Saturday, October 26, 2013

Count to Ten...And Keep Going!

Despite giving up the early penalty shot goal, the Thunderbirds came out of the gates last night in Kennewick like gangbusters. They had great energy and were buzzing inside the Tri-City blue line. That energy and effort created two early goals and numerous other scoring opportunities. They had Americans goalie Eric Comrie moving, creating wide open chances. At one point the shots were 8-1 in Seattle's favor and the scoring chances were probably 8-to-1 in their favor as well. For half the first period, the T-birds owned the ice.

Then they stopped. The energy level disappeared. They stopped going hard to the net, the scoring chances evaporated. The passing was less then ideal and they were now turning the puck over which led to penalty trouble. They allowed the Ams to regroup and get back in the game. When Seattle did have a scoring chance, they missed a wide open net. Instead of being up by two to three goals at the end of the first, the game was tied.

More significantly, they had a chance to deliver an early knockout blow to one of the best goaltenders in the WHL, but instead, they allowed Comrie to get back up off the canvas and that's what he did, stoning the T-birds the rest of the way including three times in the shootout. And after limiting Tri to one shot for nearly half of the first period, Seattle allowed 42 shots the rest of the way.

I guess the good news is the Thunderbirds still earned a point, so they are keeping pace with the top teams in the Western Conference while they learn some hard lessons along the way. It's a sixty minute game and you should never feel comfortable with the way you're playing until the final horn sounds.

Hollywood, Ryan Gropp called and he's got a script for you! Could Gropp have written his WHL debut any better? First game, first shift, first goal. Gropp still has some rust on him after having missed time with a lower body injury but you could see why he is highly regarded. He made a nice pass later in the game on a 2-on-1 rush with Branden Troock. Unfortunately Troock's one timer went wide of the open net. Gropp also used his speed late in the game to draw a hooking penalty on a strong rush to the net.

Don't look now, but Danny Mumaugh is throwing down the challenge to Justin Myles! Both of Seattle's goalies are off to good starts as head coach Steve Konowalchuk continues to rotate them in goal.
Last night was Mumaugh's turn and he was excellent in making 41 saves, showed good puck control and continues to flash his glove. A year ago in limited play I don't think he ever got comfortable in net, but this season, knowing for now he's going to play every other game, you can see his confidence growing. With his recent play, he has lowered his GAA average to 3.04 while increasing his save percentage to .918. Goaltending was big last night for both teams late and Mumaugh stood toe-to-toe with Comrie and got the well deserved second star.

Not sure what they will do about their struggling power play. It should be better then the bottom four in the WHL. They had a chance to win the game last night late in regulation if they just could have converted with under two minutes to go. It seems to be one issue is still a reluctance to shoot the puck but this is also the second time this season on the road against the Americans that they didn't get any traffic in front of Comrie when skating 5-on-4. That made it too easy for the Tri-City penalty killers to stand in front of their net unhindered and block shots.

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