Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let's Make Like a Banana and Split

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.
In Memory of Bruce McDonald 1971-2012

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Home Sour Home

Anyone else notice that four of the five U.S. Division teams have lost their home openers? Only Spokane has a chance at breaking that streak after they started on the road and beat Tri-City in Kennewick Saturday night. Seattle won Friday in Portland, the Winterhawks returned the favor and beat Seattle last night at the ShoWare Center and Everett's home opener was spoiled by a 6-0 loss to Prince George. The Chiefs home opener, by the way, is next Saturday versus the Americans.

Prince Albert, Regina,Saskatoon, Red Deer, Vancouver and Kelowna also lost their home openers. If Spokane should lose their home opener that would mean half the teams in the WHL lost in their first game on home ice this season. What ever happened to home ice advantage?

I mention this because there is this unwritten rule of how a team goes about making the post season; win your home games and split on the road. It really works more for football, because they play so few games, but it is a good formula for hockey as well.

If the T-birds are going to be a playoff team next spring, they need to try and follow that formula. Unfortunately, over the past three years they have not been a good home team. They've not yet made the ShoWare a difficult place for opposing teams to come and play.

Last night they started out well but failed to play strong for sixty minutes. Their first two games have mirrored their play in the preseason. A solid period or two followed by a subpar period, or vice versa. They need to be more consistent.

Last night's game against Portland was a tight, low scoring contest over the first half. But after the melee and the ensuing long delay in front of the Portland bench at the 7:17 mark of the second period, the T-birds were a different team. There was no response from them. They stopped playing hard. And they got into some bad habits from years past. They got lazy with the puck on their stick in the defensive zone, stopped moving their feet and as a result turned the puck over far too many times.

Meanwhile Portland, which lost it's top player, Ty Rattie to a game misconduct, picked up the slack and took over the contest. Before Seattle got back to playing hard midway through the third period, the Winterhawks had scored five goals and broken open the tight 1-1 game.

The one bright spot for Seattle last night? Another two point effort for Riley Sheen. Sheen, who scored two goals Friday down in Portland picked up an assist on each of Seattle's goals last night. This trade keeps getting better and better.

Here's hoping the trend of home teams losing their home opener continues as Seattle will be the opponent next Friday when Prince George opens up at the CN Centre.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One Small Step...

It was just the first game of 72, so you don't want to overdo the hyperbole of Seattle winning opening night down in Portland, but it is a good first step on this season long journey and definitely a building block for the foundation the coaches are laying down for this team.

Yes, the first period was a bit ugly. It seemed the T-birds didn't react well to a couple of early penalties and allowed the Portland power play to wrest control of the action. I was not as concerned at the quantity of shots the Winterhawks got in the first, but rather the quality. Maybe it was the affect of being called for the two early penalties but the 'Birds just weren't hitting, thus allowing Portland to skate inside the Seattle zone unimpeded.

Fortunately Brandon Glover was at the top of his game and came up with 30 saves to keep the game scoreless after one. I will say this though, the T-birds didn't allow much traffic in front of their goal in period and as a result there were few second chance shots off rebounds available.

Seattle became more physical and more aggressive with their fore-check in the second period. As much as they were outplayed in the first period, they were the better team in the second, most importantly because they did what the Winterhawks failed to do in the first period; finish their chances.

Speaking of finishing, the T-birds played a very smart third period. They didn't sit back on their lead, scoring an early third period goal, but with their multi-goal cushion they picked their spots on when to be aggressive and when to stay back and protect the defensive zone.

Player who surprised me? Jerret Smith. Not that I don't think he is going to be a good player for the T-birds but in the limited times I've seen him play what has stood out about this 17-year old blue liner is his offensive game. Last night he showed me he can be a rock solid defensive-minded defenseman as well.

The player who didn't surprise me? Brandon Glover. Look, making 55 saves in your T-birds debut is a "wow" event but Glover was the same as the goalie I saw in preseason. He was just so calm and under control, especially in that first period sea of madness all around him.

