Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Tri-ing Time

Funny thing, this game called hockey. The T-birds fore check was at its best Friday night against Tri-City in the third period. They were doing yeoman's work protecting that one goal lead, pinning the Americans in their own end, forcing Tri-City turnovers and getting shots on goal as a result. Then, with time waning one mistake; the puck shot over the glass on a Seattle clearing attempt leads to a Tri-City power play and they cash in to tie the game and force bonus hockey.

What is it they say? Good teams find ways to win. The T-birds overcame that error and won in a shootout anyway. Roberts Lipsbergs, who may have had his worst game as a T-bird, ends up being a hero by scoring the only goal in the shootout, although goalie Justin Myles was solid as a rock in goal in the overtime and shootout period (with a little help from his friend the crossbar!).

I remember writing last year that had Myles stayed healthy he might have given scouts something to ponder in his draft season. At least maybe a mention in the NHL Central Scouting Rankings. Hopefully he'll catch their eye this time around. He battled toe-to-toe with the Americans Eric Comrie, considered possibly the best goalie in the WHL and a 2nd round NHL draft pick (Winnipeg Jets) himself. In his first two starts Myles has faced 78 shots, many of a high quality and has a save percentage of .910.

Tri-City's forecheck is different from the T-birds. Where Seattle has a physical punishing fore check, last night the Americans used their speed and sticks in the passing lanes to slow down Seattle's breakouts and forced many turnovers as a result. It's early in the season so look for the Thunderbirds coaches to focus the team's attention on better puck control in the defensive end. But let's also give the Americans credit for playing a solid game and forcing the issue late. We tend to think every puck that ends up in the back of our team's net, every penalty taken is our team's fault. Sometimes it's the other team's play that creates those situations.

The T-birds finally gave up a power play goal, two in fact. Probably more a result of taking too many penalties then any cracks in the penalty kill armor. I'm sure there was some concern with the graduation of Luke Lockhart and the trade of Connor Sanvido that the 'Birds wouldn't have that shutdown player on the PK but Riley Sheen has really embraced that role and Seth Swenson and Erik Benoit are chipping in as well. I think the PK is in good hands. Seattle was awarded just two power play chances on the night. Tri-City over the past two seasons has been one of the least penalized teams in the WHL but I thought there were a few missed calls that should have resulted in a couple more power play chances for the T-birds.

We're just three games into the new season and I think I've exhausted all the positive accolades I can bestow on Branden Troock. I think he's the straw that stirs the drink on that top line. I know it is overused on the Seattle sports landscape but Troocker has gone "Beastmode" to start the season. He registered another two points last night (1g,1a) and realizing it was a tight game, he remained disciplined and stayed out of the penalty box.

Jared Hauf entered the game at +5 and even after the four goals Tri-City scored last night is still at +5 this morning. Shut down d-man!

It's very possible the Thunderbirds could be at full strength for tonight's game in Portland. Justin Hickman is now available after serving out a three game suspension to start the season. Meanwhile defenseman Jesse Forsberg was a game time decision last night but ended up not playing coming off the upper body injury suffered in the preseason. It's possible he sees his first regular season action tonight against the Winterhawks.

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