Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Koz Kozun Kan

And for an encore, new Seattle goalie Taran Kozun will juggle chainsaws while blindfolded and balancing on a beach ball!

Seriously though, you couldn't have asked for a better debut from your new netminder then what the Thunderbirds got from Kozun Tuesday in Spokane; a 28 save shutout in a 1-0 overtime win. Felt a tad sorry for Kozun's counterpart Eric Williams. The Spokane goaltender was having himself a pretty good game too, until that Ryan Gropp shot bounced over his right pad for the game winner with just 44 seconds left in extra time. Again, just a tad sorry. Mostly, pretty happy.

What really struck me about Kozun is how well he handles the puck. Some goalies are better at it then others and he was very good in that department Tuesday. When you don't see a goalie that much over the course of his career in the WHL, you don't get a good opportunity to analyze his strengths and weaknesses. That certainly appears to be a strength for Kozun. A goalie who can handle the puck as he did against the Chiefs makes it so much easier on the defensemen. It's like having a third d-man out on the ice. So many times during the game Kozun disrupted the Chiefs dump ins.

In the last three games, Seattle's two goalies (Kozun and Danny Mumaugh)have compiled a 3-0-0-0 record with a 1.25 GAA and a save percentage of .951.

Want to know why a veteran 20 year old like Seth Swenson is expendable at the trade deadline? Look no further then Ryan Gropp. More and more, Gropp is getting to play in all situations as he gets more comfortable playing a 200 foot game at the WHL level. Every time he touches the puck now, you think there is a scoring chance. He's becoming that dynamic. In his last four games he has earned seven points (4g, 3a) and is +5. For the season the 17 year old Kamloops product has 21 points (11g, 10a) in just 32 games and is +1. Swenson, in 43 games before he was traded to Lethbridge, had 20 points (8g, 12a)and was -5. In a development league like this, the ice time usually goes to the younger, developing player.

There were expectations in Lethbridge, before the season started, that the Hurricanes could make the playoffs out East. Of course things went sour almost from the get go and the 'Canes are sitting dead last in the league with a .245 winning percentage. But seeing the former 'Canes players who are now suiting up for the T-birds, it is easy to see why Lethbridge had playoff aspirations back in September. All four players Seattle has obtained via trade from the Hurricanes are hard working, sixty minute players. The latest acquisition, Russell Maxwell, epitomized that in the third period against Spokane when, without his stick, he blocked or deflected away three Spokane shots while the Chiefs were on the power play. Gutsy, gutsy effort.

Once again the T-birds were determined to shutdown Spokane's big two, Mitch Holmberg and Mike Aviani. Once again they succeeded as those two top scoring players were held off the scoresheet...except they did go a combined -1 and took six minutes in penalties. The Holmberg/Aviani duo is now a combined -9 in five games this season against Seattle. They are a dangerous combo out on the ice so it takes a concerted effort to shut them down. The T-birds have consistently worked hard to keep them from stealing games and that's a big reason why the T-birds are 5-0 against the Chiefs so far this season.

Matt Barzal took warm ups before the game in Spokane. Hopefully that means he's close to returning to the lineup. The hope too is that Branden Troock is not that far out from returning from injury as well. Then there is Conner Honey, who has not played since October 6th.

So, Seattle has compiled their 26-14-2-3 record and have only had a complete, healthy roster for two out of 45 games (when he was still a part of the T-birds at the start of the season, Jesse Forsberg missed a number of games due to injury, only suiting up twice prior to being traded to Moose Jaw). Over the last month alone the T-birds have lost players to injury for a combined 55 games yet have still managed to go 11-5-1-0 in that span. That doesn't even take into account three players who missed a combined 15 games while away at international tournaments during that same time frame. So, 70 man games lost and they're still six games above .500. On the season T-birds players have missed over 100 games due to injury, suspension or tournaments yet are still 12 games over .500. It's nice to have depth, but wouldn't you like to see what this team could do with a completely healthy roster?

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