No matter how you look at it, this busy weekend has to be deemed an unmitigated success for Seattle. They won two of three games, earned five of a possible six points and moved from 8th place to 7th place in the Western Conference playoff race. Four days ago if you offered up that scenario to the team, I'm guessing they'd have gladly taken it. Sure, it would have been nice to win the Friday overtime game versus Vancouver, but right now the T-birds need points, points and more points. The fact is they got points in all three games so, mission accomplished.
Penalty killing was a big reason why the Thunderbirds earned two wins and five points. In the three games this weekend the T-birds were shorthanded 16 times, yet surrendered just one power play goal against. It starts with your goalie and Brandon Glover was very good in his two starts and Danny Mumaugh played well Friday. The T-birds also showed a big willingness to block shots and they hustled to retrieve loose pucks and clear the zone. Of course their excellent penalty killing Sunday led to the game winning, shorthanded overtime game winner.
That goal by Luke Lockhart should easily end up on the WHL "Plays of the Week". What a tremendous pass by Seth Swenson to get that puck to Lockhart. And then Lockhart was able to fend off a hook from a Vancouver player to get the puck to his backhand for the score. By the way, after a video review after the game, Seattle's first goal Sunday has also been credited to Lockhart, so he had both goals and now has 18 on the season.
Really liked the work Saturday and Sunday by Mitch Elliot and Justin Hickman. They were excellent in winning the battles behind the net and along the half boards. Hickman in particular Sunday was a beast, constantly taking the puck off a Vancouver stick in the offensive zone. Their play seemed to make Alex Delnov more effective at both ends of the ice.
Did you know Seattle has now outshot 14 of it's last 20 opponents going back to mid-January? The next step now is to finish off more scoring chances. It also means Seattle is cutting down their opponents scoring opportunities. Both are steps in the right direction. The T-birds allowed just five goals against in over 180 minutes of hockey this weekend.
Kudos to Zach Brooks and Kevin Boris, the two linesmen Sunday night. When it was game time and linesman Ryan Gibbons and the two referees arrival was delayed, the game started without them and Brooks and Boris did a superb job of managing the action in the first period. I hope both the T-birds and Giants make a note of contacting the WHL home office in Calgary and praising the work of these two officials, especially Brooks who was not slated to work the game.
So, after the busy weekend of hockey, here is the updated pace to the playoffs among the three teams battling for the final two playoffs spots in the Western Conference:
7. Seattle 49 pts thru 60 games. Earning .816 pts per game. With 12 games left, currently on pace for a 58.8 pt season
8. Everett 47 pts thru 60 games. Earning .783 pts per game. With 12 games left, currenly on pace for a 56.4 pt season.
9. Prince George 44 pts thru 59 games. Earning .745 pts per game. With 13 games left, currently on pace for a 53.69 pt season
The T-birds are off until next weekend when they play twice. They are home Saturday against Everett, then face the Giants Sunday afternoon in Vancouver.
Everett plays Friday in Kennewick against Tri-City before traveling to Kent for Saturday's game at the ShoWare Center
Prince George finishes their trip through the Central Division with a stop Monday in Edmonton against the Eastern Conference leading Oil KIngs. PG then returns home next Friday and Saturday for two games against the Western Conference leading Portland Winterhawks.
***Quick update, PG lost Monday afternoon to Edmonton so they are now on pace for 52.8 pts per season with 12 games remaining.***
In memory of Bruce McDonald, 1971-2012