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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Game Two Recap

Some more details and thoughts about last night's win over the Silvertips. The Thunderbirds handed out "horns" to fans before the game and they were extremely effective at drowning out the 'Tips fans cowbells. I think the Silvertips fans got a little bit of their own medicine with those horns.

-Tbirds got on the board at the 11:05 mark of the first period on a Power Play goal by Josh Schappert. The goal was scored in a scramble in front of the net, but that doesn't really illustrate the fact that up to that point the Power Play had looked very good and moved the puck around at a level we haven't seen in several years with the Thunderbirds. Despite finishing only 1/10 on the Power Play I thought they created chances at a much more proficient rate than in the past. In fact, by my recollection I believe the two shots that hit the post were both on the PP as well.

-Speaking of the special teams units the Tbirds then make it 2-0 at the 15:50 mark of the 2nd period on a Short Handed Goal by Greg Scott. Schappert again really gets credit for the fore checking hustle on this goal and created the puck squirting out to the high slot where Scott unleashed a slap shot that I believe broke an Everett defensemen’s stick on the redirect and into the goal. The Tbirds penalty kill was stellar all night and the short handed goal was a nice reward for Scott, Schappert and the Tbirds. I thought Everett's Power Play only occasionally looked as dangerous as we have seen in the past and the Tbirds gave some really nice efforts to kill off the 8 PP chances that the 'Tips had. Special Teams always play a critical role in a teams success and if the Tbirds can get similar efforts on a nightly basis they are going to be in great shape.

-Less than a minute later Scott Jackson is welcomed back with a goal. At this point I really thought that Everett got caught letting down after the short handed goal and Jackson was able to take advantage. I thought for the 1st half of the game the Everett D looked like they were emerging from their slump, but the 5 minutes that ended the 2nd period showed why they are now 0-4. I thought they looked disorganized and did not play with the effort we usually see from them.

-The shutout for Helenius is ruined at the 6:46 mark of the 3rd period on a goal by Jonathan Harty, his 2nd of the year. I think this is where I will point out how solid Riku was all night in net and it was a shame he wasn't able to get the shutout he deserved. From my angle it looked like the goal was scored on the a redirection at the far post, but its possible it just found the corner. Helenius made some huge stops in from point blank range in the second period that could have changed the momentum of the game. I'm also here to tell you... he has some of the best reflexes I have seen from a Tbirds or WHL goaltender. He made two saves last night where he was able to adjust either his body or his glove AFTER the puck had been deflected in front of him and still make the save. Quite impressive.

-To borrow a phrase from every other WHL blogger "Kyle Beach won't be winning any popularity contests" and this was on display again last night. With all due respect, I have to disagree with Regan Bartel (play by play man for the Kelowna Rockets) who says he likes his style. Plain and simple I don't think you need to be a dirty player in this league to be a star. A guy like Aaron Gagnon is proof of that. Beach made a run at Thomas Hickey early in the game to earn a penalty and then another rediculous tripping call with 2:30 to play in the game on Greg Scott. Make no mistake... Benn Olson was going to Beach when he fought Harty with 5 seconds left in the game. You gotta love when your tough guy sticks up for his teammates and goes after the other teams top gun (or goon). Note to Benn... you gotta hit the right guy next time though! I have a feeling that won't be the last time the Tbirds have a problem with Beach and I would bet you'll see an Olson-Beach face-off at some point in the future unless another 'Tips player doesn't allow it to happen.

-It sure is nice to have Thomas Hickey. Hickey had 1 assist last night and just makes things look so easy and effortless. He seems to have taken the criticism over the Kings drafting him so high and used that as extra motivation to show everyone how absolutely worthy he was of the 4th overall pick.

-Other notes... Sena Acolatse was a scratch. Not really sure why he was... I will try to find out. 8 players had points for the Tbirds including the first WHL points for Brenden Silvester and Charles Wells who assisted on Jackson's goal. Attendance for the home opener was 5,627.

The Let's Go Birds Three Stars of the game:

1. Josh Schappert

2. Riku Helenius

3. Greg Scott

Honorable mention to... Thomas Hickey, Scott Jackson, Jonathan Harty (Evt.)


