T-Birds Hunt Down Red Deer

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(ISN) – KENT, The Seattle Thunderbirds defeated the Red Deer Rebels 3-2 in a shootout Tuesday night, getting the win before heading out on a 17-day Eastern Conference road trip. The win puts Seattle’s record at 7-6-2-1, tied for third in the U.S. Division with 17 points. Red Deer falls to 8-7-1-1 after suffering their first shootout loss of the year.

Taran Kozun got his 14th start of the year and stopped 37 of 39 shots. The win was Kozun’s seventh of the year, putting his record at 7-4-2-1. Starting for Red Deer was Rylan Toth, who had 31 saves and took the loss, making his record 7-5-1-1.

Devan Fafard came within inches of ending the game with a minute left in overtime. Fafard received a pass at the bottom of the faceoff circle and got his shot off before Kozun could make it across the crease. Fafard’s shot went wide, however, ending the threat and sending the game to a shootout.
Shots in overtime were 3-1 Seattle despite Red Deer winning all three faceoffs.

Justin Hickman scored the only goal of the shootout to help Seattle along to the win. Hickman drove wide and cut back in before pushing the puck through Toth’s five hole for the goal. Kozun stopped all three Red Deer shooters to wrap up the victory.

A chippy start to the game contributed to a drought of offensive opportunities. Physicality reigned supreme. Seattle had two power plays in the game’s first 12 minutes while Red Deer had one, with a total of 46 penalty minutes in that time.

The Rebels were able to get a shot past Kozun at 7:30 only to see it bounce off the bar and out. Seattle’s counterattack was just as dangerous, ending with a shot that went just wide of both goaltender and goal.

Hickman opened the scoring for Seattle at 15:45. An extended offensive zone possession for the T-Birds saw Hickman end up with the puck in the corner. Hickman skated back up to the top of the faceoff circle, dogged the entire way by a Rebel defenseman. The T-Bird captain was able to get a shot off from there that beat Toth to make it 1-0. Barzal and Turner Ottenbreit had the assists on the goal.

Shots in the first period were 14-12 Seattle. Faceoffs were 19-8 Red Deer.

Hickman got his second goal of the game at 1:46 on the power play, making it 2-0. Ethan Bear faked a shot from the point and skate deep into the zone. The defenseman’s shot was fought off by Toth but went straight onto Hickman’s stick, where the captain buried it with ease. Jerret Smith had the secondary assist on the goal.

The Rebels answered with a goal of their own a minute and a half later. Adam Musil scored the goal, beating Kozun after the goalie had gone down to stop the initial shot made Austin Strand. Strand had the only assist on Musil’s seventh goal of the season.

A penalty soon followed against Seattle, giving Red Deer their third power play of the game and a chance to tie it up. Keegan Kolesar nearly had a breakaway for the home team early in the penalty, only to see the puck bounce just beyond his reach. A second penalty came on the counterattack, putting the T-Birds down by two men for 1:33. Smith helped kill off the first penalty with a timely block followed by tipping a pass out of the zone for an important clearance. Another big clearance, this time by Ottenbreit, put the game back at even strength.

Kozun fought of a two-on-one with two minutes left in the game, protecting the T-Birds’ lead. The Rebels were able to get a pass off past the sprawled Seattle defenseman but Kozun’s lateral speed put him in the right place at the right time to tip the puck wide. It was part of a strong sequence for Kozun, who also gloved a short-range wrist shot on the same shift.

Red Deer led in shots 9-8 and in faceoffs 11-8 in a second period that ended with Seattle up 2-1.

The T-Birds drew the first penalty of the period at 4:10, giving them their fourth power play. Red Deer had a breakaway in the first 10 seconds of the Seattle power play but a poke check from Kozun put an end to that chance.

Unfortunately, the Rebels returned to the attack despite being shorthanded and tied the game at 4:49. Brooks Maxwell found a loose puck at the top of the offensive zone and let loose with a slap shot while at full speed that beat Kozun. It was Maxwell’s fourth goal of the season.

Scott Feser had a breakaway for the Rebels at 9:30 after a stretch pass helped the winger streak past the defense. Again Kozun stood strong, knocking the shot away and scrambling after several rebound attempts before finally covering up.

Kozun kept up his phenomenal play the rest of the third period as the visitors controlled the pace of play and peppered him with shots. Red Deer sent a puck off the crossbar on the rush with just over a minute left in the game as well. Grayson Pawlenchuk had a chance in front with 30 seconds remaining but was also denied. Kozun was able to fall on the puck as Pawlenchuk tried to deke around the front of the crease to get a shot off around Seattle’s goaltender.

Shots were 17-8 Red Deer in the third period. Faceoffs were 12-8 Red Deer.

The T-Birds leave for their Eastern Conference road trip this week, heading to Prince Albert to take on the Raiders this Friday at 5:00 pm. Seattle will play the Saskatoon Blades on Saturday at 5:05 pm after that. The next home game for the T-Birds comes on Friday, November 21 against the Spokane Chiefs at the ShoWare Center at 7:35 pm.

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