Seven unanswered scores sink Thunderbirds in blow out loss at Kamloops
On the road for the first time this season, the Seattle Thunderbirds were in good shape in the first period against the Kamloops Blazers Wednesday night.
They opened the second period tied at 1-1 and that’s when things turned ugly.
Kamloops would blister the Seattle net, and goalie Roddy Ross, for 20 shots and five goals in the second period and go on to rout the Thunderbirds 8-1 at the Sandman Centre. The Blazers were led by a pair of goals from both Kyrell Sopotyk and Orrin Centazzo while Martin Lang recorded three points.
“I thought we had a good first period,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “We started the second with a power play and I think we got one not too long after that. We didn’t get momentum off it and the momentum swung in their favor. They got a couple of goals after that and we couldn’t reel back that momentum and it got away from us.”
Special teams were an issue for Seattle (1-2-0-0) and have been so in the season’s first three games. Drawing three consecutive power-play chances from the first period and into the second, the Thunderbirds weren’t able to convert.
Kamloops (3-3-0-0) would use the three kills for momentum and began the goal barrage in the second.
“When that momentum swings in the other direction it’s hard to get it back,” O’Dette said. “You have to simplify, get pucks back in their end and string together some shifts to get that momentum back. We didn’t do that enough.”
Brodi Stuart broke the 1-1 tie for the Blazers with a power-play goal at 7:15 of the second to open the flood gates. Seattle would end the night by allowing two power-play goals against, which doesn’t include Sopotyk’s goal five minutes into the game just after a Blazers power play had ended.
On the season so far, the Thunderbirds have allowed a power-play goal against in every game and five on 14 attempts.
The power play has also been an issue early on and the Thunderbirds were 0-fo-4 Wednesday and 1-for-11 on the year. With it being early in the season and with a number of new players, both special teams units are still feeling their way out.
“We’re just getting used to our units and combinations,” O’Dette said. “Obviously with (Matthew Wedman) coming back, there’s not a lot of practice time with him. Not quite good enough in execution and focus. We have to pick up our intensity level on special teams.”
Wedman was playing in his first game since returning from camp with the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds. With his return, the Thunderbirds were using their third different lineup, in as many games on the year.
One tweak to the lineup Wednesday saw rookie Conner Roulette on a line with Wedman and Andrej Kukuca.
The rookie played well and scored Seattle’s lone goal, his first WHL tally, in the first period when he deflected a Simon Kubicek point shot in.
“He’s got some offensive creativity there playing with a couple of good players,” O’Dette said of the 16-year-old Roulette. “He can make some stuff happen and I thought he would be able to complement those guys and at the same time balance our lines. We’ll take a look at the video and see how the combinations worked and see what we can do moving forward.”
The task won’t get easier for Seattle.
After a long bus ride from Kamloops, the Thunderbirds have one day to recover before they’re back on the road in Spokane on Friday. The Chiefs have similar talent to Kamloops and will be buoyed by the return of New Jersey Devils prospect Ty Smith.
It’s a quick turnaround but one that is the norm in junior hockey and another test for the young Thunderbirds.
“They’ll be some video,” O’Dette said. “We have a lot to correct and we’ll have to get our rest, but we want to see some more compete and more push back. We’re looking for a response Friday night.”
• Kamloops outshot the Thunderbirds 43-26 Wednesday and in two games this year have outshot Seattle 94-60.
• Ross faced 20 shots in the second period and was relieved by Blake Lyda to start the third. Ross ended the night by allowing six goals on 33 shots. Four of the six were even strength, the first he has allowed in his first three starts of the year.
• Prior to the game, Thunderbirds general manager Bil La Forge announced a trade with the Red Deer Rebels. Seattle sent the rights to defenseman Noah Barlage and a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft in exchange for 18-year-old defenseman Ryan Gottfried. With an injury to Cade McNelly, Seattle was left with six healthy defenseman and Gottfried’s arrival will provide some depth.