Birds Win!!

Tbirds send the 'Tips to 0-4 tonight as Schappert, Scott and Jackson score in the 3-1 victory.

Tbirds move to 1-0-1 with the win. Its late and I'm going to head off to bed but I will have more in depth coverage tomorrow morning.


'Tips lose again

The Silvertips lost at home again tonight 6-4 to Kelowna. They have now given up 17 goals in 3 games (all at home) in their 0-3 start.

I would guess they will be an angry bunch at the Key tomorrow. Lets hope the Tbirds can continue their slide.

Light Week and Light Weekend

I'll be honest with everyone... there hasn't been a whole lot to blog about the last couple of days unless I wanted to do some analysis of the small handful of trades that happened in the last two days. Frankly, I didn't... and we'll probably cover some of those deals when those teams actually come to town.

It will also be a relatively light weekend with the Tbirds playing only one game. Of course the home opener against the Silvertips is never a "light" event by itself.

The Silvertips come into town under unusual circumstances. They begin tonights game at home against Kelowna at 0-2 with both losses coming at home. In addition, there would have to be at least some concern over top goaltender Leland Irvings numbers in the first two games (0-2, 5.09 GAA, 83.3% Sv%). They also have a much bigger O/A problem than the Tbirds do with Ondrej Fiala's return leaving them with six 20 year olds.

On the bright side for the 'Tips is that the team is loaded with veterans for this early season contest. I have no word on whether Ian McKenzie will be available to play, but if he remains out the Tbirds would only have 3 dressed O/A players.

With the Silvertips at home tonight vs. Kelowna, the Tbirds should be the rested team. It would be interesting to see how the 'Tips responded IF they end up dropping tonights game to fall to 0-3. Perhaps a game away from the EEC (or Comcast Center) would be in order.

Word is that Jim O'Brien might join the team next week but might not be ready to play until the second weekend in October.

That is all for now... I will have reactions, observations and analysis on Sunday about Saturday's Home Opener.


Arena Rendering

Here is the photo that was handed out at the "ground breaking" ceremonies they did yesterday down in Kent. I don't know about everyone else... but "excited" would be an understatement.

Wednesday Morning Update

Few items to update today...

There was an article in the Puget Sound Business Joural about the increased Sponsorships that the Thunderbirds are experiencing with the move to Kent. The article states that the Tbirds have increased sposors from 32 to 45 including 9 new sponsors for the move to Kent in January 2009. You must have a subscription to read the entire article but here is the link to the free portion

The WHL writer's poll has been released after the first week of the games and 4 of the top 5 teams come from the Western Conference (2 US Division, 2 B.C. Division). The Tbirds are ranked 5th in the current poll with 141 points. For those of you on the TBirds Forum who thought the sky was falling after losing a 2 goal lead on the road but still earning a point... the Kamloops Blazers were ranked 3rd in the poll with 154 points. With credits to Jeff Bromley and his Kooteney Blog ( here is the complete list:

1. Calgary Hitmen (8) 176

2. Vancouver Giants 168

3. Kamloops Blazers 154

4. Spokane Chiefs 148

5. Seattle Thunderbirds 141

6. Regina Pats 130

7. Everett Silvertips 122

8. Tri City Americans 119

9. Medicine Hat Tigers 118

10. Brandon Wheat Kings 105

11. Lethbridge Hurricanes 102

12. Swift Current Broncos 88

13. Moose Jaw Warriors 84

14. Chilliwack Bruins 78

15. Kelowna Rockets 53

16. Kootenay Ice 46

17. Edmonton Oil Kings 45

18. Red Deer Rebels 42

19. Saskatoon Blades 40

20. Prince Albert Raiders 32

21. Prince George Cougars 25

22. Portland Winter Hawks 8


Jackson Released

Edit: Here is the link to the official press release by the team.
Detroit Free Press is reporting that Scott Jackson was released by the Red Wings yesterday. I would presume this means he will return to the Thunderbirds.


