Thunderbirds Chase Down Chiefs
SPOKANE, WA. – Tyrel Bauer broke a 3-3 tie with seven minutes remaining and the Seattle Thunderbirds picked up another road win, defeating the Spokane Chiefs, 5-3 at the Spokane Arena Friday. The win improved the T-Birds record to 2-0 heading into their home opener. The Thunderbirds are back on the ice Saturday to host the Portland Winterhawks at the accesso ShoWare Center. Game time is 6:05 p.m. It will be the first time fans will be in the building to cheer on the team since March 8th, 2020.
For the second time in as many games Seattle surrendered the games first goal as Eric Atchison put Spokane (0-2-1-0) up at 4:14 of the first period. Bear Hughes earned the only assist. The Thunderbirds tied the game just past the midway point of the first with an unassisted goal from Allesandro Segafredo. It was the first goal as a T-Bird for the native of Asiago, Italy.
“I’m really happy with the goal,” he said. “My teammates were happy for me and I’m glad I was able to help us win.” Segafredo got a surprise after scoring. When he returned to the bench he saw his uncle in the stands smiling and waving. The rookie winger was unaware his uncle, who lives just outside of Nashville, would be at the game. “He came up and is going to stay for a couple of days.”
The Chiefs went back on top with a rare 3-on-5 shorthanded goal at 11:54 of the second period. Hughes stole a stretch pass off the stick of T-Birds goalie Thomas Milic and scored before Milic could get reset in his crease. The Thunderbirds shook off the mistake and responded with two goals, 27-seconds apart, over the final 90-seconds of the period.
Lucas Ciona tied the game with an unassisted goal at 18:31 and Reid Schaefer gave Seattle their first lead with his second goal in as many games. The goal, at 18:58, and assisted by Conner Roulette and Jordan Gustafson, put the T-Birds up 3-2 after two.
Seattle held the lead until Spokane scored at the tail end of a four minute power play at 12:20 of the third. Luke Toporowski potted his third of the season, assisted by Hughes and Atchison. Once again, Seattle had a quick response as Bauer buried the game winner just 46-seconds later. Kevin Korchinski and Sam Oremba were credited with the assists on Bauer’s first of the season.
The T-Birds captain called the goal a team effort. “The puck came out to me at the point, a really good play by Korch to get it there, and a really good screen out front. All I had to do was hit the net.” Then added, “It’s a good testament to how we play, it shows what we have to do.”
A goal with two and a half minutes remaining off the stick of Roulette gave the T-Birds breathing room and they skated away with the win. Gustafson earned his second assist.
Head Coach Matt O’Dette is glad to earn the two points but knows it wasn’t his team’s best effort. “Happy with the win. Good teams find a way to win. I don’t think that was our best night and we have things to clean up.” It’s only two games in to a 68-game schedule so O’Dette knows there is room for improvement. “A lot of habits to clean up. I don’t think our habits were as good as last game. We’ll definitely need to get better for tomorrow night.”
The previous day Seattle made a trade, acquiring 20-year old defenseman Eric Van Impe from Medicine Hat for a pair of 2021 Draft picks. Van Impe met the team in Spokane and was in the lineup. “The guys were really good, the first day here. I’m really excited to be here, they have a really good group of guys. It’s a really good hockey team and I’m really happy to be here.”
General Manager BIl LaForge, who made the trade, says Van Impe is a good fit for his club. “We like Eric’s size and his reach. He skates very well for a big guy.” LaForge sees Van Impe as a veteran presence. “We think he adds depth and experience to our back end. He’s able to play in all situations and just increases our ability to play a longer game. We want to go four lines and six D and he helps us do that.”
Ciona’s goal took few minutes to confirm. Initially called a goal on the ice, the play went to video review and was waved off. A minute later the decision was overturned and the goal stood. A replay of the goal on the video screen in the building showed the puck clearly crossing the goal line.
O’Dette said it was a communication issue. “They said they couldn’t get a hold of the video review (judge) so they decided to disallow it and then, thankfully, there was a buzz down.”