Despite OT loss to Prince George Sunday, Thunderbirds weekend was positive
KENT – The Seattle Thunderbirds played their seventh game in ten days and third in three nights on Sunday and it showed.
In a low event game, Seattle fell to the Prince George Cougars 2-1 in overtime. Josh Maser was able to sneak a shot past goalie Roddy Ross on the short side to give the Cougars a win that would cut Seattle’s lead in the wildcard race to 12 points.
“I think there was a bit of fatigue,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said. “It was definitely a factor. I thought we had a decent jump, but it was not quite to the level we needed tonight, and we were not able to sustain it. I’m happy with the way the guys battled and that was a big goal to tie the game up and give us that point.”
The big goal to tie the game at 1-1 came at 14:17 of the third period when Jared Davidson fired a one-time shot on the power play for his eighth goal of the season.
After an emotional game Saturday and a busy schedule of hockey, the Thunderbirds were just unable to find the game-winner on Sunday.
The Thunderbirds looked like they had taken a lead in the second period when Andrej Kukuca fired what would have been his 24th goal of the season past Prince George goalie Taylor Gauthier. While the Thunderbirds celebrated, the officials gathered to talk and eventually got on the phone with the video replay judge.
It turned out that the net had been off its mooring for about ten seconds prior to the goal going in. Even though it had no effect on the shot, which was over Gauthier’s shoulder, the goal was waived off and Seattle lost the momentum off it.
“It was pretty bizarre,” O’Dette said. “But, you could see the net was off and unfortunately that one didn’t go our way and we lost a little bit of power-play time but that’s the way it goes.”
Ross and Gauthier were both stellar at opposite ends of the night and Sunday was the third consecutive goalie duel between the two that ended in a final score of 2-1.
Rookie Conner Roulette was kept off the scoresheet which snapped his nine-game point streak as the weary Thunderbirds will now get a much-needed week off from games.
“Tomorrow is a recovery day,” O’Dette said. “We’ll continue to work with our guys who are injured and hopefully we can get some bodies back. There’ll be some quality rest this week.”
Seattle was again without Henrik Rybinski, Lucas Ciona, and defenseman Zach Ashton on Sunday. O’Dette hinted that there was a chance that they might get some of those players back for the upcoming weekend.
While Sunday’s loss was a disappointment, The Thunderbirds ended the weekend with three points which isn’t so bad when their schedule included two games against the U.S. Division-leading Portland Winterhawks.
“With Portland, any time you can get points from them it’s a positive,” O’Dette said. “We would have liked to deny Prince George any points but like we always do, we take the positives, stay upbeat, and keep working on our game to get ready for the next challenge.”
Other Thunderbirds news and notes
With the injures up front, O’Dette has had to juggle his lines and has found a good matchup with Payton Mount moving to center a line with Andrej Kukuca and Conner Roulette.
The trio combined for nine points in the three weekend games and created a number of chances.
“Mounter is just an all-around smart player that we needed someone to fill in down the middle that was smart and could take care of both ends of the ice,” O’Dette said Saturday about the line. “We know what Roulette can do as far as offensive instincts and Andrej’s been on a hot streak. It’s just right place, right time and they’re working well together.”
Mekai Sanders role increasing
After missing the first half of the season to injury, rookie Mekai Sanders continues to play well. Because of that, his role on the ice has increased.
He’s a ball of energy for Seattle.
Playing with a ton of speed he’s been tough on the forecheck, shows no fear in throwing a hit, and has now earned a slot on the penalty kill. He was especially good in Saturday’s win over Portland.
“We need guys out there that can skate and keep up with the pace,” O’Dette said. “He’s one of the guys that can do that, just plays with intensity and tenacity.”
Power Play showing life?
The power play has been an adventure for the Thunderbirds this season. They are 21st in the league and have struggled to find any consistency.
This weekend, the power play had some success. Scoring a goal in each of the three games, Seattle went 3-for-11 overall and had one taken away Sunday due to the loose net. That 27-percent success rate is far and away above the team’s season-long total of 14-percent.