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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Game 15 Recap vs. Spokane

Make it a perfect 3-0 for the Spokane Chiefs as the Thunderbirds fall tonight to Spokane 5-3.

The good news is that Seattle finally scored on Dustin Tokarski and it only took them :55 seconds to do so. Ian McKenzie made a nice little "extra pass" to Jim O'Brien who nets his 3rd of the year and an early 1-0 lead for Seattle.

Spokane answered at the 9:07 mark in a sign of what was to come scoring a Power Play goal to tie the game at 1-1. Mitch Wahl got the goal as Spokane did a really nice job getting the puck in deep on Seattle and putting a lot of pressure on Helenius in the crease and at the goal-mouth.

Bruton then converted his first of two goals and the second PP goal for spokane at the 11:35 mark of the 1st.

Seattle answered with a nice PP goal by Lindsey Nielsen who flicked a Greg Scott pass up over the shoulder of Tokarski to tie the game at 2-2 at the 19:38 mark of the 1st period. Spokane outshot Seattle 12-7 in the 1st period.

Spokane then spent nearly the entire period in the Seattle zone and if not for several very good saves by Helenius the game could have been out of control. Instead Spokane managed only the go-ahead goal by Bruton, his 9th of the year, at the 5:21 mark of the 2nd period.

Spokane outshot seattle 16-2 in the 2nd period and held a 28-9 advantage through two periods.

Spokane comes at you in waves as they have numerous good scorers and playmakers and a very solid D core.

Seattle managed to tie the game at the 10:19 on a goal by Jeremy Boyer who managed to power in a rebound past Tokarski as he was caught out of position trying to play a wrap behind the net.

With 9 minutes to play it looked as though Seattle might be able to manage a point out of a game they really had no business being in but Spokane changed that only about a minute later when Drayson Bowman was able to make Seattle pay for a 5-3 Power Play opportunity at the 11:33 mark of the 3rd. Bowman got clear in the slot and wired in a sweet wrist shot into the very top corner of the net over the glove hand of Helenius.

Ulmer then made it elementary with the first goal of his WHL career on a slap shot from the right point over the blocker shoulder of Helenius at the 16:18 mark of the 3rd.

Normally when a goalie is being beaten this many times over his shoulders and into the top corners it means that he is being pushed back into his net and isn't able to successfully cut down the shooting angle. This is normally a sign of generally poor defending from both the D-men AND the wingers.

Spokane finished with a 40-16 advantage in shots on goal. Helenius finishes 35/40 and Tokarski 13/16.

With the 5-3 win, Spokane moves to 13-2-3, 29 points and a .806 point percentage and that is good for 1st in all of the WHL. Seattle falls to 7-5-3, 17 points and a .567 point percentage which is good for only 3rd in the U.S. Division. Suddenly the Silvertips have closed on Seattle with a point percentage of .562 they are nearly tied for 3rd. Fortunately for both Everett and Seattle there appears to be no race for the 4th spot as Portland is now 3-15 with 6 points and would need to really turn things around to contend for that 4th and final spot.

Final thoughts.... I just think that at this point in the season Spokane is a much better hockey team than Seattle and it showed in both games this weekend. The TBirds game is to be a fast team that uses their skating to play solid D and create a few chances and Spokane really beat them at their own game by looking like the better skating team.

I'm not saying that Seattle can't close the gap, but I would say Spokane is at least as good if not better than Vancouver in teams I have seen this season and I would think those two would be the top two teams in the Western Conference and maybe the WHL right now.

Let's Go Birds Three Stars of the Game:

1. Drayson Bowman, 1 goal and 3 assists and had the game winner.
2. Mitch Wahl, 1 goal and 3 assists also in the win.
3. Chris Bruton, 2 goals in the win.

Honorable Mention.... Greg Scott, 2 assists in the losing effort and that line of Nielsen, Holloway and Scott looked good again tonight. Riku Helenius, tried his best to keep Seattle in it and there were just too many shots and chances to succeed.

Absent this list is Thomas Hickey for the first time all year and I thought he struggled for the first time all year. I have to wonder aloud whether the number of minutes he is being asked to log each weekend is starting to take its toll in the 3rd game in 3 nights. Seattle has 11! 3 game weekends this year that is more than the 9 they had in 06-07 and I can't think Seattle can afford to go on this roadtrip without picking up some 15's or 16's D-men to help out on the trip.

Stars in the Arena:
1. Bowman
2. Bruton
3. Wahl

1 comment :

Marty Aalto said...

It's not a big deal but with the new conference playoff set up the top 8 in the conference make the playoffs... There most likely will be a race for 8th place...

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