Thunderbirds flat in loss to the Tri-City Americans
KENT – Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said after Seattle’s opening night win that every game was a lesson for his young team. Friday night against the Tri-City Americans was another lesson, a tough one at that.
Seattle played an uneven game, took penalties and surrendered two power-play goals as they would lose 3-1 to the visiting Americans at the accesso ShoWare Center. Sasha Mutala scored twice for Tri-City while Americans goalie Beck Warm made 31 saves for his second win of the season.
“I think the biggest (lesson) is that there are no easy games in the league,” O’Dette said. “I can’t imagine why at this point in the season we think any game is going to be easy. I think we were feeling ourselves a little too much. For our identity, a lot of uncharacteristic stuff. A lot of guys not on the same page, a little bit of selfishness creeping in. It’s disappointing.”
The Thunderbirds started the game slow and let Tri-City dictate the physical play. They fell behind in the first when Mutala scored on the power play 13:09 into the game.
“We definitely could have controlled the game more,” Conner Bruggen-Cate said. “Especially in the first and second periods we weren’t nearly physical enough. Right out of the gates, first shift, we’ve got to be going, have to be physical and get our feet under us.”
Tri-City (2-1-0-0) outshot Seattle 11-7 in the first period while the Thunderbirds struggled to find sustained zone pressure.
O’Dette started the second by mixing up his lines. He moved Payton Mount to center the top line, between Henrik Rybinski and Bruggen-Cate. Andrej Kukuca started the game on that line and was moved down the rotation.
“Trying to create a spark with different line combinations based on matchups,” O’Dette said of the change. “Not much into that, but we’ve got to be better and know what we’re doing on the ice. We’ve got to be on the same page structure and systems-wise.”
It would be the former Thunderbird, Samuel Huo, who would extend the Tri-City lead in the second period, again on the power play. Seattle (1-1-0-0) ended the evening 2-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Offensively, Seattle was only able to get a Kukuca power-play goal in the third, a score that offered brief hope as it cut the lead to 2-1, but overall the Thunderbirds could not generate much against Warm.
Failing to score on Warm is familiar ground for the Thunderbirds.
Seattle struggled at times against Warm last year. He won four of his seven starts against the Thunderbirds and in those four games, he posted a 2.20 goals-against and a .927 save percentage.
Despite not scoring, the Thunderbirds had their chances.
The last four minutes of the first period the Thunderbirds strung together good shifts and forced scoring chances. In the second period, with just under six minutes to go, Rybinski was sprung in on Warm alone but lifted the shot too much and it sailed harmlessly over the goal.
In the third, Seattle was awarded five power-play looks, including an extended five-on-three but could only muster the one goal.
“You need to create multiple opportunities at the net,” O’Dette said. “You need some volume getting pucks there and I thought we didn’t do that quite enough…just not on the same page. Six-on-five at the end and we didn’t get anything at the net. We’re trying seam passes and stuff, that’s not the plan you need.”
Coming into the season, there were bound to be nights like Friday.
“We’ve got a completely different group from last year,” Bruggen-Cate said. “We’ve got a bunch of new players, a bunch of young players. As an old player, and me being new as well, you’ve got to learn the systems fast and bring the team together. We’ve got to play as a group and not as individuals.”
The Thunderbirds will hope to learn from Friday as they prepare for a busier week ahead. They have Saturday off but next week will play three games in four nights starting Wednesday in Kamloops.
“It’s early and we know there are growing pains,” O’Dette said. “This certainly was a wake up call.”
• Mutala scored his second of the night on Seattle’s empty net with one second left on the clock for a three-point night. The Colorado Avalanche prospect is off to a strong start to the season with seven points in three games.
• Seattle defenseman Cade McNelly left the game in the first period after cutting his hand during a scrap.
“It’s a pretty bad cut I guess,” O’Dette said of the injury. “He’ll have to get some tests and have it looked at.”
• Seattle goalie Roddy Ross stopped 21 Tri-City shots and has yet to allow an even-strength goal on the season. All three that he’s allowed have come on the power play.
• Huo’s goal was the first against his former club. He was traded from Seattle to Tri-City last January.