(Kent, WA) The Seattle Thunderbirds played on home ice on Saturday night for the first time since December 29th. The team that took the ice for them was vastly different to the one that did so back in late 2018.
That team was mired in what would be a seven-game winless streak.
Six trades and a trip through the WHL’s East Division later and Seattle was back at home to battle the visiting Victoria Royals.
Both the old and new faces in the Seattle lineup played roles in their 6-4 victory on Teddy Bear Toss Night over the Royals.
Matthew Wedman led the way with a hat trick, Nolan Volcan and Sean Richards each had a goal and an assist and Henry Rybinski had two assists. Overall, 10 different Seattle players found the scoresheet in the win.
Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette credited his new revamped roster with putting his team over the edge in a game that saw each team take a lead in the third period.
“That’s been valuable lately is our depth. We’ve got four good lines that we feel comfortable putting out on the ice. So for matchup problems with other teams, we’ve got two lines that can score and the (Jaxan) Kaluski line also chipped in. It can create some matchup problems. We used every bit of our depth tonight,” O’Dette said.
Three of the players that provided points were not on the team last time they took the ice at the ShoWare Center. The new energy that they and some of the other new additions have brought has been key in providing some energy to Seattle, which has now won five of their last seven games and has gotten points in six of seven.
This game may have gone very differently for the team that was stuck in that winless streak back in December.
“There were times it was slipping from our grasp and we strengthened our grasp of the game where maybe a month ago our composure wouldn’t be the same and confidence level not the same and might spiral out of our reach,” O’Dette said.
Brock Gould was tasked with being Victoria’s savior early as both Jameson Murray and Scott Walford took penalties, giving Seattle 28 seconds of five-on-three and 3:32 straight of power play time. He made a couple sprawling stops and helped his team that was under siege early. Shots were 8-1 at the media break in the first.
Unfortunately for Gould the game’s first goal came off a strange play that originated from him. As he attempted to leave the puck behind the net, his right skate inadvertently kicked it right out into the slot.
Seattle’s Noah Philp jumped all over it and beat him low for the Teddy Bear Toss goal.
As the goal came with 4:53 left in the first, the Royals went to their locker room and the T-birds players had fun celebrating on the ice and picking up the over 6,000 bears.
“I thought our start was really good. We came out of the gates well, playing the right way, using that energy from our home crowd,” O’Dette said.
After the teams got back on the ice to play the remainder of the first, Seattle got another one. This time it was Sean Richards pouncing on an errant pass and burying it by Gould’s glove.
The goal was the first in front of the home crowd in Kent for the overage winger, who is used to the Seattle fans hating his guts instead of cheering him on.
“I really looked forward to playing today. I know how this crowd is and how energetic they get. It felt a little different being on the other side, but I was really ready to play,” Richards said.
At one point in the second, Seattle had the shot edge 15-2 with nearly an hour of real time separating those two Royals shots.
Despite the long time between facing any rubber, Seattle goalie Cole Schwebius played well enough to get his team the win. He turned away 18-of-22 overall for his third ever WHL and first on home ice.
“That can be tough for goalies. He played well. He made big saves at big times in the game and when you’re not seeing pucks you have to find ways to keep yourself sharp at the end of games and I think he did that. It was nice to see. It was his first start at home and he got the win,” O’Dette said.
As the teams switched ends to play the second Victoria found some push back.
They nearly scored as well with a Dino Kambeitz shot getting through the legs of Schwebius and in the net, but the officials waved it off as Brandon Cutler had deflected the puck down with a high stick just prior to the Kambeitz follow up shot.
The Royals used a late second period power play to find the scoreboard for the first time in 101 minutes and 49 seconds of game action dating back to Scott Walford’s goal back on Tuesday against Vancouver.
The goal came as Tarun Fizer danced into the Seattle zone and found an open D-Jay Jerome. The 19-year-old forward wired a shot by Schwebius for the long awaited Royals goal and his 17th of the season.
The goal came seconds after Seattle had killed the penalty.
The Royals even drew another penalty with 55 seconds remaining in the middle frame.
Victoria used that power play to tie the game. They used slick passing to do so a Walford’s cross-ice pass found Igor Martynov and the import’s subsequent pass found a wide open Kaid Oliver at the back post.
Then under two and a half minutes into the third, Martynov gave the Royals their first lead. A long pass off the boards from Mitchell Prowse found him in stride and he waited out Schwebius netting his fifth of the year.
Victoria had found a way back from the lopsided first and actually taken then lead.
“I thought we kind of got away from some of our habits in the middle part of the game and let them have some life and some energy,” O’Dette stated.
Just 43 seconds after the Martynov goal, Matthew Wedman sneaked one through to tie the game back up.
That did not last too long though as Kody McDonald found Prowse in the high slot and the defensive defenseman fired just his second goal of the season into the net, restoring the Royals one-goal lead.
Again it was Wedman who tied the game. This time the goal would be of the strange variety. After Andrej Kukuca threw the puck towards the net, Wedman found it and flipped a shot that appeared to sneak across the goal line.
Instead play went on for another 1:01 before a stoppage brought about a review. Sure enough the puck crossed the line before Gould flipped it out with his leg.
The game was then reset back to 9:09 where everything started anew at 4-4.
In a game where each team had six power plays, it seemed that whoever got the next one might win.
Instead, after Jake Lee took a penalty wiht 8:20 left, it was Seattle who scored on Victoria’s power play.
With a teammate charging the net, Nolan Volcan threw a shot on net and beat Gould for the 5-4 lead.
After that Schwebius made some big stops and Wedman completed the hat trick into an empty net for the 6-4 win and the first win at the ShoWare for Seattle since December 16th.
-The Victoria Royals played one man down as they scratched forwards Tyus Gent, Carson Miller and Ty Yoder and defensemen Remy Aquilon and Jake Kustra.
-Seattle scratched forwards Dillon Hamaliuk (knee injury-done for the season) and Cody Savey (out week-to-week) and Grames Bryks and defenseman Cade McNelly.
-Ralph Jarratt blocked a shot up high in the third period, left and did not return.
-The attendance was 6,211.