I think I've recovered sufficiently from the trip to Prince George to attempt to write out some coherent thoughts on the two games against the Cougars up at the CN Centre.
It would have been a shame if the T-birds had come away from the weekend without any points. They weren't perfect either night but they played well enough that they deserved the two points they got. Their lack of consistent play probably cost them a chance at four points, but let's not take away from the effort of Prince George. They too were solid both nights.
Seattle showed great resiliency in both games. Twice Friday night they fell a goal down and then fell behind once Saturday. In Friday's game they were able to overcome the one goal deficit early but, despite some good effort, weren't able to do it late.
Saturday was a different story as not only did they come back late to tie it, they got the game winner in overtime.
Seth Swenson's weekend was a snapshot of the T-birds weekend. A number of times both nights he had some high quality scoring chances. Friday on a breakaway he either lost control of the puck or he misfired. Saturday I can remember, on a spinning shot from the slot, the puck also ended up wide of the mark. But he persevered and banged in the tying goal, with nine seconds left. Then he made a great deke and pass to set up the game winner for Shea Theodore.
One issue the T-birds will have to clean up is their penchant for turning the puck over at their own blue line as they attempt to carry or pass the puck up ice. From what I witnessed, many of these miscues were self-inflicted errors. They seem like minor issues that can easily be avoided by having better focus.
Many of the first year players are adapting well to the WHL. It certainly bodes well for the team's future. And I'm not just focusing on next season and beyond. As a team you always want to be playing better at the end of the season then you play at the beginning. I think with this crop of first year players the T-birds have the horses to do that.
This weekend two more rookies, a couple of forwards in 17 year old Daniel Wray and 16 year old Michal Holub, got into the lineup for the first time this season. I like what I witnessed from both in their limited shifts. They join 17 year old goalie Justin Myles and a pair of 17 year old defensemen, Taylor Green and Jerret Smith, as new faces making solid contributions early in their WHL careers. Some might not consider Green a true rookie because he did play a few games with the club last season but he didn't have one shift in those few games at his true position. Seattle used him exclusively a year ago as a forward.
Throw in the fact that both imports, Roberts Lipsbergs and Alex Delnov, are considered rookies by the WHL and that's seven first year players who have taken the ice already for Seattle. Only 16 year old defenseman Kevin Wolf hasn't seen his first playing WHL playing time yet.
The one who has impressed me the most through the first four games has been Smith. He plays both ends of the ice well. He was already listed as a "C" prospect in the initial rankings for next spring's NHL Entry Draft, but if he continues to play this well and improves on that play, I can see his draft stock rising. It's just a small sample size but Smith has three assists in his first four games, including an assist on the game tying goal late in Saturday night's win, and is tied with 20 year old Brendan Rouse for the team lead in +/- at +3.
Back in the mid 90's I was the radio broadcaster for the Tacoma Rockets for their last season in T-town before they moved up to Kelowna. Dallas Thompson, now the GM of Prince George, was the captain on that Rockets team. Saturday night Dallas reminded me, that Tacoma team was the first visiting WHL team to play a game in Prince George after the Cougars moved up from Victoria. At that time the CN Centre was just an idea on a drawing board and the team played in the old 2,000 seat arena in downtown PG. Once Dallas started talking about that firt ever trip up to PG, a lot of memories of that first night came back as if it was just yesterday.