In a game lacking flow, Thunderbirds come up short against the Royals

Dec 7, 2019, 11:48 PM | Updated: 11:49 pm
Thunderbirds goalie Roddy Ross tries to cover a loose puck during Seattle's 3-1 loss Saturday night...
Thunderbirds goalie Roddy Ross tries to cover a loose puck during Seattle's 3-1 loss Saturday night. (Kevin LIght/Victoria Royals)
(Kevin LIght/Victoria Royals)

VICTORIA, British Columbia – Anyone who is a fan of watching power plays would have loved Saturday night’s game between the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Victoria Royals.

The two teams combined for 18 power-play attempts, which sucked any flow out of the game and made even-strength play a premium. Getting 10 of the power plays, Victoria would cash in on one, on their way to a 3-1 win at the Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre.

Victoria (15-9-2-0) got a couple of scores from Brandon Cutler, one of which was on a power play, to keep the Thunderbirds from winning back-to-back games for the first time this season.

“Way too much special teams,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “I don’t understand how that game was officiated, it got me confused. Not an even standard I thought. That being said, I thought we initiated our game plan. It didn’t happen fully until the third, I thought they were hanging on a bit there. We could have tapped into it a little earlier.”

Seattle (9-15-2-1) was led by a goal from Henrik Rybinski, who scored for the second straight night. The Thunderbirds pushed the pace when the game was played at five-on-five but that didn’t happen enough to earn the win.

Rybinski’s goal, his fourth, came 20 seconds into the game when he fired a shot over goalie Shane Farkas’ shoulder while on a two-on-one rush with Conner Roulette.

The goal was initially ruled to have hit off the crossbar but was reviewed at the next whistle and replays showed that the puck clearly had been in the net. It was a sign of the type of night it would be for the officials.

Victoria evened the game three minutes later on a wrist shot from River Fahey which brought down a rain of plush, stuffed animals from the 6,663 in attendance. The Royals were holding their annual teddy bear toss night and the game would delayed for over ten minutes to allow for the toys to be collected.

Cutler would give the home team a lead early in the second period when he lifted a backhanded shot over goalie Roddy Ross for his second of the season.

It was then that the parade to the penalty box started thanks to what could be described as over officiating.

Seattle was short-handed five times in the second period and would give up one goal when Cutler scored his second of the night on a shot through the five-hole to make it 3-1. That would also end the night for Ross, who left the game allowing three goals on 21 shots.

The Thunderbirds had their chances on the power play as well, eight of them, but couldn’t convert. Facing one of the WHL’s top penalty kills, the Thunderbirds struggled at times to get set up in the zone and move the puck.

Victoria takes an aggressive stance when short-handed and pressures the puck, creating turnovers and clears — something that mucked up Seattle’s attack.

“You have to be able to make plays and decisions quickly,” O’Dette said of the challenge. “You have to move the puck cleanly. If there are any bobbles or mishandles they’re going to be all over it. You have to move the puck quicker than they can rotate.”

Once the game got back to being played at even strength, in the third period, Seattle pushed to get back in the game.

The Thunderbirds created chances but either missed the net, or the shots found Farkas who ended the evening with 31 saves.

“I thought the passion and the work ethic was there,” O’Dette said. “Just controlling our emotions better and staying out of the box. A couple of those penalties were avoidable, a couple of them were very soft calls. The PK was good, guys stayed engaged all game. I’m disappointed in the outcome but I liked the effort.”

Seattle heads home from the weekend after splitting the pair of games with the Royals.

It was an emotional week for the young team as they saw one of the veteran players be moved out of town. The atmosphere on the bench Saturday was similar to what it was on Friday. It was positive.

“We’re a young team and that brings a lot of enthusiasm and guys are playing hard for each other,” O’Dette said. “It’s a resilient group. It’s been an emotional week but that’s part of hockey, trades happen. The guys pushed forward and put that behind them and focused on the next game and next day. We had a lot of positives this weekend.”

Game Notes

• It was another strong night in the faceoff circle for new acquired 20-year-old center Max Patterson. He went 16-for-28 on the draw and in his two games with the Thunderbirds is winning 65-percent of the faceoffs he’s taken.

• After picking up the win Friday, Blake Lyda came in relief Saturday and didn’t allow a goal. He ended the weekend by stopping 46 of 47 shots.

• The Thunderbirds return to action Tuesday night with a home game against the Spokane Chiefs.


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