Portland is a very good team, emphasis on the very good. Seth Jones is as advertised and I'd be shocked if he spends more than one season in a 'Hawks jersey before the NHL beckons. He already has an NHL body. Ty Rattie is going to get his goals and their power play will probably be at or near the top of the league when all is said and done.

On at least this one night though, Seattle proved they can play with them, and even outplay them. But I've got a feeling it's not just a one night thing. Seattle is going to be competitive no matter who the opponent. Just a word of advice on the rest of the WHL: Don't sleep on the Seattle Thunderbirds.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In the Beginning

Friday night in Portland the Seattle Thunderbirds will embark on season two of the Steve Konowalchuk era. Konowalchuk, of course, is the T-birds head coach. A season ago, in his first year behind the bench, the team went 25-45-1-1.

Notice I didn't say "his team" went 25-45-1-1. Konowalchuk had mostly inherited a team that had gone a combined 46-76-12-10 over the two previous campaigns. Last season he was essentially using many of the same players from those teams. There will still be some carry-over in personnel from last year's team to this season, but we've already seen a lot of roster turnover this offseason. Konowalchuk is starting to put his stamp on the club. He is very convinced in the way he wants his team to play and resolute in the makeup of the players he wants on his bench.

You can call last season a bit of a mulligan, if you will. Not to say the Thunderbirds weren't fighting to make the playoffs, a goal they just missed out on, but it was also an opportunity for Konowalchuk to find out what he had, what he didn't have, and what was worth holding on to and what parts he didn't need.

Every coach has a style, or system, they want to play and an idea of the type of player they think best fits that style. With the acquisition over the past nine months of players like Riley Sheen, Connor Honey and Seth Swenson, the drafting of imports Alex Delnov and Roberts Lipsbergs, the retention of two 20 year old forwards in Luke Lockhart and Brendan Rouse, a bigger role for Justin Hickman and the makeup of Seattle's defensemen, you can see the value Konowalchuk places on everyone on the roster being a solid skater who can play both ends of the ice.

The question now is how will it play on the ice against the rest of the WHL? The group of forwards are older players (12 of 18 will be 18 or older by midseason) while the defensemen are young, even raw in many cases (five of seven are age 17 or younger). The fresh-faced d-men will grow together while the seasoned players up front will hopefully allow the T-birds to improve on an offense that has been among the league's least effective over the past three seasons.

Since the start of the 2009-10 season the T-birds have scored just 540 goals over the span of 216 games. That's an average of just 2.41 goals per game. As a result Seattle won just 71 of those contests. 2.41 goals a game won't cut it this season. Not if you want to be a playoff team. The 'Birds have to get that average up to at least 3.00.

You expect a good scoring season from NHL drafted players like Branden Troock and Delnov. You see the potential for good offensive numbers from Swenson, Lockhart and maybe even Hickman and Honey. But up front I believe the key to scoring more goals , lies within a trio of 19 year olds who must push past what they've done previously in the WHL. Tyler Alos, Mitch Elliot and Connor Sanvido need to rise to the occasion in 2012-13. It doesn't mean they have to be 25-30 goal scorers. It means their play must create more offense then it has thus far in their T-birds careers.

Teams with poor special teams that make the playoffs are the exception and not the rule. Seattle knows this firsthand. The T-birds put up some solid numbers on specials teams play during the preseason. Hopefully that carries over to the regular season. Both the power play and penalty kill must improve. One thing that stood out in the preseason was how much more decisive the 'Birds were with the man advantage. There was quicker, sharper passing and most importantly no hesitation to shoot the puck

I'm sure there was some shock...or maybe trepidation, after it was learned the T-birds parted ways with 20 year old defenseman Brad Deagle. That leaves the club with seven d-men and only 19 year old Jesse Forsberg, obtained in a trade this offseason from Prince George, has more than one year of WHL experience under his belt.

Is it a gamble, especially for a team that allowed 292 goals against last season (4.05 per game)? Sure it is, but if you watched preseason unfold then the move shouldn't be so surprising. You saw the coaching staff's confidence in their young blue liners. The forwards may be the veterans on this team but the high upside lies within that group of mostly untested defensemen.

