Recovering from these bus trips seems to be taking me longer and longer these days. Hope everyone enjoyed the fantastic Easter Sunday weather we had in the Puget Sound area yesterday. Spring has definitely sprung. It is a bit strange to be preparing for a hockey game this time of year since it's been 5 years since the Thunderbirds played April hockey. But I'd sure like to get used to it. It sure beats the alternative which, in my case, is yard work.
Tomorrow night the T-birds will not just rediscover April hockey, but hopefully the edge they played with the first three games of this series. The T-birds have been flat over the last six periods. Conversely, Kelowna has come out and set the tone by being quicker to pucks, crisper with their passing, more solid in their defensive zone and, especially Saturday, the more physical team. The Rockets won the vast majority of battles along the boards, they were able to cycle the puck seemingly at will.
Special teams, specifically the respective power plays, are dictating the series right now. Kelowna got back in this series by scoring three first period power play goals in Game 4 and opened Game 5's scoring with another power play goal. Meanwhile, Seattle is a less then anemic 0-for-22 with the man advantage through the first five games.
Game 5 was a fairly evenly played contest through the first half of the first period. Once the T-birds took two succesive penalties and the Rockets cashed in on the second one, the tide turned in the Rockets favor in a big way. I think the T-birds got gun shy with their physical play as a result of those penalties. If not for Brandon Glover, Kelowna was poised to blow the doors off the 'Birds in the second half of that first period. Still, the T-birds almost put together an umbelievable last 37-second comeback. Scoring twice and just missing a third goal with time winding down. That would not have been possible without the play of Glover.
Despite being up three games to two, the T-birds have still led for just eight of the nearly 320 minutes played in the series. Kelowna has scored the first goal in every game and outscored the 'Birds 9-2 in the first period in the series, including 7-1 in the first period of the last three games. The Thunderbirds need a better start Tuesday night.
That's the funny thing about this game though, all those statistics don't mean anything. All the T-birds have to do is win tomorrow night and they move on to the second round. Of course, that is easier said then done.