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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Jon's personal report from Medicine Hat Friday Night.

I didn't edit this one as much because I'm off to play tonight.... Here is Jon's report:

After getting a good nights sleep on the couch, the car actually rolled out around 10:30am. We were shooting for 10am, but that never happens.

After a quick stop at everyone favorite breakfast place, Tim Horton's,we are on our way. If you don't know about Tim Hortons, then you don't know about Canada, and you don't know good donuts. It would be so good to open one of these in the Seattle area, but I think there is a little too much competition for donuts.

Mental note for the future, and a lesson to be learned by all.Blueberry fritters from Tim Hortons have blueberry filling. When eaten improperly, said blueberry filling will end up in the middle of the only light weight long sleeve shirt you bring on a trip like this.

The drive from Calgary to Medicine Hat is about three hours. When you get four guys in the same car, talking about WHL hockey, and what each team needs to do, and which teams are better, and which teams could goal the way, the drive feels like 15 minutes. And that includes a 5 minute stop for something to drink half way.

Leaving Calgary, there is a lot of construction on the roads for new intersections and over passes. I guess the economy of Calgary is doing very, very well. This would also make sense from the number of large building being built in downtown.

We arrived in the Gas city of Medicine Hat around 1pm. Almost everyone out there will not know that the Hat is home to the worlds largest TeePee, standing around 20 stories tall and weighing 200tons. The Hat is also home to over 60 KM of walking trails (none of which we will be using).

We drove straight to the hotel. We are staying at the Lodge. What a great place. If you are ever lucky enough to visit the Hat, stay here, and ask for the WHL rate (it's a good one). The rooms are very nice with two queen beds, and ours is overlooking the indoor waterslide and pool area. They say it is louder in these rooms, but we can't notice anything.

Downstairs for lunch at 2pm finds us in the back corner of the casino (see a trend here). The appetizer samples of what seemed to be 10 different things wins out. But, we also had the side salads to offset any unhealthy items.

Our tickets to that night's game arrived around 4pm. The Medicine Hat arena holds around 4000, and they get 4000 every game. So getting a ticket can be difficult. We found a very nice lady who hooked us up with 14 tickets. There is a gas station in town that puts certain game tickets on sale Saturday mornings. If you go fill up with gas,you can purchase 2 tickets. I guess her and her family needed a lot of gas. A really big thank you goes out to her and her husband. We set some of the players families up with the rest of the tickets we didn't use. We thought that was the best use of them.

While eating lunch, we read the local paper, and found out there is a very good Bantam AAA tournament going on right now. Lots of quality young kids playing the top level of hockey for their age group. We decided to go visit the 5pm game at a local rink that also had a game next door start at 5:30. Both games feature a team that seemed to dominate play with bigger strong kids, but couldn't put the game out of reach. We were only able to stay for the first period of both games, but is was fun watching. Tons of WHL scouts around. Seemed to be at least one from every team.

We left and headed for the game downtown, and arrived around 6:30pm.We had to meet some parents outside to get them there tickets, and ran into a lot of very nice fans. Chris and Allen were wearing formal Tbird Farmanara, so fans had a lot to talk about with us.

The Medicine Hat arena is very small, but every seat is great.Everything is located under the seats, with all the usual items to eat. The history of this place is kind of eerie, with all the championships, and back to back Memorial Cups in the 80's. Lots of Seattle connections with Farwell being the GM on those teams, and lots of former Tbirds playing. I have a picture that I hope turns out that everyone can play "Name the three people in this picture."

The first period is a very positive sign. Seattle played very well, a lot better then the past two games. The passes were connecting, the breakouts working, and really limiting the Tigers chances. The Tigers get the first goal when Seattle goalie is caught out of the net. Not a very good play from him, since he had the entire other side of the rink to clear the puck to, and I am not even sure he should have tried to play it, since I think it was icing. But, he more then made up for it the rest of way. Seattle gets their first goal on a play that probably should not have counted. Benn Olsen and a willing combatant decide to drop the gloves right after a faceoff in the Tigers end.The only problem for the Tigers is none of the refs blow the whistle to stop play. So, Seattle puts the puck on net, crashes the net, and score. Then the refs notice the fight, blow the whistle, and away they go. Not a bad fight, with both players landing some good punches, but mostly a draw in the end. But, with Seattle scoring the goal. Holloway had a shot short handed in the period that hit the crossbar so hard, it ended up all the back at center ice. The second period brought on the Thunderbirds from the previous two games. Not moving their feet, getting out worked, out hit, outplayed. They got out shot 17-3, and that was about right. If not for Riku coming up big time and time again, it would have been ugly. They also took far too many penalties, giving up something like 4 powerplays. But somehow, they left the period only down 2-1.

Spent the second intermission walking around arena, taking in all the old pictures and articles from teams past. I think the Thunderbirds should take a lesson from this, and put up all the old team photos. It was great looking back to find old players, coaches, and GMs, and see all the pictures on championship runs.

The third period started off ugly for Seattle, giving up a goal 40 seconds in. I think that just took the sails out. They actually didn't play that badly in the third, but the Tigers just kept coming harder and harder. Seattle could never get anything going at all. Riku also kept Seattle in this period, making huge save after huge save. After the fights happened near the end, a very funny thing was noticed by all in the arena. Riku had hopped up on top of the net,and was sitting on the very top part, with his feet hanging over the crossbar. I have a picture of it that will get posted later.

Three stars all went to the Tigers, but we all thought Riku could have gotten the third star.

A couple of game notes. Scott Jackson was on the bench for the entire game. Very good move for him and the team. He of coarse seemed to be managing the defenders and helping them out. The one thing I noticed about the rink in Medicine Hat was how fast the puck goes around the boards. Quite a few times, Seattle would shoot the puck in, and before the defender could get to the opposite boards, the puck would come back out to center ice. I am not sure if it was Seattle not moving fast enough, or if it really was how good the boards are.

Following the game, we tried to hustle back to the Bantam AAA tournament for what was billed as the best game. But, due to traffic,and a police checkpoint for alcohol, we walked in with 2 minutes left in the game. But it was a great last two minutes.

After this, back to the hotel, and ordered delivery pizza from the place voted best pizza in town. It was no let down, and was very thick and good. We spent the rest of the night at the hotel. Tomorrow, we have a 4.5 hour drive to Red Deer, so we are planning on going to the morning games for the Bantam tournament, and then hitting the road.

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