It is just my opinion but I believe there are three factors that led to the release of Deagle. One, the acquisition of Forsberg.

Forsberg was billed as more of a stay-at-home defenseman but he has shown he can carry the puck up ice and jump into the offense and he appears to be a dynamic presence in the locker room who can lead by word and example.

Two, the need to improve the offense meant the team is better served with two 20 year old forwards. Some say the preseason doesn't have much meaning but I think the way both Lockhart and Rouse played in those preseason games made the decision to jettison Deagle easier. It certainly wasn't anything Deagle didn't do. Both Lockhart and Rouse showed their value to this team. You might question whether sacrificing a veteran defenseman for the sake of offense is the right choice. Remember though, team defense isn't all about the defensemen and the goalie. It's also forwards coming back on the back check. Lockhart and Rouse are both very good defensive forwards.

Three, the potential of the young defensemen and the need to get them ice time, especially the play of Jerret Smith. In many ways Smith is a mirror image of Shea Theodore. Both are 17. Smith is a right-handed shot, Theodore is a left-handed shot. They are both offensive minded d-men, about the same size (6'2"), albeit Smith is a bit thicker. Theodore is obviously ahead of Smith in terms of his development but I see a huge upside for Smith if he can harness his talents.

The learning curve for these young defensemen is going to be steep. They are going to have to be ready for the rigors of the WHL from game one. With Deagle gone, there will be no training wheels on their skates. Evan Wardley will probably need to stay out of the penalty box yet still play his physical style. Jared Hauf and Taylor Green will need to keep using their long frames as well as they did through preseason. Kevin Wolf needs to absorb as much as he can in this, his 16 year old season and the fans, well I hope they realize what this group can be while going through the growing pains.

Now to the goaltending. One of the prevailing thoughts I hear or read is that without Calvin Pickard in goal and a young defense, the T-birds are in trouble. My answer to that is that WITH Calvin Pickard AND a veteran group of defensemen a season ago, the T-birds won just 25 games. The year before that, just 27 and the year before that only 19 wins. I know, I know, your rebuttal to that is probably, "Just think how many fewer games they would have won without Calvin".

Look, there is no denying that Pickard was one of the best goalies in franchise history. That alone should tell you it didn't matter who was in goal for this team as it missed the postseason three straight years. It is all about the supporting cast. The T-birds, GM Russ Farwell, coach Konowalchuk and his staff, have used this offseason to begin transforming that cast. 20 year old goalie Brandon Glover is part of that transformation. He should be a solid presence in net. Quick trivia; in his four year Thunderbirds career Pickard played in five postseason games (2009). Last spring with Calgary Glover played in four.

A good goalie can steal you a few wins, he can't steal an entire season's worth though. Again, supporting cast folks. There is still a decision to be made on the #2 netminder. Whether it is Daniel Cotton or Justin Myles, they will have earned the job after a healthy battle through camp and the preseason. Whichever one nails down the job, they should be in line for 15-18 starts.

There is no reason to think the T-birds aren't a contender for a playoff spot. Of course there are nine other teams in the Western Conference who feel the same way and, as you know, only eight teams qualify for the postseason. While some of the competition, like Tri-City and even Portland to an extent, might fall back towards the rest of the pack this season, they still have proven playoff rosters. Meanwhile, teams like Prince George and Victoria will, like the T-birds, be on the path to improvement.

So, the challenge remains the same and once again you should prepare for a season in which the Thunderbirds postseason fate may not be decided until mid-March.

Finally, I hope everyone who attends the home opener this Saturday vs. Portland arrives early. Prior to the start of the game, the Thunderbirds will be honoring Bruce McDonald, my broadcast partner over the past 11 seasons who passed away in June after a short battle with leukemia. It is difficult to think of doing the games this weekend without Bruce by my side. He will be sorely missed and I'd like to dedicate this season to his memory.

In memory of Bruce McDonald, 1971-2012

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Are We There Yet?

