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Americans edge Thunderbirds in six-round shootout in Kennewick

Tyrel Bauer fights for the puck with Tri-City's Edge Lambert Friday night in Kennewick. (Doug Love/Tri-City Americans)

The Seattle Thunderbirds put in extra time again Saturday night in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans.

For the third straight game, Seattle took a game into overtime. For the third straight game, they would come up short. This time it wouldn’t be an overtime goal that decided it, but rather a six-round shootout as neither Thunderbirds goalie Roddy Ross nor Tri-City goalie Beck Warm made things easy. In the end, it would be Warm who held off five of the six Seattle shooters to earn the Americans a 3-2 win.

“We played hard, we played well,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “Multiple opportunities to score tonight we just couldn’t find that go-ahead goal or that goal to put the game away.”

Unlike the previous two games, Seattle (2-4-2-1) sent the game into overtime by overcoming a deficit. Tri-City’s Connor Bouchard fired back a rebound to put the Americans up 2-1 with under six minutes left in regulation.

The Thunderbirds have struggled with momentum and composure but they wasted no time Saturday to get that goal back. On the ensuing faceoff, Henrik Rybinski drove the puck deep, got a shot off that rebounded out to Conner Bruggen-Cate who scored his second of the game to tie it back up.

The goal came eight seconds after giving up the lead.

“That’s a step in the right direction,” O’Dette said. “We got right back to business after they went ahead there. Stormed right down and got it back right away. That’s the response we’re looking for. It’s nice to be the ones to come back and force overtime.”

Tri-City (6-4-0-0) was led by Warm, who continues to give the Thunderbirds fits by stopping 35 shots. At the other end, Ross was just as good, making 39 saves to keep Seattle in the game.

Seattle has three points in the last three overtime losses and while technically losses, Ross has been excellent.

He’s only allowed four goals in regulation over the stretch and only two of those have come at even strength. His save percentage over the last three games is .944.

“He’s played great,” O’Dette said of his goaltender. “He’s making big saves and keeping us in games. These games have been tight because of goaltending. Roddy’s been good, the opposition’s goalies have been good. He’s been good for us in every game.”

Offense continues to be tough sledding for the Thunderbirds.

They fired 37 shots on goal Saturday but continue to look for consistent scoring. Bruggen-Cate potted both Seattle goals – his first two as a Thunderbird – but the club could not cash in on numerous good chances.

In the first period, Seattle failed on a four-minute power-play look. Warm robbed Andrej Kukca at the side of the net during that opportunity. In the second period, Rybinski was awarded a penalty shot but Warm got a piece of his bid and sent it wide.

Rybinski had a couple of good looks in the overtime period but was denied again.

The Florida Panthers draft pick has had no luck scoring to start the year. He’s worked to create a number of good looks on rushes in close, on breakaways, but the puck isn’t going in for him.

“He’s frustrated and it’s kind of building up a little bit,” O’Dette said of Rybinski. “He’s got to stay positive, he’s getting lots of chances. It would be one thing if he wasn’t getting any. He’s snake bitten, the pucks not finding the back of the net. He’s doing some good things to put himself in those positions.”

Bruggen-Cate’s first goal came just as a Seattle power play was ending in the first period and it gave the Thunderbirds a 1-0 lead.

The Thunderbirds would end the night 0-for-3 with the man advantage and are in a three-game 0-for-12 stretch with the power play. After not being able to build on their early lead, the Thunderbirds would see Tri-City tie the game up in the second period when Booker Daniel scored his first WHL goal.

“We would have liked to score on that,” O’Dette said about the early extended power play. “I thought that was a momentum building power play. Tons of looks, tons of zone time. We came out of that with momentum and feeling good about it. I thought our first was good.”

With points in each of the last three games, the Thunderbirds are slowly turning a corner.

The four games prior to the current overtime streak saw Seattle outscored 24-10 and they weren’t in three of the four. The last three have been tight games, winnable games, and games that earned points in the standings.

“We’ve just got to keep working, keep digging, keep pounding the stone,” O’Dette said. “We’re looking at the big picture of how we’re playing. There’s a lot of improvement and we’re going to keep working hard.”

Game Notes

• Bruggen-Cate, 20, had a strong game and has been playing hard this season. Saturday was the third multi-goal game in his WHL career and the first since Jan. 17th when he was playing for the Kelowna Rockets.

“He’s been working his butt off for us,” O’Dette said of the overager. “He’s been a driving force with his work ethic, he’s been creating a lot of chances and playing in all situations. It’s nice to see him get rewarded.”

• The Thunderbirds continue to struggle to put the puck in the net. In nine games this season they are averaging 2.11 goals per game. Despite that, they’re getting shots and creating scoring chances.

“We’re getting pretty clean looks, pretty big chances that we’re just not converting,” O’Dette said. “We‘ve got to keep going what we’re doing to create those chances. We just have to convert and continue to work in practice on our skills and goal scoring and once we break through hopefully the flood gates will open.”