Friday, August 31, 2012

A Good First Step

The Seattle Thunderbirds began their preseason schedule Friday afternoon with a, 4-3, overtime loss to the Portland Winterhawks. Only, for me at least, this one didn't have the same feel that so many of the T-birds losses to Portland have had over the past three seasons.

Granted, it is just a preseason game and wins and losses really don't mean as much as creating some chemistry between linemates or finding those 3-4 players who are going to round out the regular season roster, but I think it is important for the T-birds to get into good habits. Winning is a good habit. Seattle didn't win this game but it was very evenly played and for the T-birds there were a multitude more postives then negatives to take from this game.

Seattle doesn't play again at the Everett tournament until Sunday but it is important to build off Friday's effort. The lineup will change as players who didn't see action versus Portland will take to the ice while others will rest. Even with the changes Seattle needs to find the same success. One of the hallmarks of a losing team is inconsistent play. The T-birds have to learn how to play consistent hockey from game to game no matter what players are or aren't on the ice.

The line of Seth Swenson, Justin Hickman and Branden Troock was probably the best line on the ice all game, for either team, and they were rewarded with three goals (each player had one). If that trio stays together, they will be a hard threesome to play against. That being said, they weren't the only T-birds creating chances on the ice. In fact I thought Seattle created a few more scoring opportunities then did the Winterhawks. Not a great deal more but there were a few golden chances they didn't cash in.

Roberts Lipsbergs, the Latvian Import, is an engergizer bunny. That guy is controlled exhuberance! He's all over the ice, banging bodies, chasing down loose pucks, winning puck battles along the boards and generally being a prototypical two-way player.

Shea Theodore has come back for his second season, and from a gold medal with Team Canada earlier this summer at the U-18s, with a stack more confidence. He's an offensive minded defenseman (and made a great outlet pass to spring Troock for the tying goal in the third period) but I thought he looked so much better in the d-zone.

Another 17 year old defenseman,Jerret Smith, seemed tentative on his early shifts which, I suppose, isn't all that unexpected considering this was his first WHL game. He picked it up as the game went on though. I think this is something the T-birds will have to get through in the first half of the season; young rookie defensemen like Smith, Taylor Green and Kevin Wolf growing into their ice time.

Goaltending: Brandon Glover made one mistake playing a puck in the first period that indirectly led to Portland's second goal. Other than that he was solid in his 30 plus minutes. 16 year old Danny Mummaugh showed no nerves and was very good in his time on the ice. He allowed two goals but it was hard to fault him on either. The three man race for the second goalie roster spot is going to be a good one.

I was waiting to see if one of the young forwards would step up and separate from the pack. None of them made glaring mistakes but none of them stood out in a positive way either. It will be interesting to see which ones stick for the regular season. Four more preseason games and a few weeks of practice to determine that.

One young player who did make me take notice a couple of times during the game was Keegan Kolesar. He was especially good in the third period when the game was tight. At age 15 Kolesar is not eligible to play in the WHL this season but he's a gamer!

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