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Hockey Challenge 2014

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That was just pure crap... I want to enjoy my New Year so I'm just not going to write about that until tomorrow.

Happy New Year to everyone...

Well... I guess a win is a win...

Seattle defeats Chilliwack last night 2-0 in the last ever game at Key Arena. I don't know about you guys but I didn't feel particularly emotional about last night being the last game at the Key. It has always been a bad place to watch a game, the concessions suck and have been understaffed in the past couple of years, the boards and glass are terrible, the benches are bad and small, and the ice surface sucks.... so quite frankly I couldn't be happier to get out of that place and into a home we can call our own and boy is it going to be exciting.

I'm not very fond of Key Arena... and I wasn't very fond of the game the Tbirds played last night either. Yes... it is a win and we have to be happy about a win after the effort in the past two games. It is certainly a lot better than losing to a Chilliwack team, at home, who is behind you in the conference standings. Seattle started really slow again and only through the effort of Jake DeSerres, who turned aside 10 early shots, was Seattle able to go into the first break at 0-0. Tbirds were out shot 10-5 and outplayed for the better part of the first period and could not convert or get many shots through on two Power Plays in the first.

Seattle finally broke through in the 2nd period thanks to a nice effort from Lindsay Nielsen and the Tbirds scored for the first time in 155 minutes (all on home ice) to give them a 1-0 lead. Boyer worked hard along the boards to free up Nielsen for the rush to the net.

Nielsen then essentially sealed the game with his 2nd of the night on a nifty shot fake and finish around hard luck loser Mark Friesen. Friesen actually sprawled this his goal paddle and got a piece of the puck only to see it deflect into the net, giving the Tbirds a 2-0 lead.

Seattle got better as the game went along and finished the night with 28 shots to the Bruins 25 shots.

DeSerres picks up the shutout and deserved it... I thought he played a very solid game and made several outstanding saves. While the Bruins were able to ring three shots off the posts during the course of the game... it felt like something had finally gone right for DeSerres who played well all night and has seen too many games this year slip away from him on poor play or bad luck or both. It was nice to see DeSerres play well AND get a nice chuck of good fortune to pick up the shutout which is his first of the season.

The media gave DeSerres the 2nd start and Nielsen the 1st... but I would have flopped those and given DeSerres the nod with Nielsen the 2nd and Boyer the 3rd with some honorable mentions to Chris Cloud and Jonathan Parker who I thought also played a solid game and nearly scored on a couple of chances.

Seattle is in action tonight in the annual trip to Portland on New Years Eve. A special treat for Tbirds fans tonight with the game being shown on Fox Sports Northwest... which is channel 30 for most if not everyone here in the area.

Remember that the game tonight has a special 5pm start time as well.


Greg Scott back tonight

Just posted to the WHL website. Greg Scott gets a one game suspension for his Match Penalty Saturday against Portland.

I would interpret this to mean that the league did not feel it was a very serious offense.

oh btw...

I noticed there were still like two tickets available yesterday for the ShoWare Center opening night game....

The game is now officially sold out according to the ticketing website...

There are however still 3364 tickets remaining for the Sunday game against Kamloops. Personally... I find that pretty disappointing but I think clearly it is going to take some time for the people of Kent to adopt this team and find out about hockey.


Is the ship sinking?

Tbirds get totally out played by Spokane last night and lose 4-0. Seattle was without their Captain Thomas Hickey, Jim O'Brien and Calvin Pickard but Spokane was without Drayson Bowman, Mitch Wahl, Tyler Johnson and Dustin Tokarski.

Seattle was also missing Greg Scott who was suspended for his Match Penalty for stepping on the leg of Tayler Jordan of the Winterhawks in the game on Saturday. I didn't see the game Saturday so I don't know what it looked like... Scott has said that he did step on the leg of Jordan but that it was an accident and there was no intent on his part. The league has not yet posted on the website how long he will be suspended.

Regardless... Seattle played horribly for what I understand was the second night in a row. I just didn't see any fire or fight in most of the players. Everyone seems to be on cruise control or wishing they were back home or resigned to their fate this season.... which is ridiculous when you consider that the season is only half over.

Jacob DeSerres was incredible for most of the game keeping Spokane to one goal on 24 shots over half way through the second period before giving up an unfortunately soft goal to Kenton Miller to make it 2-0. I was a little bit concerned about how DeSerres would respond after the soft goal but he played relatively well the rest of the way. DeSerres ended the night with 39 saves on 43 shots and you certainly cannot fault him in any way for the loss.

