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Depleted T-Birds Doubled Up by Chiefs

Kent, WA. – A shorthanded Seattle Thunderbirds fell, 6-3, to the Spokane Chiefs Tuesday at the accesso ShoWare Center in their first game back after a ten-day Christmas layoff.  Seattle was only able to dress 14-skaters due to injury, illness and travel issues. The two teams travel to Eastern Washington for a rematch in Spokane Thursday.

The T-Birds (18-8-3-0) got off to a fast start with Jared Davidson scoring on the game’s first shot, just 32-seconds in, with Henrik Rybinski and Ryan Gottfried earning the assists. The goal was Davidson’s eleventh of the season.

With a depleted bench, Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said it was the start they wanted. “That’s how we wanted to start the game. Get right on the attack, get the first goal and allow us to settle into the game.” O’Dette said they just didn’t carry that start on through sixty minutes. “I thought the first was pretty good. We came out a little bit on our heels in the second.  Penalties started to pile up against us and they took the momentum back from us.”

Spokane (9-16-2-1) scored two quick power play goals to open the second period, taking the lead and never looking back.  The first came 34-seconds in off the stick of Eric Atchison, the second was a minute and a half later from Bear Hughes. The Chiefs would tack on two more goals, just over two minutes apart, before the period was half over.  Cordel Larson scored at 6:03, followed by a Chase Bertholet goal at 8:21.

The Thunderbirds started the third period strong, cutting into the Chiefs lead on Jeremy Hanzel’s fifth of the season at 2:33, assisted by Davidson. Any momentum gained was wiped out when Mekai Sanders was assessed a five-minute checking-from-behind major penalty just over a minute later. Spokane ended the night 3-for-7 on the man advantage, a stat that frustrated O’Dette. “I think there are times we can be more disciplined, for sure, but getting doubled up in power play opportunities every game is starting to get old. I think sometimes it’s warranted but sometimes it’s not.”

Spokane would add a goal from Graham Sward, early on the five-minute major, then tack on another at 10:37 of the third when Hughes scored his second of the night.  The T-Birds would get back within three with Rybinski’s eighth of the season at 15:12 but that would be as close as they would come.

O’Dette said his team needed to shoot more and passed up too many opportunities. “Hundred percent. We have to manufacture offense through some shot volume and creating rebounds and traffic, especially with a depleted lineup.  You can’t pass up scoring opportunities. We’re looking for that extra pass. We’re trying to get fancy, trying to get cute and not direct enough.”

The Thunderbirds next home game is Saturday, January 8th at 6:05 p.m, once again versus Spokane.  It is Fred Meyer Teddy Bear Toss Night benefitting the Forgotten Children’s Fund.  Tickets are available online at seattlethunderbirds.com

T-BIRDS EXTRAS

Tij Iginla, Seattle’s first pick in the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft, made his Thunderbirds debut against Spokane and was credited with an assist on the T-Birds third goal, earning his first WHL point.  O’Dette was impressed by his performance. “He looked good. Obviously, there’s a strong future there. You can tell he has really good hockey sense, really good instincts.”

Earlier in the week Thunderbirds General Manager Bil LaForge executed a pair of trades.

LaForge acquired 20-year-old winger Lukas Svejkovsky from the Medicine Hat Tigers, sending a 2022 first round WHL Prospects Draft pick, a conditional 2023 second round pick and a conditional 2025 third round pick the other way. Svejkovsky, from Point Roberts, Washington, was a fourth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.

To make room on the roster for Svejkovsky, LaForge had to move out another 20-year-old, so he dealt 20-year-old defenseman Eric Van Impe, along with a seventh-round pick in the 2025 WHL Prospects Draft, to the Swift Current Broncos for 19-year-old defenseman Chase Lacombe and a 2025 fifth round selection. Neither Svejkovsky nor Lacombe was available Tuesday.

The T-Birds played without their top two scorers, Jordan Gustafson and Conner Roulette, available. Kevin Korchinkski, Lucas Ciona and Sam Oremba also were out of the lineup. Sam Knazko is away at World Juniors with Team Slovakia while Ty Bauer is out with a long term injury.

Boxscore: WHL Network

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