Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Say Hey, Hay

Vancouver Giants head coach Don Hay may have cost his team a win and he wasn''t even at the game last night between the T-birds and the Giants. Hay is the head coach of Canada's National team, and he's away from the Giants preparing Team Canada to play in the World Juniors up in Alberta, right after Christmas, so he wasn't behind the bench for last night's game.
Hay and the coaching staff made the decision this past summer not to invite Seattle goaltender Calvin Pickard to the main camp. Picks is regarded, in most circles, as the best goalie in the WHL and thus, one of the best in all of junior hockey, yet no invite for him this season after being in Team Canada's camp a year ago.

Maybe Hay should have checked the schedule. With Calvin in goal last night, instead of at the tryout camp, the Thunderbirds shutout his Giants, 3-0 as Pickard made 37 saves. Calvin has nine shutouts now in his WHL career, including two this season, but circumstances may have made last night's blanking just a tad more sweeter than the other eight.
This effort reminded so much of the other shutout that Pickard and the T-birds registered this season. That was back on November 18th at home when, ironically they blanked the Tri-City Americans, 3-0. In that game as in last night's game the T-birds were physical, finished their checks and wore down their opponent. They played solid team defense as well.

Brendan Troock's game winning goal was a thing of beauty. Just a great individual effort and an off-balance shot that seemed to catch Vancouver goalie Adam Morrison by surprise. Up to that point, with about four and a half minutes left in the game, Morrison was matching Pickard nearly save for save. I do think Troock is still frustrated that his offensive numbers aren't trending upward and as a result I think he tries to do too much on his own. He certainly has the talent to put up big numbers but I think he just needs to let the game come to him and not force the issue.
With that goal to break the scoreless tie coming so late in the game, I wondered if the T-birds would go into a defensive shell to protect the one goal lead. That was answered just a minute later when Chance Lund made an aggressive move into the offensive zone, skating hard to the net with the puck, eventually leading to Luke Lockhart's rebound goal and a 2-0 Seattle lead. Lund had been aggressive all night and three or four times he had made similar strong rushes up ice. His perseverance was rewarded with that huge assist.

Lund has to be intriguing some NHL scouts with his size, speed and hard work. Hopefully it pays off with, at the very least, an invite to an NHL training camp next fall.
As nice as the shutout win over the Giants must be for Pickard, he and the T-birds still have an albatross hanging around their necks. Pikard has never beaten Tri-City at the Toyota Center in Kennewick during his time in the WHL; three and a half seasons. Sometimes it has been rotten luck but more often it's because the better team wins. Picks gets another crack at winning over there when the T-birds travel to Kennewick Friday in the final road game before the Christmas break.

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