The Monday game in Kelowna will be fairly easy to analyze in the aftermath of the 7-3 loss. The Rockets, who had lost two in a row at home coming into the matinee game, played with purpose and urgency from the very start. The T-birds did not. Seattle never matched Kelowna's compete level and when that happens against one of the best teams in the league a 4-goal loss shouldn't be too surprising. That's the type of game in which Seattle really misses the energy of Scott Eansor who missed his fourth game due to illness.
Seattle had a few early chances to keep it competitive but never capitalized on any scoring opportunity until the game was out of hand in the third period. Don't hang this loss on goalie Taran Kozun. Was it his best game in goal since joining the team a month ago? No, but his team defense in front of him gave the Rockets too much time and space with the puck. Kelowna wasn't necessarily peppering him with tons of shots but they were getting quality scoring opportunities throughout the game. I lost count at about five or six with all of their shots ringing off the post or crossbar.
Still, in the big picture the 'Birds ended up splitting the four game season series with Kelowna as both teams went 2-1-0-1. Both earned five of a possible eight points. Both teams won a 4-3 shootout on the road and both had a fairly comfortable regulation win on home ice. Even the goal scoring was fairly even with the Rockets getting a slight 14-13 edge.
That was Seattle's last regular season game north of the border. The next time they see Canada will be either in the playoffs or next season. I'm not sure how they worked this out but the Thunderbirds play 10 of their last 15 games at home. Meanwhile, the only road trips left on their schedule this month are two short jaunts up to Everett, an hour away. Then, of their nine games in the month of March, six are at home. They travel to Portland, a mere two and a half hours away, on Friday, March 7th. They also finish the regular season with a two-game road trip that starts in Portland, Saturday March 15th, and ends in Kennewick against the Tri-City Americans, the next day. Hardly the kind of road trip that will wear you down.
The T-birds will go through an 18 day stretch between February 22nd and March 11th where they will play seven of eight games on home ice. One thing the T-birds can't complain about down the stretch is their schedule.
Now, the quality of the opposition, whether on home ice or away, is another story as all but two games left on the schedule are against teams with winning records. And the two teams who are under .500, Prince George and Prince Albert, are currently only a combined 4 games below break even, both could be at .500 by the time they reach Kent and both are fighting for their playoff lives, meaning they will be desperate teams coming into the ShoWare Center.
Meanwhile, Seattle is eight points away from clinching a playoff spot. That is, any combinations of points Seattle earns or Prince George fails to earn equaling eight and Seattle is in. Based on the schedules of both teams this week, the earliest the Thunderbirds could sew up a postseason berth would be this Saturday but that would only be possible if they get help from other clubs who are playing the Cougars.
Seattle could take care of business themselves by sweeping all three games on their schedule this weekend. Not out of the possibility but a tough task considering the opposition; Tri-City at home Friday, Everett on the road Saturday, then back home Sunday against the Cougars.