Well, the T-birds got the hoped for result Saturday night when they shutout the Everett Silvertips and thus opened a 3-point cushion in the Western Conference playoff race. But no sooner had they done that when the gap was narrowed back to a point Sunday when the T-birds lost to Tri-City while the 'Tips were shocking the seemingly unstoppable Portland Winterhawks with a 2-1 overtime win up at Comcast Arena.
Both Seattle and Everett have a mid-week game (The 'Birds are in Kennewick to face the Americans on Tuesday while Everett hosts Kamloops Wednesday), but another head-to-head game looms large. Seattle will be in Everett this coming Friday night.
The atmosphere in the ShoWare Center, especially in the second period, Sunday was not good. Almost turned ugly. The fans and the T-birds were having a hard time buying what the officiating crew was selling. I don't believe the outcome turned on what I thought was a substandard performance by the officials, but it certainly lessened the T-birds chance to mount any sort of comeback and it almost got the T-bird faithful so enraged I thought we might see them start littering the ice with chuck-a-pucks or debris. Fortunately T-bird fans just continued to voice the displeasure.
Seattle was legitimately down two goals after one period because they committed a bad turnover at their own blue line and took a couple very obvious penalties while mounting no offensive game. Still, after not playing inspired hockey through the first twenty minutes they were only down two goals with 40 minutes left. Early in the second with Tri already skating 5-on-4, Brad Deagle is hit with a cross checking penalty. I thought it was borderline but didn't see a reason to complain to vociferously, even after the Ams scored to build a 3-0 lead while skating with the 2-man advantage. The roughing penalty called on Evan Wardley though, that led to the Americans fourth goal, was hard to stomach and essentially rendered the last 28 minutes of the game moot and uncompetitive.
Wardley had just finished a clean hit on the Americans Brendan Shinnimin. It was probably about the third time he had done so in the game. Shinnimin apparently took exception to the physical play of the T-birds defenseman and came off the boards and gave Wardley a couple chops to the back. Wardley turned and they squared off, pushing and shoving at each other. Yet the only penalty assessed is the minor to Wardley. It should have been roughing minors to both players and 4-on-4 hockey. Instead Shinnimin remains on the ice and scores the power play goal. Look, there are four officials on the ice, four sets of eyes. When in doubt check it out. Ask the other ref or the two linesmen what led up to the altercation.
I'll give the ref the benefit of the doubt on the hand pass inside the T-birds defensive zone. From my angle it appeared Justin Hickman touched the puck before his skates entered the neutral zone, but maybe not. But later in the period Seattle has a goal waved off because of alleged goaltender interference. Even if you believe there was contact between Seattle's Brendan Troock and Tri-City goalie Ty Rimmer, it was clear in live action and on the replay shown in the building that Troock was bumped by an Americans player, nudging him into Rimmer. Meanwhile, Rimmer's over the top pratfall exacerbated the issue.
If a referee can't tell the difference between bad acting and goaltender interference, then there's a problem. No wonder so many players in the league embellish as much as they do to try and draw penalties. The T-birds aren't innocent in that department either. I cringe every time Colin Jacobs snaps hishead back at the slightest contact. I've seen a few other Seattle players overact (badly) at any contact in an attempt to draw a penalty. I think it is embarrassing and disrespectful to the game. In my estimation, it is a form of cheating; trying to get something you didn't earn through deception. Meanwhile, Tri-City is a very good team, they deserved the win because they were the better team on the ice, but there is no need for the theatrics, diving or embellishment. Until the league clamps down on it with harsher punishment though, it will continue.
Another thing, some teams have started doing choreographed postgame celebrations after a win. Kamloops last season and now Tri-City this year. If you weren't aware of what the Tri-City players were imitating (Bone Saw) you would have thought they were making obscene gestures to the crowd (in fact many in the crowd at the ShoWare Center thought that was exactly what they were doing). Players need to remember the game is not just about them, it is for the fans too. I may be old school, but here's a thought; act like you've been there before, congratulate each other and then get off the ice and save that celebration for the privacy of the locker room. Until you've won something, you've won nothing. There is no need for an over-the-top, on ice, postgame celebration after a regular season win.
Here is an update on the Pace for the Playoffs following Sunday's results:
7. Victoria on pace for 53.41 pts (10 games remaining)
8. Seattle on pace for 51.93 pts (11 games remaining)
9. Everett on pace for 49.93 pts (10 games remaining)
10. Prince George on pace for 47.21 pts (11 games remaining)