Monday, November 29, 2010

This is a bit like trying to find the silver lining to the dark cloud that was Saturday's 6-2 loss at home to Kootenay but the season did get 24 games old before the Thunderbirds had a real "stinker". Seriously, in what other game this season has the team not been in it with a chance to win or tie at the very end? There have been games prior in which the team may have not played their best hockey, but their compete level was always top notch.

That said, there is no excuse for the effort in that loss. It just wasn't there after the 'Birds fell behind, 3-1, at the end of the first period. They lost way too many puck battles and there were far too many situations where they stopped moving their feet in that second period. It was the" perfect storm", if you will; the Ice were coming in having lost their last two games by a combined score of 9-0 and the T-Birds may have been feeling a little too comfortable after a nice road win in Everett the night before.

The next concern for the T-Birds is their recent play on home ice. Since coming off the road trip out east, the team has played four home games and has not been at their best in any of those games while accumulating a record of 1-2-0-1. An argument can be made too that the one win they got (a shootout victory over Spokane) was a bit fortunate. The win in Everett shows they continue to play well on the road but they need to bring that same effort to the ShoWare Center.

Don't let the two-game losing streak they had coming into Saturday's game fool you though. Kootenay has a very good hockey club, as evidenced by their #9 ranking in the CHL Top Ten poll. They have the majority of their team back from last season. The Ice seem to consistently win 40+ games a season and are a testament to building through the bantam draft. I think this is what the Thunderbirds are keen on doing with their recent draft classes. They have put together a nucleus that will hopefully mature together with players like Wells, Pickard, Jacobs, Alos, Elliot, Fleming, Hickman and Troock, import selections like Noebels and Sutter and drafted players in their system that will impact the near future such as Evan Wardley, Taylor Green and Jared Hauf.

As a G.M. Russ Farwell is always going to look for players that he may acquire through a trade or two to help his team but as he has said on a couple of occasions recently, especially concerning older players, you prefer them to be home grown. The reason is simple; you want those players to grow up in your organization and develop a chemistry with each other, both on and off the ice. Just look south to Portland where I believe every player on that current roster is someone they drafted or listed. Kootenay is very similar.

Now that said, Seattle has some gaps in their recent draft classes; players who just didn't work out here. So Russ filled those holes with some very good acquisitions. I doubt the T-Birds would be having the season they are having without players like Ramsay, Gallimore and Toomey in that locker room. It's critical for them to come forward with their leadership after that loss to Kootenay, especially with a red hot opponent coming to town Tuesday night. The 'Birds next opponent, the Medicine Hat Tigers, are riding a seven-game winning streak, including recent wins on the road against Everett and Portland. They boast the current WHL Player of the Week in Linden Vey who had 4 goals and 5 assists (+6) in his last three games and they've scored a whopping 99 goals in just 24 games or 4.12 goals a game.

Finally, congratulations to Calvin Pickard who has been invited to Canada's World Junior training camp in Toronto. Camp begins December 11th. Should he earn a roster spot Picks will most likely miss at least 10 games. Also Marcel Noebels (Germany) and Dave Sutter (Switzerland) will participate at World Juniors in Buffalo in late December/early January and both are rightfully excited by that opportunity.

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