More Kamloops wrap upand some links

Some notes from the season opening loss in Kamloops on Saturday. There are some nice notes and a recap of the game winning goal in OT over on Gregg Drinnan's blog here

Also a very good write up by Gregg on the Tbirds impending move to Kent and the possibility of the teams name changing next season, you can find that here

Other notes from around the league. Tri-Cities completed an impressive 3-0 opening weekend and look like a force in the US Division. They also might possibly get Colton Yellow Horn back as he was cut from his AHL team the other day. That would leave the Americans with 4 O/A players.

Did anyone think after the first weekend of games that the Edmonton Oil Kings would be 2-0 and Everett would be 0-2 after two home games. Alan Caldwell reports that the last time the Silvertips were 2 games under .500 was..... November 5, 2003,

Caldwell also has a US Division preview from late last week.

The Silvertips have some tough decisions to make in the next few weeks as O/A Dane Crowley was returned to them from the Tampa Bay Lightning leaving the Silvertips with 6 O/A players.

Back with more later...


Game 1 at Kamloops... Live Updates

The Tbirds lose in OT tonight as Juuso Puustinen scores his second of the game at the 4 minute mark of the overtime period and fail to pick up the extra point. Gaining a point on the road is always a decent outcome but the team has to be frustrated having lead this game 2-0 through nearly two periods. Based purely on the shots on goal the Tbirds didn't deserve to win the game and it sure sounded to me like Kamloops had the majority of the best scoring chances in the 3rd and the OT period. The official three stars of the game were 1. Juuso Puustinen 2. Brock Nixon and 3. Justin Leclerc. I personally would have given Riku Helenius the 3rd star given he made 24 saves in 27 shots and Leclerc ended with 16 saves in 18 shots. Tbirds start the campaign 0-0-1 with the Home opener next Saturday vs. Everett. Please feel free to leave comments and conversation under the comments section.

Well the Tbirds earn at least a point tonight as the game heads to overtime. The Tbirds struggle with the Shootout was well documented last year and needless to say it would be very nice to pick up an additional point in the OT session. Helenius has come up huge on several occasions and it sounds as though the Blazer have had more of the scoring opportunities in the 2nd half of the game.

Kamloops goal... and the 2 goal lead is now gone. Sounded like a shot that Helenius would probably like to have back. It will be interesting to see how the Tbirds respond to losing their 2 goal lead.

Shots on goal through 2nd period: Helenius 16 saves on 17 shots. Leclerc has 10 saves on 12 shots.

2-1 at the 2nd intermission. I will have shot on goal shortly.

Kamloops goal... :57 seconds left in the 2nd and Helenius is beaten on a rebound by Brock Nixon (unassisted) and the lead is cut to 2-1. Helenius is having a pretty solid game in his debut and hopefully the Tbirds can have a good 3rd period and pick up a nice road win to start the season.

GOAL!!!! Thomas Hickey wires in a wrister through traffic and the Tbirds do exactly what they need to do on the road and capitalize on the power play. 2-0 Tbirds. If you were to draw up a formula for winning on the road, this would be the beginning of that formula. Get an early lead and win the special teams battle.

Another whistle against Kamloops gives the Tbirds a brief 5 on 3 for about 2o seconds. The Tbirds must capitalize on the road on the power play when given this many chances.

Tbirds now with a 5 on 3 early here in the 2nd period. As most loyal fans know the Tbirds have had their troubles on the Power Play for what seems like years. Often these 5 on 3's can turn out to be big moments where the team gets a boost from scoring or the other team gets a boost from killing it.

7 shots and 7 saves for Helenius and 6 shots for 5 saves for Leclerc. I'd love to see the Tbirds get a few more than 7 shots on goal in the 2nd period and I'm sure Sumner would agree.

1st intermission and the Tbirds maintain a 1-0 lead into the break. Kamloops winds up 0/3 on their power play chances AND give up a shorthanded goal. The Tbirds go 0/1 on their only power play chance but overall a very good start to the special teams units. Not sure yet on the shots on goal, they are not being posted on the scoresheet on

GOAL!!! Isak Quakenbush gets the first goal of the season as he scores a short handed goal coming out of the penalty box... assist came from Bud Holloway who saw Quakenbush behind the D out of the box. IQ went backhand and beat Blazer netminder Leclerc. Nice to see Isak get off to a good start. I know a lot of fans were frustrated by IQ last year, but the kid was 16 and although the early penalty is not a great sign, the ability to finish certainly is a very good sign.