In less then one week, the T-birds will open up the regular season for the 2012-13 WHL season. Before they get to that point they need to finish off the six-game preseason schedule. Game six is tonight, Saturday, up in Everett versus the Silvertips.

Because of a previous commitment, I won't be able to attend the last preseason game. I did though, attend Friday night's home preseason game against the 'Tips, a 3-0 Seattle win behind a 27-save effort from goalie Brandon Glover.

Glover was rarely, if ever, seriously tested in this game. Still, I liked his demeanor in the crease. He was very much what you want in a 20-year old netminder; very calm, composed, never rattled and always in position. More importantly he was very communicative with his defensemen. This is going to be important since the T-birds have a number of young first and second year d-men on the roster this season who will play significant minutes.

Seattle came out wih a very dominating first period, scoring three times and, until a late power play, stifled the Everett attack. Three of the Silvertips four shots in the first period came in the last two minutes with that man advantage.

For me, the tone setter in that period was third year player Justin Hickman. Hickman was strong in all three zones. I've seen that strong play from him in each preseason game he's skated in and that bodes well for the Kelowna, B.C. native and the Thunderbirds. A stong season from Hickman will help the T-birds realize their goal of a postseason spot next spring.

20 year old defenseman Brad Deagle sat out last night's game. That meant Seattle went with a young crew of defenseman. Among the blueliners in blue last night only 19 year old Jesse Forsberg had more then one year of WHL service. The young d-men responded well. Taylor Green opened up the scoring with a nice shot from the point. And last night was the best I've seen so far in this preseason from 16-year old Kevin Wolf.

Mostly I was impressed with how two 17 year old defensemen played, and played together. I think we all expect a big season from 2nd year player Shea Theodore but I thought rookie Jerret Smith delivered some solid passes all night long. Smith has shown throughout the preseason that he can be an offensive minded defensemen but last night he showed some physical play inside the T-birds blueline.

The game denigrated a bit in the second period and became chippy with too many penalties and that took Seattle away from what they were doing so well in the first period; good puck posession, crisp passing and moving up ice quickly. One thing Seattle has to learn this season is to not let the opponent take away their momentum.

The third period was a little better and if not for a few posts, the 'Birds may have tacked on a few more goals. Another potential issue? When you have a comfortable lead and it seems the game is well in hand, don't go off game plan looking for individual glory. I thought the players did a very good job of staying focused and not going away from what the coaches want from them for sixty minutes.

Just a couple of other players who had good nights. Seth Swenson, if not for a crossbar in the third period, it would have been a three point night for the Parker, Colorado native. He is poised for a big season. If the stars align, he could have 35-40 goals in his stick.

Alexander Delnov, didn't score last night but it wasn't for a lack of trying. I believe he too hit the post or crossbar in that third period. Delnov is a very crafty player and a quick skater who it appears can create scoring chances for himself. But last night he made a couple of gorgeous passes that led to quality scoring chances for his teammates. The Russian missed most of training camp with visa isssues so he is still getting used to his teammates. When he does, he'll be fun to watch.

What's the old saying, speed kills? Riley Sheen isn't the biggest player on the ice. Most nights he might be the smallest. But he uses what he's got and what he's got is great speed and that speed caused Everett some problems last night on the forecheck. It will be interesting to see if he can do that consistently and against bigger and more experienced WHL defensemen.

20 year old Luke Lockhart was on the doorstep for a couple of scoring chances. Regular season, those are chances he'll have to finish and he's very capable. Last night though, on the rare ocassion when Seattle ran into some trouble it seemed Lockhart or Forsberg were there to bail them out. That's what you want from your veteran leaders.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Growing Pains

I was not too disappointed in the T-birds effort in their 6-3 loss to Portland Saturday at the Red Lion Hotels Preseason Tournament over in Kennewick. Seattle leaves the Tri-Cities with a 1-1 record and are now 1-2-1-0 two thirds of the way through their preseason schedule.

