When you're winning and everything is going right, it is easy to play a sixty minute game. When you lose a few, face adversity or go into a bit of a rut, it becomes a mental challenge to do all the little things necessary to grind out a win. When it doesn't go right in the first period, you need to work harder...and smarter... in the second period.
Right now, the T-birds are playing "frustrated" hockey. Things aren't going as they were through the first 13-14 games and it appears some players have their heads hanging down a bit, their shoulders are sagging a tad. But the only way to get out of a slump is to work harder, stick with the systems and compete for 60 minutes. You can't take short cuts. It's fine that players understand after a loss they didn't put forth their best effort. The tide will turn back in the right direction when they understand they are not putting out their best effort during the game and correct it before the final horn.
I'm not sure the way the T-birds were playing Saturday night was going to earn them a win, but it was a 2-2 game early in the third when Justin Hickman was assessed a 5-minute boarding major. I watched the play live, it was right in front of me, and then saw the replay and I still can't figure out what in that hit constituted even a two minute minor, let a lone a 5 minute major. To their credit the T-birds were full marks for killing off the penalty, led by their goalie Danny Mumaugh. But they exhausted a lot of energy in doing so and I think they played the rest of that final period with their tanks nearly on empty.
The situation was compounded later when Shea Theodore was assessed a minor cross checking penalty. Again, I didn't see anything that looked like a cross check as two players got tangled up playing the puck in the neutral zone. I would wager a bet that this was probably the first cross checking penalty ever assessed against Theodore.
It may sound like sour grapes to complain about two penalties, especially when the officials got it pretty much right the rest of the game and the T-birds weren't playing their best hockey. But this was the third period, in a tie game and those two befuddling calls tilted the ice heavily in the favor of Regina and they were unnecessary. What's more frustrating is that just 24 hours earlier, in the third period of another close game, the officials kept their whistles in the pocket and let two very obvious penalties go.
I would suggest the WHL do something similar to what the NCAA does for football with their targeting rule. In college football a player is ejected from the game when he is deemed to have "targeted" an opposing player with a hit, usually helmet to helmet, or with a hit of a "defenseless" player. Before that player is ejected though, the play is reviewed and the ejection can be overturned.
It was nice to see Scott Eansor get rewarded with his first WHL point, assisting on Alexander Delnov's goal. Eansor is a high energy player who leaves it all on the ice. He brought his lunch pail with him both nights this weekend. His is the kind of energy the T-birds need from all 18 skaters every night.
Its maddening that Danny Mumaugh gets saddled with both losses on the weekend. He allowed just one goal after coming on in relief Friday but it ended up being the game winner in the 5-3 loss to Victoria. Then he stood on his head Saturday making 49 saves against Regina. Could he be separating himself a bit from Justin Myles in the goaltending battle?
The Thunderbirds are capable of beating anyone in the WHL when they play their "A" game. They've just got to remind themselves to bring their "A" game with them every night.