Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Ready to Spring Forward

The Thunderbirds go in to Tuesday night's home game versus Spokane with just six regular season games left on the schedule. With two weeks left before the end of the 72 game schedule, nothing has been decided, not the top of the division, not the top of the conference and not even first round playoff matchups.

Seattle got a mixed bag in its past three games.  They gutted out a road point with their, once-again, depleted lineup, losing 5-4 in overtime up in Kamloops last Wednesday.  They returned home Friday night, got Matthew Wedman back in the lineup after a 22 game absence, and earned a solid 3-2 win over Tri-City.  But even with Wedman back, once again the T-birds had over 100 points sitting in the stands.  Seattle got no lineup relief Saturday, but also didn't help themselves in a lackluster 4-2 loss in Everett. 

Will Seattle be any closer to full strength for the final half dozen games? I would suspect that they'll get Ethan Bear back this week, and maybe Jarret Tyszka by week's end but the jury is still out as to when Scott Eansor will be back.  Seattle has managed to play very well the second half of the season through all of it, Saturday in Everett not withstanding, but at some point it sure would be nice to see what this team could do with a roster at 100 percent health. 

Defenseman Tyson Terretta, who turned 17 in early January, made his Thunderbirds regular season debut by playing in both games on the weekend. Another young prospect getting the baptism-by-fire treatment.  With Seattle missing two of it's top four defenseman, Terretta ate up some important minutes and fared well considering the circumstances.  With this spate of injuries recently,  Seattle has had to use the combination of Terretta and 15 year olds Jake Lee and Cody Savey in seven games the past month.   No easing them in.  Playing them wasn't a luxury, it was a necessity. 

Hard to know if Seattle's power play struggled in the absence of Bear.  Obviously the veteran defenseman is a key reason why the T-birds power play has been resurgent the past month, but with Bear missing three games Seattle was only awarded five power plays in that span, and only two on the weekend, and went 0-for-5.   They had zero power plays against Tri-City. 

My T-birds Three Stars for the past week:

Third Star:  G Carl Stankowski.  He played in just one game, and although he didn't start vs. Everett, he faced 34 shots in just over 50 minutes and was outstanding stopping 33 of them. He gave the T-birds every chance to mount a comeback. Five games is not a lot to go on but the 16 year old is 1-0-0-1 with a 2.52 GAA and .907 SVPCT in that limited action. 

Second Star: LW Ryan Gropp.  Playing for the final time in his hometown last Wednesday, Gropp finished with a pair of goals and an assist in the OT loss to Kamloops.  After a slow start, he's hit the 30-goal plateau for the third straight season. 

First Star:  RW Sami Moilanen.  The rookie from Sipoo, Finland came up with a two goal effort in the win at home over the Americans Saturday. Moilanen continues to have a strong freshman campaign in the WHL with 39 points (20g, 19a).  We've talked about his 5'8" frame not deterring him from playing a physical brand of hockey. He takes his fair share of hits but always seems to come back from them.

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