Thursday, September 26, 2013

Two for the Sho'

The Thunderbirds return home Friday night to face the Tri-City Americans for the first time this season and do so sporting a 2-0 record after beating up the Vancouver Giants, 6-0, Wednesday night up at the Pacific Coliseum. Apparently that is a big deal since the T-birds haven't started a season 2-0 since the Clinton Administration (1998).

This 2-0 start is no fluke either. These have been two well earned wins with a lot of similarities, namely a relentless attack that is creating quality scoring chances, steady defense and solid goaltending. The tone setters have been the line of Branden Troock, Connor Honey and Alexander Delnov. Through the first two games that trio has combined for a line of 5g, 8a 13pts and +6.

Wednesday night's game in Vancouver was broadcast on Shaw TV throughout Western Canada and I was a bit surprised to hear that the Shaw telecast Three Stars of the Game did not include Troock. I thought Troock was the catalyst for a lot of what the 'Birds were able to do against the Giants. There were a number of times when the Giants just couldn't contain Troock on the rush. It's not just because he's a big, physically imposing power forward, but Troock can stick handle through traffic as well as he moves up ice. The good news is he is not over handling the puck, which he had a tendency to do in the past. He's reading the ice and using his line mates very well here in the early going.

Danny Mumaugh got the shutout in goal making 31 saves. The shutout was the first of his young WHL career. While it may seem Mumaugh had an easy night as the T-birds offense was rolling up the pressure, remember this was just a one goal game early into the second period. Mumaugh had to be sharp in the first when the contest was still scoreless. Seattle didn't get off to the fast start they did opening night against Portland and Mumaugh kept the Giants at bay until the offense started to get untracked. The M&M boys (Myles and Mumaugh) have done their part in goal for Seattle these first two games. It will be interesting to see if Devon Fordyce gets a start in either of the two games this weekend. Yes, the T-birds still have three goalies on the roster but at some point they'll have to make a decision on which two to keep for the duration of the season.

Seattle played the first two games without defenseman Shea Theodore who was away at training camp with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks who selected Theodore in the first round of the June draft. Theodore has since been returned to the Thunderbirds and will be available for this weekend's games. The T-birds scored nine goals in the first two games but not one of those goals came from a defensemen. Theo is an offensive minded defenseman, coming off a 19 goal 2012-13 campaign, so expect that to change.

Even without Theodore the eight Seattle defensemen who saw action over the course of the first two games were +8 with five assists. 18 year old Jared Hauf has been the biggest contributor with 2 helps and a +5 rating. Even young 16 year old Ethan Bear, despite not picking up a point yet, is at +2.

It's still early to make anything out of this start. I still like the 15-20 game sample size which is essentially the end of October, but right now this is a very confident group of players.

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