Thunderbirds Trip up Tri-City – Seattle Thunderbirds

KENT, Wash. –Reid Schaefer scored twice and added an assist, and the short-staffed Seattle Thunderbirds skated past the Tri-City Americans, 5-1, Tuesday at the accesso ShoWare Center. It was Seattle’s tenth win this season against Tri-City with four more games remaining in the season series. The Thunderbirds and Americans will meet again Friday at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.

Seattle (35-15-4-2) played the game with three of their centers, and their leading scorer, unavailable due to injury or suspension. Head coach Matt O’Dette said it was all hands-on deck.” I was real happy with our group, obviously missing some key guys. Everyone chipped in and stepped up their game.” After a slow start in their last game, O’Dette said the team was ready to go. “Really happy with our start. It was nice to get off on the right foot.”

That fast start led to two early power plays and while the T-birds didn’t score it created momentum. They then opened the scoring when Schaefer scored the first of his two goals at 15:36 of period one, assisted by Gabe Ludwig and Sam Knazko. With key players missing, Schaefer said it was important everyone was on the same page. “Being short bodies, obviously guys have to step up. I thought a lot of guys did that today and it showed on the scoreboard.”

The two teams combined for three goals in the first two minutes of the second period. The T-birds made it 2-0 just one minute in when Lukas Svejkovsky finished a 2-on-1 rush with Schaefer. Schaefer said he and Svejkovsky have found a good working relationship. “We’ve been playing together the last few games, so just developing chemistry in practice and it’s showing up in games.”

27-seconds after the Svejkovsky goal, the T-birds surrendered a shorthanded goal to the Americans Sam Huo. The T-birds had a quick response though as 25-seconds later Sam Knazko restored Seattle’s two-goal lead on the power play. Jordan Gustafson and Mekai Sanders earned the assists. O’Dette wasn’t happy giving up the shorthanded goal but was glad to have the two-goal lead back. “That was a bad sequence for us. It did give them some life and it was nice to respond right away. Knaz made a nice play, nice shot from the blueline. He had an excellent game.”

The Thunderbirds made it 4-1 later in the period with another power play marker, this one from Sam Popowich at 13:16, assisted by Niko Myatovic and Svejkovsky. Schaefer’s second goal of the night, at 8:55 of the third period, finished off the scoring. The unassisted goal was his 29th of the season, tying him for the team goal-scoring lead with Jared Davidson.

Seattle clamped down on Tri-City in the third period allowing them just three shots on goal. “I think our style of play can work in our favor, as far as wearing teams down,” said O’Dette. “And it gives us the opportunity to take over the game late. When we’re at our best and spending a lot of time in the O-zone, staggering our changes and managing our ice time well, those are the type of third periods we can have.”

The Thunderbirds return home Saturday at 6:05 pm to face Portland at the accesso ShoWare Center. Sunday the T-birds travel down to Portland to go up against the Winterhawks at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

T-BIRDS EXTRAS

Matt Rempe served out the first of a three-game suspension assessed by the league for his five-minute boarding major and game misconduct Saturday versus Everett. He is eligible to return to the lineup Sunday in Portland.

Leading scorer Jared Davidson was out of the lineup for the first time this season after suffering an upper body injury Saturday against Everett.

Henrik Rybinski missed a seventh straight game with an upper body injury as well. Lucas Ciona, slashed in the hand in Friday’s shootout loss to Portland, was out of the lineup for a second consecutive game. Tyrel Bauer, out since suffering a lower body injury December 10thmissed his 31st consecutive game.

With five players unavailable, the T-birds recalled Ethan Mittelsteadt and Coster Dunn and both were in the lineup versus the Americans.

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