The T-birds younger players were given lots of ice time against the Winterhawks, especially their young defensemen. If the Thunderbirds are going to be successful this season they need to get the likes of Taylor Green, Jerret Smith and Kevin Wolf acclimated to the speed of the WHL game. Green, with just three games under his belt from a season ago, is the only one of that trio with any WHL experience.

Because the speed of the WHL game is faster then what they are used to, the decision making has to speed up as well. If you hold the puck too long thinking out you next move, it's probably too late. You're probably going to turn the puck over under pressure. That seemed to happen often against Portland.

The key is learning what to do with the puck before you have it on your stick. The only way to get in the habit of making quicker decisions is get ice time in game situations. Outside of Brad Deagle and Jesse Forsberg the rest of the Seattle defensive group has one year or less of WHL time and those inexperienced players are going to be counted on heavily by the T-birds.

Seattle had opportunities against Portland. Against good teams you have to put those chances away. Seattle just couldn't finish on some of their better opportunities. Then to compound that Seattle was whistled for a number of penalties in the second period, just as Seattle was getting some momentum. Portland took advantage of that to score multiple power play goals. That was the game. In a matter of minutes Portland's power play turned a close 2-1 game into a 5-1 lead.

Portland also still has more depth then the 'birds right now. They are a solid four line team. Seattle is not there, not yet anyway. Grab a little more experience, develop these younger players now in the system and you'll have the depth needed to be a top tier team.

Seattle currently has 27 players on the roster, including four goalies. I'm not sure if the roster will be pared down before or after this coming weekend's two preseason games against Everett but there are still a few tough roster decisions to be made.


Not since the spring of 2008, when Seattle won the first game of a second round playoff series behind players like Thomas Hickey and Gregg Scott, had the T-birds beaten the Tri-City Americans at the Toyota Center. That streak of road misfortune ended Friday night when the T-birds roared back from a three goal deficit to win a shootout, 4-3, at the Red Lion Hotels Preseason Tournament. That's a string of futility that reached back nearly four and a half years and 20-plus games.

Only time will tell if the T-birds have gotten the Toyota Center monkey off their backs. After all, it was a preseason game. Seattle has won at least one preseason game in that building in the past couple of years, it just wasn't at the expense of the Americans.

The way in which they came back to win the game though, could end up being a seminal moment as this team moves forward. After a first period in which they fell behind 3-0, were outshot 11-3 and didn't play particularly well, the T-birds were dominant over the last 45 minutes. They outshot the Ams 33-7 from the start of period two until the end of overtime. Seattle was relentless on the forecheck, strong along the boards, won most puck battles, played with speed and had very active sticks in the defensive zone. They went from lackluster to lusterous.

The question everyone is probably asking is, what was said in the locker room during the first intermission that lit a fire under the team? We may never know. The old saying "What happens in Vegss, stays in Vegas" applies to the locker room as well. After the game defenseman Jesse Forsrberg did give us a clue as to the tone of that between-periods conversation. In a postgame interview he told me the gist of the message was, "The losing stops now".

Who delivered the message? My guess is it was head coach Steve Konowalchuk. After watching him with this team last season, I think Konowalchuk is someone who can get his message across succinctly. But no matter who gave the intermission "chat" and what exactly was said, the key is that each and everyone of those players got the message and took it out onto the ice and elevated their play for the rest of the game. The next step is to take that effort with them out onto the ice for every game, every period...every shift. If the T-birds fortunes turn for the better this season, they may look back at a locker room chat, in the middle of a preseason game in Kennewick, as the defining moment.

Defenseman Jared Hauf continues to impress. He had a solid training camp, was good in his only game at the Everett preseason tournament and had two well earned assists Friday in the win over Tri-City. He looks so much more confident carrying the puck up ice and he uses his size and reach well inside the defensive zone.

