Thunderbirds tame Monsters in WSHL debut

by Scott Ludwig

Expansion team Las Vegas Thunderbirds made their Western States Hockey League debut last night dazzling the home crowd with a dominant 5-1 victory over the Fresno Monsters. The teams meet again today at SoBe Ice Arena with puck drop scheduled for 5:05 PM.

From the opening faceoff it was clear this was no ordinary expansion team. Veteran players can be found throughout the roster with several acquired from the relocated Long Beach Bombers. Estonia junior national team member Emil Svartbro made history scoring the first goal in franchise history in the middle of the opening period. It would not be his last though.

Early in the second frame the 20-year old Svartbro again found the back of the net with assists from ex-Bomber Christoffer Juvas and Jeremiah DeValk (Appleton, Wisconsin). Before the crowd could sit down after celebrating Canadian Owen Webster scored his first WSHL goal. The 18-year old finished off a perfect passing play from Tomas Urbanec, another former Long Beach standout.

With goaltender Rhett Bruckner stopping each shot faced the Thunderbirds began the third leading 3-0. It would add to that advantage less than four minutes into the final frame when JJ Williamson scored his first goal of his Junior career. The former Jr. Golden Knights player is just 17 and according to Coach Dave Hyrsky has "quite an upside."

Fresno would break up the shutout bid minutes later, but the Las Vegas party would not stop. Svartbro netted his hat trick with assists from Webster and Juvas to make the final 5-1.

Game two of the regular season is today. Fans may purchase tickets at the SoBe Ice Arena box office. The game also will stream live on Black Dog Hockey.