Monday, October 7, 2013

Weekend Warriors

I do my best blogging at six in the morning after getting off the bus following a long overnight drive from Cranbrook!

Understatement to say it but this past weekend of hockey was one of the best in recent T-bird history. Three games in three nights, all on the road with other mitigating circumstances (injuries) and the Thunderbirds pluck out three wins. Winning is never easy, winning on the road is even harder and winning under difficult conditions, well, that takes resolve and the T-birds showed they have it in spades.

The win Sunday night over the Kootenay Ice was one of the most impressive from this team that I've witnessed in a long while. Not because they got some incredible, mind bending performance from anyone, not because they weren't expected to win...this team believes they are going to win every time they take the ice...not because they pulled off some sort of last second miracle. No, what was impressive is that, down two of their top six forwards and two of their top six defensemen, they just went about their business, stuck to their game plan and came away with the well earned 4-3 victory.

Man down? No problem; next man up and let's get to work. That was their approach to the game.

I was at the game, I was watching the action, but still I missed one of the most incredible saves in a key moment of a game that you'll ever, or in my case never, see. From my broadcast vantage point at Western Financial Place, traffic in front of the Seattle goal with some thirty seconds remaining and Seattle nursing a one goal lead, obstructed my view. All I saw was Kootenay's Sam Reinhart, one of the best players in the WHL, take a shot toward a gaping opening at the right side of the T-birds goal. Then I saw the Ice players celebrating an apparent tying score. I assumed the game was tied and probably heading to overtime. Then I saw the referee waving his arms emphatically indicating no goal. Then there was Seattle goalie Danny Mumaugh skating out of his crease, holding up his catching mitt and shaking his head back and forth as if to say "No, no, no".

Some how, some way, Mumaugh had flashed that glove over in time to snatch that puck out of midair just before it crossed the goal line, preserving the lead. Maybe I shouldn't have been too surprised because Mumaugh had been making big saves all night. In fact, he had given a glimpse of things to come by making flashing gloves saves two nights earlier in the T-birds 5-4 overtime win Friday in Medicine Hat. One of the biggest question marks for the 'Birds coming into the season was their inexperienced goaltending but the way Mumaugh and Justin Myles have been turning up their play between the pipes, the only question is which of the M&M boys is plain and which one is peanut?

It's hard for a first-overall-pick-in-the-draft player to go about his business in an unassuming manner but in case you didn't notice, Mathew Barzal is now leading the team lead with 12 points (3g, 9a) and is plus-8.
The 16 year old rookie appears to get more and more comfortable playing at the WHL level with each passing game. It was interesting to see him matched up at times Friday night in Medicine Hat against the Tigers' Hunter Shinkaruk and Sunday against Kootenay's Reinhart and more then hold his own. After a productive weekend Barzal sits 8th in the league in scoring and is the top rookie point producer.

Speaking of unassuming, how about the play of defenseman Griffin Foulk? Foulk isn't going to pile up the points although he did get one assist Saturday in Lethbridge. His first order of business is to take care of the defensive zone and he had a good weekend in that department. Foulk was a plus player in all three games, finishing the weekend at +4.

Here's one of those "I didn't see it coming" stats. Seattle is 6-0 with 16 year old defenseman Ethan Bear in the lineup and 0-2 when he's a healthy scratch. Bear saw a lot of first unit power play time over the weekend and he's +2 on the year. With two of your top d-men down for the count, that's what's called stepping up

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