LANGLEY, B.C. – The Seattle Thunderbirds opened defense of their 2022 Western Conference Championship with a, 4-3, shootout win over the Vancouver Giants Friday at the Langley Events Centre. Rookie Gracyn Sawchyn led the way with a goal, an assist and the shootout winner. The Thunderbirds now return to Kent for their home opener, Saturday, October 1st against these same Giants.
Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette iced a young, shorthanded lineup. Six Seattle players are still away at NHL training camps, including last season’s leading scorer Jared Davidson and top defenseman Kevin Korchinski, as the Thunderbirds dressed just 17 skaters. O’Dette appreciated the effort put forth to earn the win while acknowledging his young charges can get better.
“We’ll take the win. There were some stretches of good hockey for us. Obviously, a work in progress.” He said they need to learn how to protect a lead but said it was a lot of experience earned for the young players. “It was a tough environment to play in, on the road against a hardworking, well-structured opponent across the way.”
Seattle took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission with first period goals from Sawchyn and fellow newcomer Brayden Dube. Both players were playing in their first regular season WHL game.
The teams traded goals late in the second period. Vancouver tied it on the power play at 17:48 but the Thunderbirds responded less than a minute later when Nico Myatovic snapped home his first of the season at 18:42.
The Giants equalized with another power play goal midway through the third period. Vancouver ended the night two for three with the power play while Seattle was held scoreless on three power play chances. Despite this O’Dette wasn’t disappointed with his special teams play.
“I thought both (the power play and penalty kill) did some good things. We were a little bit unlucky on the PK but did have a monster kill in overtime.”
Five minute of 3-on-3 overtime solved nothing as Seattle killed off a Vancouver 4-on-3 man advantage to force the game to the shootout.
Seattle’s Kyle Crnkovic and Vancouver’s Samuel Honzek traded goals after the Giants first shooter was stopped by T-Birds goalie Scott Ratzlaff.
That set up Sawchyn’s game winner. Sawchyn says the winning shot came on a move he’s been working on. “I tried it out in practice. It worked so I thought I’d try it out in a game, and it turned out great. “
The win was Seattle’s third straight road win over the Giants, after winning both games in Langley last season. It was also the Thunderbirds seventh straight regular season road win against the B.C. Division.
Along with Davidson and Korchinski, Seattle was without four other players who remain at training camp with NHL teams: Reid Schaefer, Lucas Ciona, Jordan Gustafson and Thomas Milic. Meanwhile Mekai Sanders remains on the sideline as he continues to rehab from a lower body injury suffered last season.
Full boxscore: WHL Network