Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Gone to the Dogs

Busy weekend.  Busy for the Thunderbirds too.  I'm a little late with the blog post because the in-laws were in town from Denver.  They are guide dog puppy raisers, through a program called Guide Dogs for the Blind.  They came up to the Pacific Northwest this past week to attend the graduation of one of their puppies into a fully qualified guide dog.   
Guide Dogs for the Blind has a main campus in San Rafael, California but they have a satellite campus in Boring, Oregon, not too far east of Portland.  The puppy my in-laws raised was matched with a sight impaired young woman from Southern Oregon and the graduation was held in Portland.  So that they could spend time with their grandkids, the in-laws flew into Sea-Tac, stayed with us, then drove down to Portland for the graduation ceremony, then came back up north.   
Unfortunately the hockey schedule didn't quite marry up with the graduation ceremony.  That took place Saturday while the T-birds were home versus the Winterhawks.  So my wife and kids drove down with her parents for the ceremony while I stayed home with our two dogs.  Then Sunday, after they came back, I hit the road to Portland for the final game of the weekend.  Two ships passing in the night.  At least I had company, with the always affable Andy Eide in the Pilot's seat (literally, Andy owns a Honda Pilot), for the ride down I-5.  
The in-laws spent a few more days with us but are now on their way back to the Mile High City. They are expected to return here in June for another graduation.  This time for a human.  Their oldest grandchild, my son Conner, will graduate from Stadium High School this spring.  I reminded my wife's parents before they left that kibbles and bits plus a chew toy will still be an acceptable gift for that graduation as well.   
You might wonder why I bring all this up.  Well, every time the in-laws have one of their puppies become a guide dog, I'm reminded of Chloe McDonald.  This young woman is a die hard T-birds fan who also happens to be legally blind.  She's at every home game. She doesn't have a guide dog, but I believe she has a guide dad!   She also listens to our radio broadcasts and follows our twitter feeds. So I think about her and others in similar situations, who rely on us painting a picture for them so they can follow the action.  It just goes to show that there are many ways to enjoy the great game of hockey.   
The T-birds meanwhile played four games over the past week and as expected, all four were close results.  Unfortunately Seattle could come up with only one win, last Tuesday's shootout victory over the Tri-City Americans.  Points are so important right now with just 17 games remaining.  The T-birds are battling Spokane and Tri for third place in the U.S. Division while also trying to fend off a challenge from behind, from the Kamloops Blazers, for one of those two Western Conference wild card spots.   
The one game Seattle may lament not earning two points from this past weekend is probably Friday's 2-1 overtime loss in Langley to the Vancouver Giants.  The T-birds dominated the game in every area but the scoreboard.  Seattle put 50 shots on goal but could find the back of the net just once against Giants goalie David Tendeck.  At one point early in that game the shots were 7-2 in favor of Vancouver.  The T-birds would outshoot the Giants over the final 50 minutes or so 48-14.   
The T-birds finished the weekend with the home-and-home against Portland.  Two winnable games. Seattle's offensive drought (4 goals on 121 shots over three games) continued in the 4-1 home loss Saturday.  The T-birds played most of that game without two of their best offensive weapons as Sami Moilanen continues to miss time with an upper body injury while Nolan Volcan left the contest in the second period with an apparent upper body injury of his own.  It was that second period that cost Seattle as the Winterhawks scored three times.  Seattle had a pretty strong first and played with great desperation in the third.  They actually ended up outshooting Portland 29-28.  
Without Moilanen and Volcan in the lineup down in Portland Sunday, Seattle still was in a position to pull out a win, or at least a point, but the lack of veteran depth without those two available caught up to Seattle in the third period and turned a 3-2 lead into a 5-3 setback, with the 5th goal into an empty net. 
Remember, on both nights Seattle was going up against a fully healthy Portland lineup that boasts seven NHL draft picks, including four first rounders.  Seattle did a pretty good job of skating toe-to-toe with them most of the weekend.  Through the first five periods the shot totals were even at 47-47, Portland had scored two more goals but one of those was an empty netter.  Seattle just couldn't answer the bell in that third period, particularly the last ten minutes. They were outscored 3-0 and outshot 17-4.  
Very disappointing that no penalty was called on Donovan Neuls partial breakaway Sunday.  Replay sure seemed to show him getting slashed not once but twice.  That's a scoring chance and I'm not sure how an official looks the other way on that, especially in what turns out to be essentially a one goal game.  

My T-birds Three Stars for the Week:

Third Star(s):  Forwards Payton Mount and Graeme Bryks.  More of the T-birds future was on display this past weekend.  2017 first round Bantam pick Mount earned his first WHL point Friday in Langley and the just-turned-16 year old was one of the best players on  the ice.  Not just one of the T-birds best players, one of the best players among the two teams.  He's now played in three games and has yet to look out of place.  The 16-year old Bryks, who actually started the season with Seattle and got into two games before going back to the AJHL to play with the Spruce Grove Saints, returned in time to score his first WHL goal, also in just his third WHL game, Saturday night against Portland.

Second Star:  C Matthew Wedman.  Weds scored a couple of goals in the four games and is now at a career best 13 on the season, more then doubling his career best of six goals each of the past two seasons.  He's also 15 points better then his 20 point season a year ago. Sometimes it seems Wedman has been a T-bird forever but he's still just 18 and his best hockey is still to come.  

First Star:  C Noah Philp.  Philp had a goal and a pair of assists on the week and he was instrumental in both Mount and Bryks first WHL points.  He seems to work well with the younger players as he also assisted on rookie Dillon Hamaliuk's 13th goal of the season.  Philp has already established career bests in goals and points, is used in all situations and is one of the T-birds best in the face off circle.  

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