Spokane added two more goals in the 3rd period, both coming from the blue line on the power play. I couldn't see the angle but both beat DeSerres cleanly which would suggest that he was screened at least partially on both.

At the other end of the ice... Seattle really wasn't much better as they only managed to get 25 shots on net and really only generated what I would consider to be about 4 or 5 good scoring chances with James Reid flashing a really good glove on several saves. Reid's shutout was his 3rd this season, two of which have come against the Thunderbirds. He received the 1st star in the building but I really didn't think his 25 saves were particularly difficult. I would have probably given him the 2nd star and made Trevor Glass the 1st star. Glass chipped in his 5th goal of the season in the 1st period on the power play before assisting on Ulmer's PP goal in the 3rd period. Glass was also very solid defending and ended the night +1 being on the ice for 3 of the 4 Spokane goals.

The Tbirds are sinking fast after this disastrous weekend. It isn't too late to turn this thing around and make a run at the 4th or 5th spot in the conference, but if they play like they did last night they might find themselves fighting with Chilliwack and Prince George for the 8th spot in the conference.

Last Key Arena game ever is on Tuesday against Chillwack, which might either be an opportunity to get things right again or a reason to fear this team's place in the playoff picture.

Do not forget at all......... The opening game of the ShoWare Center on Saturday! I'm going to try to attend part of the grand opening on Friday and of course coverage of the game on Saturday. I'm going to try to take as many good pictures as I can and put them up here over the weekend.


I return from vacation, Tbirds do not

We didn't make it back in time to see the game last night... so I can't provide any thoughts. I think I can pretty much sum up the game by saying it was a huge stinker. You can't lose 5-1 to Portland at home or this team has no shot this season. Sounds like the boys were not ready to return from vacation. I like the quote I saw from Coach Sumner in the Times the other day that basically said the number of home games in the second half of the season is only beneficial if you are playing well and you go out and get those games.... and he is absolutely right. Nobody is going to just come in and lay down for you because you've been on the road the entire first half of the season and chances are they are going to be just as excited to play in the new building as we will be.

Let's hope the Tbirds bounce back with a good effort tonight.


Hickey named Captain

I think this is worth mentioning... even if most of you probably already read about this or heard about it.

Thomas Hickey was named as the Captain of Canada's National Junior Team. This is quite an honor for Hickey and well deserved. As a U.S. citizen, I hope the good 'ole American boys can take down the powerhouse Canadians.... but it will be very easy to root for Hickey and the Canadians if the U.S. team falls.

Story here...


Holiday Break

Tbirds hit the holiday break with a win over Spokane last night. Calvin Pickard was the story again as he made 35 stops to pace the Birds to a 3-1 win.

Lindsay Nielsen returned for the Tbirds and wore the "C" for both games while Thomas Hickey was away at the tryouts for the Canadian World Junior team. In case you were wondering, it looks like Hickey has 1 assist in the 3 games at camp.

Seattle finished the unofficial first half of the season looking like this.

14-17-3, good for 31 points, 7th in the Western Conference, 1 point behind Kamloops for 6th, 4 behind Everett for 5th and 7 behind Kelowna for 4th.

As everyone knows the schedule has been extremely road heavy in the first half of the season. The Tbirds have now played 26 games on the road and just 8 games at home. That leaves 10 games on the road and a whopping 28 games at home the rest of the way with 25 of those coming in the new Kent Events Center. (Relax about the tickets people... this is going to be fun, trust me).

Seattle was 6-2 at home and 8-15-3 on the road. They had a goal differential of +16 at home and -34 on the road.

The Tbirds Power Play has been improved over last season... but not much much, at least in the results category. 24 goals in 149 chances for 16.1% and places them 18th in the WHL.

The Penalty Kill has been slightly better giving up 34 goals in 155 chances, killing at a rate of 78.2% and placing them 16th in the WHL.

You watch enough hockey and learn to realize how important special teams are... think about this... The Tbirds on the whole have been outscored by 18 goals and they are 3 games under .500. Actually... I won't go into the calculations but the Tbirds have actually out performed their goal differential slightly.

But how much does it really matter?? If the Tbirds were to improve on the Power Play and on the Penalty Kill how big of a difference would it make?

Score 10 more goals on the Power Play and they would be 34 of 149, 22.8% and 5th in the WHL.

