The Seattle Thunderbirds left Victoria Sunday morning and were both very glad, because they won twice against the Victoria Royals this past weekend, but maybe a little sad as well. You see, the two-game set was Seattle's only regular season appearance on Vancouver Island but over their past four games in Victoria, dating back to last season, the T-Birds have enjoyed some royal hospitality. The Thunderbirds have now won three in a row at Save-On-Foods Memorial Centre and have points in six straight in that building, compiling a 4-0-1-1 record. In fact, since the franchise moved from Chilliwack to Victoria five seasons ago, the T-Birds have earned at least a point in seven of the 10 games they've played there (5-3-1-1).
Were there big differences in the way the team played this past weekend versus Victoria in two wins, as opposed to some of their games in Alberta the previous week when they suffered a four game losing streak? No, the differences were subtle. Primarily, Seattle got back to being consistently, very aggressive on the forecheck for 60 minutes. No one was taking shifts off. Victoria is a smallish team and the T-Birds were able to be physical with them. The T-Birds did a better job of puck possession, especially inside their own zone. They limited the number of defensive zone turnovers and were quicker getting the puck up ice. As a result, they didn't get hung up much in the neutral zone.
Victoria has surrendered only nine power-play goals to the opposition in their 22 games. Seattle has 33 percent of them. Special teams were another key to the two wins this past weekend as the T-Birds scored a power-play goal each night while killing off 10 of 11 power play chances for the Royals. The only power-play goal Seattle surrendered was a 5-on-3 goal Saturday night. It was Victoria's only goal of the game.
The T-Birds had to come from behind both nights for the win. That's something we've seen them do on more then a few occasions this season. Seattle trailed 2-0 after two periods Friday but put together a four goal rally in the third period to post the 4-2 comeback win. Saturday Victoria scored early in the first before the T-Birds answered with the last three goals in the 3-1 victory. The ability to come back shows a level of maturity as the team doesn't panic when behind on the scoreboard.
So Seattle ends their longest stretch of consecutive road games on the calendar this season, eight straight away from the ShoWare Center, by going 4-4. You can lament the two blown 3-1 third period leads in Calgary and Red Deer, but there is nothing you can do about that now. Learn the lessons from those games and move forward. By finishing that eight game stretch with a three-game winning streak, I think it is safe to say the T-Birds did just that. For all the consternation there may have been among the T-Bird faithful over that four game skid, remember this; Seattle entered the losing streak in first place in the U.S. Division and were still in first place when it ended.
And one other thing of which to take note. The T-Birds have built their 12-6-1-0 record while playing the most road games in the league (13, tied with three other teams) and the fewest home games (6). The old, winning season, formula goes something like this; win your home games and be at least .500 on the road. So far the T-birds are 6-0 at home and 6-6-1 on the road but riding a three game, road winning streak.
Two games is a small sample size but I think T-Bird fans are going to like newcomer Owen Seidel (pronounced SIGH-dull). It's certainly easy to see why Seattle got him as part of the return for Kaden Elder in the trade last week with Swift Current. He plays a good two-way game. He hasn't earned his first WHL point yet but it does appear he has good hands and a nose for the net. The coaches trusted him enough that when Nolan Volcan couldn't go Saturday night, they moved Seidel up to the third line. Remember it was just his second game with his new teammates and he had only had two practices with the team.
After eight straight on the road the T-Birds get four of their next six games at home. First up a Tuesday matchup with the aforementioned Swift Current Broncos. Seattle will get a stiff test on the weekend as they have to travel up to Kamloops for a game with the Blazers Friday and then a quick turnaround to get back home for a Saturday night tilt with longtime rival Portland.
My T-Birds Three Stars for the weekend:
3rd Star: Goalie Logan Flodell. In two starts against Victoria he went 2-0 saving 39 of 42 shots faced, a .928 save percentage, and compiling a 1.50 GAA over 120 minutes. I think sometimes we don't give a goaltender credit when he's not facing a plethora of shots but Flodell made key saves both nights. As a result he lowered his overall GAA to 2.17 while upping his season SVPCT to .913. That puts him top five among WHL goaltenders.
2nd Star: RW Keegan Kolesar. Seattle fell behind both nights against the Royals. Each night a Keegan Kolesar goal sparked the comeback. He finished the weekend with three points (2g, 1a) and was +3. He has four goals in his last three games. He now sits 10th in the league in scoring with 27 points (14g, 13a) and is just five goals off his total from last season when he potted 19 in 64 games.
1st Star: Center Mathew Barzal. Call him the Barzal Bowl because he likes to dish the assists. After picking up three more this weekend he now has 24 apples in just 16 games. That's 1.5 assists per game. He chipped in a game winning goal on Saturday too. He's now 9th overall in the league scoring race with 29 points (5g, 24a). After picking up four points on the weekend (1g, 3a) he is now averaging 1.8 points per game and is Seattle's leading point producer and is on pace for a 124 point season.