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It was a night of firsts for the Thunderbirds as they completed a two-game sweep of their midweek series in Prince George on Wednesday evening.
Rookie Mike MacLean scored his first WHL goal and newcomer Jaxon Kaluski scored his first with Seattle to pace a seven-goal offensive outburst. Their line, with rookie Nikita Malukhin, combined for two goals and four points.
“They gave us good shifts and good minutes,” Seattle head coach Matt O’Dette said of his fourth line. “Any time they can chip in with goals, that’s huge for our team. Being able to put those guys out there and being confident they can win their match up is important.”
Seven different Thunderbirds would find the net as Seattle skated away with a 7-4 win at the CN Centre that saw them outshoot the Cougars 44-22. Along with the seven goal scorers, seven Thunderbirds also had multiple points on the evening.
Among those seven was rookie Dillon Hamaliuk, who’s goal five minutes into the third period would prove to be the game-winning goal. The big rookie took a pass from line mate Noah Philp, skated into the slot and roofed a back-hand shot for his 11th marker.
He has nine points in his last four games and is starting to find his scoring touch.
“It’s scary to think if he had cashed in on some of his chances earlier in the season, where he’d be at,” O’Dette said about Hamaliuk. “He’s coming into his own. He’s a bigger kid that can skate and he creates a lot of havoc out there. In turn he creates a lot of chances for himself and his line mates.”
Hamaliuk’s goal proved to be big as it made the score 5-3 but the Cougars would answer and cut the lead back to one on a tally by Jack Sander three minutes later.
Seattle (22-16-4-2) also snapped a 0-for-16 power-play slump by converting on two of its six chances. The biggest of those was a goal from Sami Moilanen 11:29 into the second period that broke a 3-3 tie.
Zack Andrusiak would also score on the power play, his 19th of the year, with under four minutes to go in the third period to help seal the victory.
“We made a couple of nice plays with the goals,” O’Dette said. “I didn’t think we executed as well as last night, it’s funny how that works. I thought we were creating chances and more control with the power play last night. But a couple of key plays at key moments.”
The game didn’t start that well for Seattle.
Despite taking a first-period lead at 7:53 when MacLean knocked home a rebound in front of the net, the period was one that saw Seattle make a number of mistakes. Prince George (17-22-4-3) would capitalize and tie the game at one on an Aaron Boyd goal, off a turnover.
Mathew Wedman would give the Thunderbirds the lead back when he scored less than a minute later but turnovers and less than crisp play would allow the Cougars to score twice more on goals by Max Kryski and Josh Maser before the period ended.
“I wasn’t too happy with the first,” O’Dette said. “A little bit of sloppy play by us, the first three goals we basically handed to them. We cleaned it up as went on.”
That clean up began seven minutes into the second period when Kaluski would slam home a rebound after Prince George goalie Taylor Gauthier stopped a Malukhin bid. That seemed to right the ship and the Thunderbirds were on their way.
After Andrusiak’s power-play marker, Nolan Volcan would score his 20th of the season late in the third period to add an exclamation point to the Seattle win.
The Thunderbirds will head home now for a tough pair of weekend games at home, starting with another match up with the Kelowna Rockets on Friday. They’ll head into that one with a head full of confidence.
“We know our schedule is difficult with two more difficult games this weekend,” O’Dette said. “We need to get points when we can and we took care of business. There’s no easy games and these guys played us hard and gave us all we can handle.”
• Seattle finishes its season series with Prince George by winning all four contests.
• Goalie Dorrin Luding started his second consecutive game for the Thunderbirds and made 18 saves to pick up his second win with the club.
• Hamaliuk’s hot play of late has him climbing the rookie scoring board. With 29 points, he is fifth in the WHL among rookies.
• The seven Seattle skaters who had two points Wednesday included MacLean, Moilanen, Donovan Neuls, Andrusiak, Wedman, Hamaliuk, and Volcan.