Kill 10 more chances and they would be 24 in 155, 86.7% which would be 3rd in the WHL.

This represents a 20 goal swing and they would be +2 in overall goal differential. Based on the calculations they would be expected to play at .509 and they have out played their projections by about 1% so lets just say .520.

At .520... they would have secured just over 35 points. So basically.... we're talking about roughly 4 points or 2 games.

I don't know about you guys but that just isn't that big of a difference....

So what does this mean? It means what most of us have picked up on through the first half of the season.... the problem isn't on the Power Play or the Penalty Kill... it's in the 5 on 5 play.

Even if they show marginal improvement on the Power Play or the Penalty Kill, it just won't make that much of a difference if they don't improve in 5 on 5.

The Tbirds are going on Holiday this week... and so am I. If I read something super important I will throw it up here... if I don't... see you all back at the Key on the 27th.


Weekend Preview

I can't even remember now but I believe I stated that if the Tbirds could get 5 or 6 points out of this latest stretch of 6 games before the Christmas break I would be fairly happy about it.

Road games against Tri, Portland, Vancouver and Spokane around one home game with Calgary is a gauntlet of games. Vancouver and Calgary lead their conferences, Tri leads the US Division and Spokane has now won 3 straight and is still the defending Memorial Cup Champs. You could make the argument that Portland isn't a very tough game, but the Winterhawks have been pretty frisky under their new management so far.

In order to actually make it to 5 or 6 points over this stretch... the Tbirds have to pick up points in both games in Spokane this weekend, no easy task for sure.

Thom rumored that Lindsay Nielsen might be back for this weekend... from my point of view I have no idea why they would risk it. With 13 days off before they play Portland at Key Arena on the 27th I would rather they just let Lindsay heal than to risk anything for 2 tough road games in Spokane, just my two cents.

No doubt most or all of you have learned that the Tbirds will open the ShoWare center on January 3rd vs. the Everett Silvertips. Personally... I'm a little disappointed. I wanted Portland to be the first game in the new arena for the sake of tradition... oh well. Regardless... the opening of the new arena is tremendously exciting and I think this is going to usher in a very exciting era of Tbirds hockey.

Don't forget... the Tbirds will be without Captain Thomas Hickey over the weekend as he attends the Canadian World Junior camp. Hickey is almost a lock to make the squad and the rumor is he might even be the teams captain. We will have to wait and see. This of course makes the back to back games in Spokane that much tougher.


Back in action...

I'm back after sort of taking a week off... sorry everyone. I doubt anyone is going through withdrawals when I don't write anything but I also know some of you enjoy my "take" on things.

First a couple of observations from the weekend...

- Calvin Pickard appears to have a solid grip on being the #1 goaltender and he doesn't appear willing to give it back anytime soon. Pickard again was very solid down in Portland and how the stats ended up looking was really solid against Calgary on Sunday, on a night when the Tbirds just didn't seem willing to work hard enough to beat possibly the best team in the league. This leaves Seattle with either a really big problem, or a really good problem to have as they have DeSerres a Flyers draft pick as a solid backup right now. This team is looking more and more like a middle of the road Western Conference team to me and if that is the case I wouldn't mind seeing them stick with Pickard as a commitment to the future... but this creates a pretty big problem as DeSerres has the talent to be a #1 goaltender in this league if he can ever manage to regain his confidence. I would not expect to see it happen this season... but I will mention what probably nobody really wants to talk about... I would kind of expect to see Jake traded in the offseason.

- Everyone is drooling over the two games that 15 year old Colin Jacobs played this weekend and I won't really stray from that too much either. I also thought he looked very good... skated well, wasn't afraid to pull the trigger, checked a little and appeared to display a nice ability to read the play... but he is also 15 and I think everyone should temper their expectations for the kid. As we have all seen numerous times, the development and improvement of a player between the ages of 15-19 are much more important than the talent they possess as a 15 year old. Jacobs is starting with a lot of skills as a 15... but he still needs to improve to become a star. After seeing him play for 1 game... it's hard to say but it seems that the sky is the limit for the kid and the though of having Sanvido and Jacobs for 3 or 4 years should get Tbird fans very excited for the future. Jacobs has returned home to Texas, but expect to see him back in Seattle towards the end of the season after his team's games have been completed.

