The Thunderbirds eight game winning streak ended Saturday night in Portland with the 5-3 loss to the Winterhawks. The Thunderbirds will never use it as an excuse but it was pretty obvious by the third period the injury depleted roster was running out of gas after so few players logged so many minutes over the course of two games in two nights. The T-birds started taking those penalties you get when your feet stop moving. Seattle initially dressed just 16 skaters and by games end were down to only 15. A very gutty effort but in the end it ended up just out of reach.
Seattle had its chances though. Shortly after Portland had closed to within 2-1, Seth Swenson rang one off the post while the team was shorthanded that would have restored the T-birds two goal lead. Had it gone in it might have been enough to keep Portland at bay. In the third with the game tied at two and skating 5-on-3, Alex Delnov missed a wide open net from point blank range. A few minutes later Seattle had another shorthanded chance but couldn't finish. And of course, the T-birds were assessed three minor penalties while skating on a five minute major power play midway through the third period. It's a game of inches and the T-birds came up just short.
The compete level was there though and there's no way you can fault the effort. Every player pushed hard for sixty minutes. If Seattle keeps up that work rate the rest of the way; if they keep showing up with their lunch pails and hard hats, then winning streaks like this will be the norm and not the exception. This was one of those games, where even in defeat, I'm sure the coaches were proud of the effort. When the team gets back to full strength at some point in early January (after the U-17 tournament) they should be fighting for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
Right now though, the T-birds are limping toward the Christmas break. Another injury last night to Keegan Kolesar. Hopefully he's okay but I would be surprised if he was available for Tuesday's game. With the league's protocol for upper body injuries I believe he has to sit for at least one week. I hope fans realize this isn't the NHL where you can just call up a player from lower levels to fill the void. Those players on Seattle's protected list have commitments to their own teams back home and they're also in school. Not all are yet committed to the WHL and not all are available at a moments notice. Maybe the Thunderbirds get a Barzal or Yakubowski back in time for the game against Tri-City and then the team gets healthy over the break but I'm not expecting any "call up" until after Christmas.
The legend of Scott Eansor continues to grow. Come to find out the reason he upchucked on his jersey during the second intermission Friday night was because he was suffering from a touch of the flu. Despite that he played the entire weekend and did so with his usual high energy. And finally, he scored his first WHL goal. It was the perfect way to score his first goal too as he set it up himself by stealing the puck at the Portland blue line and breaking in 2-on-none with Branden Troock. If that was Eansor at just 80 percent, more players should get a touch of the flu. When he and Sam McKechnie are on the ice together it is like watching a couple of buzzing bees.
Adam Henry had a solid weekend and finished it with two goals in the loss. His goal in the third period was part finesse and part determination and it gave Seattle a chance late. Jared Hauf was very good too. He is really starting to play a much more physical game and using his size to his advantage. The Thunderbirds went primarily with just five defensemen in the absence of Ethan Bear, although when he did take a shift Kevin Wolf played a simple, solid game. He did his best to keep everything in front of him. If he could just find a way to pack on another 20 pounds to his slender 6'6" frame!
If there were NHL scouts in either building this weekend how could they help but not notice Calvin Spencer.