On a night where Liam Hughes would make 48 saves to backstop the Seattle Thunderbirds to a shootout win, Nolan Volcan had nothing but praise for his goaltender.
“Obviously pretty hard not to be confident with Hughesy in net putting up 50 saves a night,” said Volcan after their win Tuesday night.
Volcan was as big a part of the victory tonight as Hughes was though, and It was his goal in the shootout that would eventually seal the win for Seattle.
The Thunderbirds entered the game looking to bounce back from a heartbreaking overtime loss to the Victoria Royals on Saturday. They would have to do it against a tough Tri-City Americans team, who they have struggled against at times this season — notching just two wins in five chances. It wouldn’t get any easier, as the Americans welcomed back Michael Rasmussen and Juuso Valimaki to their line-up.
The TBirds came out strong in this one, spending the better part of the first three minutes of the game in the Tri-City end. It proved to be unfruitful though and the tide would turn as the Americans controlled the play for the next ten or so minutes. Liam Hughes turned away several chances before the Americans finally broke the ice at 10:57, when Nolan Yaremko corralled a bouncing puck in front and slid it past Hughes.
Seattle bounced back quickly with a goal of their own at 13:37. Jaxan Kaluski took a feed down the wing before dropping the puck for Blake Bargar. Barger would eventually find Donovan Neuls waiting in front of the net for his 19th goal of the season to tie the game at one.
The second period was a much cleaner game from both teams but the big excitement was a shot through traffic that was bobbled and dropped by Liam Hughes. There was a mad scramble in front of the net and Hughes was able to keep the puck out. The play went to a video review and was confirmed to be no goal.
The Birds found themselves short-handed at 12:05, when Zack Andrusiak took a hooking penalty. Seattle would get some fireworks though as Nolan Volcan would score a highlight reel shorthanded goal. He stole the puck at his own blue line, skated around two Tri-City defenders and beat Beck Warm across the mouth of the goal for his 25th goal of the season.
Seattle finished the second period leading the game 2-1, while trailing in shots 21-31.
The third period was again a busy one for the net-minders as Tri-City goalie Beck Warm faced 17 shots and Liam Hughes faced 19. Both teams had quality chances to score in the third including Jaxan Kaluski who picked up a skipping puck and found himself alone against Beck Warm only to be denied. The Americans had several good chances as well, including a shot off the post by Juuso Valimaki. After lots of pressure, the dam finally broke and with a little under two minutes to go, Morgan Geekie would take a feed in the slot from Jordan Topping — burying it past Hughes to send the game to overtime.
Overtime was a slow moving affair to start with both teams being very cautious. Turner Ottenbreit hit one off the crossbar and Nolan Volcan got a couple of clean shots away to no avail. At 3:18 of the overtime period Matthew Wedman was called for a tripping penalty and sent the dangerous Tri City power play onto the ice. The penalty kill unit had already killed off four penalties in this one and would need a herculean effort to fend off one more Tri-City power play. A couple of nice plays from Donovan Neuls and Jake Lee to clear the puck coupled with some great goal tending from Liam Hughes sent the game to a shootout.
The shootout went five rounds- Noah Philp went first for the Birds. He skated across the front of the net and was able to sneak one through Beck Warm on the glove side. Needing a goal to keep the shootout going, the Americans looked to Parker AuCoin, who was able to beat Hughes low on the blocker side. Nolan Volcan came over the boards for the Birds with a chance to give them the lead.
Volcan admitted that he mishandled the puck on his shootout chance, saying “I was thinking about going forehand and mishandled it a bit, so, I thought well I’ll pull it to the back hand and I was lucky enough to get it by him.”
Volcan’s shootout goal proved to be the winner as Liam Hughes would stop Juuso Valimaki on the final attempt from Tri-City.
Despite having a win percentage of .587, every point for the rest of the season will be very important for the Thunderbirds as they sit in seventh place at the moment - just two points ahead of the idle Spokane Chiefs. Only ten points separate the Birds and the first place Silvertips. The western conference is as tight standings-wise as I can ever recall. If they continue to get goal-tending like they did tonight, they just might make some noise in the standings and the playoffs.