2014 went out with a bang for the T-birds. Unfortunately it was them getting banged up over the last few weeks of December, then getting banged around New Year's Eve by the Kamloops Blazers by the tune of a 7-1 drubbing.
At first blush one might be tempted to blame this loss on all the injuries and absences that have affected the roster the past six games. Afterall, the list of walking wounded got even longer before the clash with the Blazers when Scott Eansor was added to the injury list and was a no go Tuesday night as the 'Birds played their 6th straight game with a short bench as a result, dressing under the limit again. No Eansor, no Barzal, still no Honey or Yakubowski and Bear and Kolesar still away at the U-17 Hockey Challenge. Then early in the second no more Wardley after he was assessed a five minute major. The Thunderbirds were so short of bodies, they employed two seldom used defensemen, Kevin Wolf and Austin Douglas, as forwards on their 4th line.
But, this game was lost in the first period when Seattle didn't take advantage of their own aggressive start. A couple of good early shifts led to penalty trouble for Kamloops. Seattle was outshooting Kamloops to the tune of 10-2 and short bench or not looked like they were ready to skate the Blazers off the ice. The Blazers were back on their heels and an early T-birds goal would have put doubt in their minds.
Unfortunately, Seattle passed up too many shots when on those early man advantages. Then, when Shea Theodore's stick self-destructed like the Jim Phelps tapes in Mission Impossible, leading to a turnover right in front of the Seattle net and a short-handed goal for Kamloops, you started to get the sense this was not going to be the T-birds night. It snowballed all the way down hill from there, culminating with another turnover while on the power play in the third period that led to the Blazers second shorthanded goal of the night.
There really was no phase of the T-birds game that was good New Year's Eve, well except for the penalty kill which did a commendable job killing off about 10 minutes of Blazer power play the first half of the second period. The problem was it was after that when the affects of the short bench became evident. All that time on the PK and Seattle didn't have enough bodies left on the bench to recover from it. Shortly after, the Blazers scored the third goal and that was all she wrote.
Look, I watched my beloved Chicago Blackhawks, the defending Stanley Cup champions, and once again one of the favorites to win the Cup this season, fall just a few nights back, give up a seven spot to the Toronto Maple Leafs. It happens to even the best. The Blackhawks have since bounced back and just recently blanked the L.A. Kings, 1-0.
So, while the loss stings, it will be the T-birds response in their next game Friday in Red Deer that will be important.