Branden Troock may have spent his Friday night slumber tossing and turning wth visions of Ams goalie Brenden Fiebelkorn in his sleep. By my unofficial count Fiebelkorn robbed Troock of at least four possible goals. In fact, if not for Fiebelkorn, the T-birds could have easily won this game in regulation as he made some specatular saves on a few other Thunderbirds as well. Troock's luck got no better in the shootout when he beat Fiebelkorn only to clang his shot off the post. The way Troock played though, there are going to be better results ahead for the big power forward from Edmonton. His speed and size are going to be hard for some to handle.

17 year old goalie Justin Myles didn't face a lot of rubber once he entered the game midway through the second period, but he made a critical save late in the third period to preserve the 3-3 tie, then came up with a big save on Marcus Messier in the shootout. Myles is battling 18 year old Daniel Cotton and 16 year old Danny Mummaugh for the #2 job.

Alex Delnov's T-birds debut included a goal, a few more chances created and some tremendous penalty killing. Hopefully that was just a typical day at the office for the Russian winger and Florida Panther draft pick. There is a lot to like about both of Seattle's imports as both Delnov and Latvian Roberts Lipsbergs play with tremendous energy.

Speaking of non-stop motors, Luke Lockhart looked like the vintage Lockhart who is capable of setting the tone for the way this team needs to play. The problem is Brendan Rouse was pretty darn good Friday as well. Coach Konowalchuk had the two 20 year old forwards playing on the same line Friday night with young Daniel Wray. 20 year old goalie Brandon Glover was the starting goalie while 20 year old defenseman Brad Deagle got the night off. Tough decision coming on the overage front. Who's the odd man out?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Moving Forwards

The Thunderbirds saw their preseason record fall to 0-1-1-0 with a, 6-3, loss to Spokane Sunday afternoon in Everett.

As is the case most often in the Everett preseason tournament, teams playing only two games usually ice a veteran laden team in one game and much younger team in another. This was the case for both Seattle and Spokane Sunday. The T-birds fielded a younger squad for this match after going a bit older Friday versus Portland. Spokane, which put 13 "rookies" on the ice in a Saturday night loss to the host Silvertips, went with a more seasoned squad against Seattle.

After grabbing an early lead, off a Tyler Alos goal, it was apparent the Thunderbirds young forwards were struggling against the more experienced Chiefs squad. The 'Birds "rookies" had trouble handling Spokane's forecheck, their passing was not up to par and they generated very little in the way of offense, finishing with just 13 shots on goal.

The resulting loss isn't so unexpected when you consider the rosters for this game. The disappointment, for me, is that through two preseason games those young Seattle forwards haven't stepped up. There are a couple of jobs up for grabs and no one is grabbing the bull by the horns. Maybe it is a different story in practice. It will be interesting to see which of those young forwards advance to next weekend's preseason tournament over in Kennewick. Now, each one of those players has had a moment or two, but they've been too few and far between.

Again, as in Friday's game against Portland, the one exception is 15 year old Keegan Kolesar. Unfortunately Kolesar is ineligible to play in Seattle this season, outside of five games or after his season ends next March. I'm impressed with how many times he won a battle for a puck behind the Spokane net, going up against an older player.

I really liked the play Sunday of Jared Hauf. I thought he used his length really well. Hauf, Taylor Green and Kevin Wolf are all 6'4" or taller and having that kind of reach can cover some mistakes.

Hauf is now wearing #33, so it takes some getting used to, especially since Kevin Wolf is wearing Hauf's old #3 and has a similar build. For the time being I can tell them apart because Wolf is still wearing the full cage. Wolf, by the way, seemed much more comfortable Sunday against Spokane then he did Friday versus Portland.

There have been a couple of other number switches for returning players. Evan Wardley has gone from #6 to #27 and Seth Swenson is now #21 rather than #25.

I caught up with Alexander Delnov (pronounced Del-nofe, as in "loaf") after the game. Very personable and is excited to be here. He told me to give him a few weeks to get his english up to speed.

Still too early to handicap the battle for the #2 goalie spot. Daniel Cotton played well under constant pressure. Like a season ago, he did struggle at times with rebound control. I thought the first goal allowed by Justin Myles was a little soft as he left enought space between his body and the post for the puck to sneak past him.