Line 2 appears to be Nielsen-Rai-Boyer and it sounded as if Acolatse and Olson are paired together (what a pairing of tough guys that is).

Line 3 appears to be Schappert-Scott-Richard

For those of you looking for live updates at the start of the game (not sure yet how many people are really checking this blog yet) I apologize for being a bit late.... Got home late tonight from a softball tournament.

Starting lineup for the Tbirds was...


Hickey Update

Los Angeles Kings announced Friday that Hickey was being returned to Seattle. Here is the link...

I do not have word on whether this makes him available for the season opener but my guess is that he might be able to join the team in Kamloops on Saturday.

Check back tomorrow for live updates, thoughts and analysis during the season opener.


O'Brien Update

Edit: Jim Riley's season preview was out in the Seattle Times this morning and had an update on O'Brien's status... "O'Brien had shoulder surgery a few months ago and has been skating and participating in drills at Ottawa's training camp. He was reassigned to Seattle on Thursday and is expected to be cleared to play in two to four weeks."

Obviously this means he will not be skating tomorrow night in Kamloops.

Jim's article can be found here...

Announced by the Ottawa Senators website is that Jim O'Brien is being returned to the Thunderbirds. It was not clear whether about the health of his shoulder, or whether he would be available to play Saturday at Kamloops. I would have to presume that his shoulder is better and that he will be available to play on Saturday.

Captain News from around the WHL

The newly named Captain of the Kelowna Rockets is none other than former Thunderbird James McEwan. Released by the Tbirds before the 2006-07 season, McEwan made the team in Kelowna and was awared their "unsung hero" award for the season. McEwan is just the 4th Rockets captain to be from Kelowna (although the other three were born in Kelowna, McEwan was not).

Also... the first captain in the history of the Edmonton Oil Kings is former Tbirds blue liner Bretton Stamler. Anyone who has known and seen Stamler play should not be too surprised by the 20 year old being selected the Oil Kings' new leader.


Roster Update

Here is how the current T-birds roster looks heading into the first game at Kamloops on Saturday. As always this is subject to change. I'll break it down by position and year.

87's - Andre Herman, Ian McKenzie
88's - Bud Halloway, Greg Scott
89's - Jan Eberle (I), Lindsey Nielsen, Jim O'Brien, Prab Rai, David Richard, Josh Schappert
90's - Jeremy Boyer, Cody Hanson, Isak Quakenbush
91's - Josh Lazowski, Brenden Silvester, Charles Wells

87's - Benn Olson
88's -none
89's - Brad Bakken, Thomas Hickey, Jeremy Schappert
90's - Sena Acolatse, Brenden Dillon
91's - Steve Chaffin
88's - Riku Helenius (I)
89's - Tyler Esau
90's - Jacob DeSerres
(I) - Import

??????? - Scott Jackson

Jackson's status is in limbo and could change everything. Currently he is not listed on the official roster. Jackson was not offered a contract by the St. Louis Blue this summer and was invited to the Detroit Red Wings camp. If Jackson signs a contract with Detroit, my guess is he will not be back with the team. If he does not sign, he could be headed back to the team. This would create a roster problem (albeit a nice problem when you have a Scott Jackson back) with the Tbirds having 4 players in their 20 year old year. The team could then have until Oct. 11th to decide on which 3 of the 4 players to keep.

Aaron Gagnon update

Ex-Thunderbirds Captain Aaron Gagnon who was signed to a 3 year Free Agent contract in the spring of 2007 with the Dallas Stars, was invited to camp with the Stars but has not been able to participate due to an injury to his ankle.

Gagnon suffered the injury participating in the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. Gagnon will likely miss 2-3 weeks and might miss the entire training camp. He is expected to start the season with the Stars' AHL affiliate the Iowa Stars.

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