T-Birds notebook: Composure, momentum and the return of Ty Bauer
After the Thunderbirds frustrating 8-3 loss at home to Kelowna Friday night, the themes from head coach Matt O’Dette and captain Matthew Wedman were composure and momentum.
It was understandable as the Thunderbirds gave up a two-goal lead in the second period by allowing four goals in five minutes. Then, when it appeared that they had pried the momentum back from the Rockets in the third period, they allowed four more goals in a four-minute stretch.
A lot has been made about Seattle’s inexperienced roster and not being able to manage momentum swings and staying composed is part of the learning curve that rookies go through.
The game against Kelowna wasn’t the first time it has happened in the young season.
In an Oct. 4th game in Kamloops the Thunderbirds allowed three goals over two minutes in the second period. Two nights later in Spokane they opened by falling behind 3-0 in the first seven minutes. Even in a game the Thunderbirds would win at home against Victoria, they let the Royals back in the game late by allowing two goals in under four minutes late in the third period.
Learning how to fight through adversity and momentum swings comes with experience.
Saturday’s game in Everett was encouraging as there was no such lapse. Playing in front of a large and hostile crowd, the young players handled it. Everett started the game with two early power-play chances but was smothered by the Thunderbirds penalty kill and the Silvertips gained no momentum from it.
Those were the only two power-plays that Everett earned Saturday as Seattle stayed composed on the road and played disciplined.
Early in the second period, the Silvertips gained some momentum. They got behind the defense on a couple of occasions but were stopped by Roddy Ross. Seattle absorbed that push, didn’t allow a goal, and got the momentum back. If not for the stellar play of Everett goalie Dustin Wolf, Seattle probably wins Saturday.
The Thunderbirds got the momentum back by sticking to their game plan. They got the puck deep, cycled it and earned the lion’s share of the zone time.
It was a step forward and one to watch as the young players on the thunderbirds roster start to get their skates under them. They’ll try to build off Saturday as they host the Brandon Wheat Kings Friday before hitting the road for a Saturday matchup in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans.
Here’s the latest surrounding the Thunderbirds.
Jaxan Kaluski released to get under the over-ager limit
The Thunderbirds released forward Jaxan Kaluski on Monday in order to get down to the league required three 20-year-olds. Seattle’s deadline to do so had been pushed back due to the late return of Wedman from pro camp.
Kaluski hadn’t played since Wedman’s return so this move wasn’t a shock. He started his career with the Moose Jaw Warriors and came to Seattle in a trade during the 2017-2018 season. With Seattle he played in 93 games, scored seven times, and recorded 21 points.
These decisions are never easy for WHL clubs and Kaluski was a player who worked hard, killed penalties, blocked shots, and was a leader in the locker room. It didn’t take long for Kaluski to find a home as he signed Tuesday with the Lloydminster Bobcats of the Alberta Junior Hockey League.
With the move, Seattle is now set with Wedman, Andrej Kukuca, and Conner Bruggen-Cate as its three 20’s.
Bauer’s return a boost for the blueline
A big reason for Seattle’s bounce back Saturday night in Everett was the return of defenseman Tyrel Bauer.
The big 17-year-old, who recently showed up on the 2020 NHL Central Scouting Watchlist, missed three games after having to leave the game in Kamloops with an injury. He logged a ton of minutes Saturday, directed traffic in the zone, and as a result, Seattle played one of its best defensive games of the season.
Seattle is still missing one piece of its top-four defenders as Cade McNelly remains out after injuring his hand against the Tri-City Americans in the Thunderbirds second game of the season. He is listed out as ‘indefinite’ on the weekly injury report.
Three Thunderbirds to play for Canada
Kai Uchacz, Conner Roulette, and goalie Thomas Milic were selected to play for Team Canada at the World U17 Championships, set to play in November.
Uchacz and Roulette are on the Thunderbirds roster while Milic, 16, was a third-round pick of Seattle’s in the 2018 Bantam Draft. He’s currently playing for the Burnaby Winter Club where in five games he has a .957 save-percentage and 1.21 goals-against average.
The Thunderbirds led all WHL teams by having three players selected and were equaled by the Quebec Remparts and Val-d’Or Foreurs of the QMJHL.