming out losing in the last second was pretty demoralizing. At the end of the day it was a big point for us, and we just carried the momentum into today.”
The Thunderbirds will now have a week off to get some rest before hosting the Victoria Royals on Friday.
“Looking forward to it,” Philp said.
• Schwebius got his first start since playing in Portland on Feb. 17th. “He did a great job weathering the storm early when we didn’t have our legs under us,” O’Dette said. “He’s been getting tough assignments all year, lots of Everett, lots of Portland. We have lots of faith in him and he did a great job tonight.”
• Tri-City also got goals from Parker AuCoin and Krystoff Hrabik.
• With about six minutes left in the game, Americans coach Kelly Buchberger was assessed a two-minute bench minor for unsportsmanlike conduct. For some reason, he chose to walk off the ice and remained in the dressing room for the rest of the night.
• Wedman’s 37th goal is the most in a season since Prab Rai scored 40 in 2009-2010. Former Thunderbird Ryan Gropp scored 36 in 2016-2017.