After a 1-1weekend, the Thunderbirds are ready to embark on their longest road trip of the season, their bi-annual trip through the Central Division of the Eastern Conference, a trek that will have them play six games in just nine days.
The journey actually begins Wednesday with a bus ride up to Cranbrook, B.C. That's where they'll begin the action with a Friday night game against the Kootenay Ice. The battle against the Ice marks the start of a 3-games-in-3 nights weekend. The T-birds will be in Calgary to face the Hitmen on Saturday before a Sunday stop in Lethbridge versus the Hurricanes.
Seattle gets a slight respite before resuming the trip next Wednesday in Red Deer against the Rebels, followed by a Thursday game in Edmonton as they take on the Oil Kings. The trip ends in Medicine Hat on Saturday, November 4th versus the Tigers. The T-birds finally make their way back home in time for a November 10th game at the accesso ShoWare Center for their third meeting of the season against divisional rival Tri-City.
By the time the Central Division road trip ends, the T-birds will have played seven straight games on the road. It started this past Sunday up in Everett with a well earned 4-3 win in the first of ten meetings this season with the Silvertips. The win completed a two game weekend that began Saturday with a frustrating 3-1 home ice loss to Moose Jaw.
Seattle played extremely well both nights. In fact, I actually thought the effort in the home loss to the Warriors was slightly better then the road win over the 'Tips. The team was more consistent over the course of the sixty minutes in the loss, then they were in the win. They certainly created more ten bell scoring chances against Moose Jaw then they did against Everett.
A late neutral zone error, and their inability to cash in on those numerous scoring chances, is what did in the T-birds in the loss to Moose Jaw. They played well enough to earn at least a point in that game, and in fact were 75-seconds away from overtime, when a costly, late miscue turned into a game winning goal for the Warriors. Add to that, the T-birds hit a post just seconds earlier. If that Zack Andrusiak shot is an inch lower, Seattle is up 2-1. Alas, the hockey gods did not smile upon the T-birds at that moment.
The Moose Jaw game was eerily similar to the game Seattle played against Victoria a week earlier. Just like versus Moose Jaw, Seattle created plenty of scoring opportunities against the Royals but failed to capitalize and it resulted in a 6-1 loss. These are the so called teachable moments for so many of the young players who occupy so many spots on the roster this season. When you think you are doing enough, the situation may actually call for just that extra bit of effort. So often it can be the difference between winning and losing.
Seattle's penalty killing has been exceptional in the early going this season, but even the best penalty killing teams will have an off-night. That happened to the T-birds Sunday up at Xfinity Arena as the Silvertips cashed in on three of six power play chances. But because Seattle was the better team 5-on-5 they were able to keep the 'Tips from generating much at even strength. Meanwhile the T-birds struck for three even strength goals and added one power play marker of their own.
In the second period Sunday Seattle got into some penalty trouble. They were also upset with the officiating. Their emotions started to get in the way of their game. They got to the end of the second period tied at 2-2 and then used the intermission to collect themselves and get their emotions in check. As a result the T-birds were able focus on their game and came out and dominated the first half of the third period and built a two-goal lead. It was enough of a cushion to carry them through the back end of that game.
With injuries and penalties Seattle played a good chunk of the final 20+ minutes in Everett with just three available defensemen, prompting them to move their jack-of-all trades forward Donovan Neuls back to the blue line for a few shifts. He held his own and Seattle held off Everett down the stretch.
Despite the 1-1 record on the weekend, Seattle's two goaltenders combined to stop 62 of 67 shots. Both Liam Hughes Saturday and Matt Berlin Sunday, did what you ask your goalie to do, give your team a chance to win. This weekend the opposition scored just two even strength goals, three were scored with Seattle shorthanded and the other was into an empty net. I like their chances when that happens.
My T-birds Three Stars for the Weekend:
Third Star. The goaltenders, both Liam Hughes and Matt Berlin. As stated above they put their team in a position to win. Hard to fault your goalie when he only allows two goals against as Hughes did in that loss to Moose Jaw. Against some pretty potent offensive players Hughes showed a really good ability to track the puck. Berlin did a good job Sunday of getting onto pucks and letting his centers win defensive zone faceoffs. He seemed to eat up every puck that got remotely near him. I don't recall too many second chance opportunities for Everett in that game.
Second Star. W Sami Moilanen. One goal, two assists and a +2 rating on the weekend for the feisty Finn who also delivered some massive checks, particularly Saturday against Moose Jaw. Moilanen continues to prove that size doesn't matter, heart does. In the fist ten games of this season (nine goals) he is almost half way to his goal total of 21 goals in 70 games last season. So far in his 80 game T-birs career, the 18 year old has already amassed 57 points.
First Star: W Dillon Hamaliuk. The 17 year old rookie had quite the weekend, registering the first 2-goal game of his WHL career Sunday in Everett. He added an assist on Saturday as well and finished with a +3 rating in the two games. Listed at 6'3", 182 lbs. and growing, when he gets moving, he's like a locomotive roaring down the tracks. The offense was great, and hopefully a sign of things to come, but watch him play both ends because he's very cognizant of needing a 200-foot game. He does a good job of getting back up ice into the defensive zone.