- Despite the fact that we have seen some nice contributions from some younger players in their absence, Seattle really misses the presence of Prab Rai and Lindsay Nielsen. Prab hurt a groin and is listed as "week to week" and Lindsay has a shoulder injury that is currently listed as "day to day" though I don't believe he is really that close to returning, I could be wrong. The Tbirds miss a lot of scoring and leadership with these two guys out and with Thomas Hickey leaving for Junior Camp this weekend and two games with Spokane coming up after tonight the Tbirds really need these guys back as soon as possible.

- As I mentioned, Thomas Hickey will be going to Canada's World Junior selection camp and while the camp starts tomorrow in Ottawa... I believe Hickey will still be in Vancouver for the game tonight against the Giants.

- Quietly... Sena Acolatse has been playing some darn good hockey lately. At the end of October, Sena was -14... that is not a typo... through 11 games he was -14. To put that in perspective... that put him on pace for a season where he finished -91... whoa. Things started to turn around for him with the first game of November as he posted a 3 assist night and +3 in the Tbirds ovetime loss in Tri-City. He went on to post a +10 for the month to get back to -4 before the last three games have pushed him back down to -6. Seattle needs the +10 Sena the rest of the way if they want to have any shot at the #4 or #5 seed in the West.

- Exciting news for Tbirds fans "might" come today and likely by tomorrow as the Tbirds are meeting with the "powers that be" today at 3pm to find out when they can open the ShoWare Center for the first time. Here is knocking on wood that it comes on the 27th of December and not the 3rd of January... although either one will be just fine with me.

- I'm really happy to see that Thom is regularly posting some thoughts on his new "blog" section of the Tbirds website. I can't say for sure yet whether the fans will be happy with his contributions, but I think it is great. The more insight about the team that is out there... the better. I will repeat what I have said all along... I started this blog because it felt like there was a demand out there for this sort of thing about the Tbirds and so far I have had a great time writing this thing even though we still only have about 200 readers a day (we can do better!!). Having said that... I would happily give up this "hobby" of writing about the team when it becomes pretty clear that the demand has been filled elsewhere. Thom's blog can be found here and I'm going to add a permanent link over on the link bar.

- Tbirds are in Vancouver tonight where the Giants have not lost a game in regulation in their own building. Tall task for a team missing two of their best players... if the team gets the game to overtime tonight I would be pretty happy and I would be thrilled if they pulled off the win tonight.


Hitman skate past Tbirds 4-1...

I sort of took the weekend off... hope you guys don't mind too much.

Somewhat crappy game is somewhat fitting for what we hope is the last game in a crappy arena. Tbirds just ran out of gas tonight and Calgary is an excellent squad.

I'll find some time to write down a few more observations tomorrow...


Tbirds owe me $7

Yuck... I wasted $7 buying the feed tonight and watching the 6-1 drubbing at the hands of the Americans. I have no in depth analysis... that was garbage. a 6-1 beat down at the Toyota Center... defense was not good, we can't seem to play well on the road and with 6 shots on goal in the third period there was little or no heart or fight in the team tonight. I'm sorry... I'm not going to hold back on this one... that was flat out not good and I don't think I can find much about tonight to be positive about. The end... be thankful there is another game tomorrow night.


Busy news day...

This one grabbed from Alan Caldwell.

The Augusta Lynx of the ECHL folded yesterday, story here. This of course is a little bit of a sad story in general, especially when it happens 18 games into a season... but the reason to mention it here is that former Tbirds goaltender Riku Helenius had been assigned to the Lynx by the Tampa Bay Lightning at the start of the season.

Helenius however had already been moved up to their AHL club the Norfolk Admirals on November 30th, so the move does not really have an impact on him. That story is here.

Jim O'Brien also selected

Jim O'Brien was selected to the Team USA Junior team today. This is his first selection to the US Junior National team.

The Thunderbirds story can be found here.

The Team USA story and roster can be found here.

Hockey Canada announces Camp invites

As expected... Thomas Hickey was invited to the Team Canada training camp for the World Junior team. It would have been a pretty big shocker if he had not been invited.

The one minor surprise is that Kyle Beach was left off the invite list... Some had thought that Beach had mended the broken bridge with Hockey Canada enough to pave the way for an invite to the camp but apparently that did not happen for whatever reason.

Camp list can be found here.

Single Game Tickets are now on sale for the "Sho"

Tbirds just opened up tickets for single games (though I don't know where my Season Tickets are yet....).

Currently the website is NOT working...

Go here directly to get there...

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