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.)