Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seventh Heaven

Tri-City goalie Eric Comrie is good, real good. He's "How come he's not getting a crack at Canada's World Junior team" good. He's I-almost-stole-a-game good. Yep, he's good. Last night in Kennewick though, Seattle's effort was just enough better to earn the Thunderbirds their seventh straight win.

Against Comrie, you have to persevere. You have to keep shooting and going hard to the net. You must put traffic in front of him. And when you do that and still don't score, because he's making an out-of-this-world save, you can't get frustrated, you have to try again. The T-birds did that just enough to get two pucks past him enroute to their 3-1 win at the Toyota Center.

Tri-City is banged up and missing some key defensive personnel at the moment but they still dressed a full roster of hard workers. Seattle just outworked them. Early in the game you had the feeling this wasn't going to be like some of Seattle's other wins in this streak. They weren't going to skate away from this one with five or six goals. They could have, if not for Comrie keeping his team in the game. Fortunately, Seattle has learned some good habits in this winning streak and they used them last night. Chief among them, a high end compete level for sixty minutes. They cut no corners. Played good team defense and they pushed the pace. They never stopped working hard.

No one epitomizes that more then Scott Eansor. Back in mid-November when the T-birds released 20 year old Erik Benoit, the cries of protest from some sections of the T-bird fan base were loud, in some cases vitriolic. I wrote back then one of the reasons Seattle could afford to dismiss Benoit was because they needed to get Eansor consistent ice time. They knew what they had in the Englewood, Colorado native, they just needed to get it into the lineup every night.

Last night he and Mathew Barzal were all over the ice. They earned two of my three stars on the radio broadcast. They are perpetual motion machines. I lost count of how many times they stole the puck off the stick of a Tri-City player. In the third period, nursing a one goal lead, Eansor was at the end of a shift and needed to go off but unfortunately, Seattle had just iced the puck, so there was no opportunity for a line change. Unable to leave the ice, Eansor lined up between the circles in the defensive zone, letting linemate Sam McKechnie take the draw.

But when Seattle wasn't set in time McKechnie got waved out of the circle. So the exhausted, totally gassed Eansor stepped in to take the draw against an Americans player fresh off the Tri-City bench. Eansor leaned over, shortened up on his stick, tied up the Americans player and won the draw back to his defemseman and Seattle was able to clear the puck and make a line change. He may have not scored a goal, but in that instance he may have prevented one.

While Danny Mumaugh didn't face as many quality chances as Comrie did, the Seattle goalie was sharp, just as he was in the previous win over Spokane. The Americans got half their 23 shots (11) in the first period when it was still a scoreless game. It's tough to win in Kennewick and even tougher if you fall behind. Mumaugh made some important saves early. Then, late in the game with Seattle holding a slim 2-1 lead, he came up with a few more quality stops before the T-birds iced it with an empty netter from Roberts Lipsbergs.

You don't win seven in a row without quality goaltending and Seattle is getting it from both Mumaugh and Justin Myles.