Best Seattle Thunderbirds GoalkeepersOctober 10, 2019 - 10:18 PDT
They may not grab all the glory but where would any hockey side be without them? The goalkeepers are the unsung heroes of any team and Seattle Thunderbirds are certainly no exception.
Over the years that the T Birds have been in existence, we have seen a number of high class custodians looking after matters at the back of the rink. And, as we look ahead, it appears that the future is in good hands.
The most recent goalkeeper at Seattle Thunderbirds was the 19 year old Roddy Ross. He’s one of the youngest keepers in any division and for the club to put their faith in him, he clearly must have some serious talent. Ross joined up at the ShoWare Center from AJHL side the Camrose Kodiaks and he was quickly entrusted with the Number One Jersey.
Recognition has come quickly for the youngster and in January 2019, Ross was named as the WHL Rookie of the Month.
The teenage keeper would finish the season with a record of 16-4-1-2 and he would return a save percentage of .919 and a goals against average of 2.76. Ross showed great promise but sadly for T Birds fans he was just too good. In the NHL draft of June 2019, the first choice stopper was picked up by the Philadelphia Flyers. It was sad but inevitable as the best players will always want to test themselves in the highest possible division so we wish Roddy Ross well as he departs.
Another goalie to have followed the path laid down by Roddy Ross was the Finn Riku Helenius. His one season in the WHL with the T-Birds may not mark him down as a ‘legend’ but he was a popular player and finished the 2007/08 campaign with a respectable GAA of 2.44.
The club reached the playoffs that year but Helenius was quickly on his way and would ultimately spend a season in the NHL with Tampa Bay Lightning. Those are two who progressed from Seattle but what about the real ‘greats’ of the club?
Over the years, Seattle Thunderbirds have provided a number of players who have gone on to lift the Stanley Cup and among them is goalie Corey Schwab. A winner of ice hockey’s greatest prize with the New Jersey Devils in 2003, Schwab began his career with the T-Birds, spending three seasons with the franchise from 1988.
Corey Schwab was part of a progressive side that has started to build strongly in the early 1990s and by the start of the 1990/91 campaign, he was the club’s first choice keeper. Schwab would make 58 appearances, winning 32 as the T Birds made it to the playoffs. He would leave at the end of the season, initially joining up with Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL before eventually landing in the National Hockey League with the Devils in 1995.
In a long playing career, Corey Schwab would also appear for Tampa Bay Lightning and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Elsewhere, Rob Tallas may not have won the Stanley Cup but this goalie was a regular feature for Seattle Thunderbirds before going on to enjoy an extended stint in the NHL. Tallas came to the T-Birds in 1991 after a stint with Penticton Panthers in the BCJHL and he would spend three seasons with the club. Eventually, five campaigns with the Boston Bruins would follow and Rob Tallas is now a coach with the Florida Panthers.
He played just one season for the Seattle Thunderbirds in 1985/86 and appeared in only nine games so we could hardly say that Wade Flaherty is the greatest goalkeeper to have ever pulled on a Seattle Thunderbirds jersey. However, in terms of the NHL teams that he represented, Flaherty is certainly one of the most prolific.
At the end of that 1985/86 campaign, Wade Flaherty stayed in the WHL and played a few games for the Spokane Chiefs. It didn’t really work out there either but he began to establish a strong reputation over three seasons with the Victoria Cougars. The National Hockey League finally came calling in 1992 and Flaherty would go on to spend four years with the San Jose Sharks. By the time he hung up his stick in 2009, the stopper would also feature for the Nashville Predators, the Florida Panthers, the New York Islanders and Tampa Bay Lightning. It was a long and largely productive career for a man who started to get noticed during his brief spell with the T Birds.
One man who has yet to appear in the National Hockey League is Carl Stankowski but there are reasons why this goalkeeper will forever be remembered by fans of the Seattle Thunderbirds. The club has only ever won the WHL on one occasion and Stankowski was very much the hero of the playoff stages.
At that time, he was only 16 and thrown into proceedings after an injury to first choice pick Rylan Toth. The young Stankowksi wasn’t awed and he stood strong in those playoffs, ending with a record of 16-2-2 and a save percentage of .911. The future looked bright but injury and illness meant that the goalie would miss an entire season. It was clearly a reluctant decision to let him go but Bill La Forge traded Carl Stankowski to the Calgary Hitmen in 2018 in a deal that allowed the stopper to be closer to home and his ‘medical needs’.
With Roddy Ross out of the picture, Seattle Thunderbirds look to be putting their faith in an even younger man. Blake Lyda is just 17 but he’s already been thrown in between the posts in the 2019/20 WHL campaign. In his first two matches, the teenager has returned a high GAA of 5.25 but it’s very early days in his career and that ratio will surely improve.
We’ve seen Lyda before - he appeared on three occasions in 2017/18 - and he looks a strong prospect for the future. Will he match any of the great names on this illustrious list? Only time can provide the answer to that question.