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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Seattle vs. Kelowna Game Thread

I'm scoreboard watching from home tonight... I see the Tbirds have a 1-0 lead.

Use the comments here to give your thoughts on what happens at the game tonight.


Seattle picks up rare win in Everett

The Seattle-Everett rivalry has been mostly dominated by the home team over the (short) years.... but tonight the Tbirds pick up a big road win at the Comcast Arena in a game that allows Seattle to pull within one point of the Silvertips (Everett has one game in hand).

Greg Scott was the best player on the ice tonight picking up two goals, including a short handed insurance marker in the 2nd period after the Silvertips had cut the lead down to 2-1.

Jacob DeSerres was huge down the stretch making big save after big save in the closing minutes and Seattle gets out of Cowbell Central with the 3-1 win.

Seattle returns home tonight to prepare for a match-up with the dangerous Kelowna Rockets. Kelowna hung a 10 spot on the same Medicine Hat team we saw beat Seattle at home earlier in the week. I would be eager to see what this Kelowna team looks like... but unfortunately I have to miss the game tomorrow night.

I will throw up a game thread tomorrow evening and I encourage everyone to throw in a comment on how they feel the game goes.


Seattle drops another one...

It just seems like every time this team comes close to really breaking through with a good stretch of hockey, they take a step backwards and now have lost 4 of 5 games after the thrilling come from behind victory over Tri-City at home.

I would have to think based on the way they are playing that Seattle is going to have a hard time catching Kamloops for the 5th place spot in the Western Conference as they now sit 7 point back with only 2 games in hand. A win at home last week and a win last night and Seattle would now be 1 point ahead of Kamloops with 2 games in hand.

Like I have said previously... this just shows you how truly important these games are and especially the head to head games. Seattle has another one of those games Friday in Everett (aka the house of horrors) with a chance for a 4 point swing in the race to catch Everett for 6th.

Game stories can be found by Gregg Drinnan here and here.


Big news for Helenius

Riku Helenius, who played last year for the Tbirds appears to be headed to Tampa Bay to backup Mike Smith in the big time.

Helenius has been playing for the AHL Norfolk Admirals. With Olaf Kolzig being injured and now out for the season and Norfolk goaltender Kari Ramo being slapped with a 6 game suspension, it appears that Riku will be recalled immediately to be ready for the Lightning's game tomorrow night.

Blog entry from the "The Lightning Insider" can be found here.

Helenius has played in only one game so far for the Admirals making 11 stops on 12 shots in a relief appearance. In 11 games between the August Lynx and the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL, Riku posted a 4-5-2 record with a 3.80 GAA and a 89.6% Save Percentage.

As a side note... is it that difficult for the hockey websites of the world to start automatically calculating and listing GAA and Save % so that I don't have to waste time doing it on my own?

Wells suspended two games...

Confirmation from the league website that Charles Wells has been suspended 3 games for his CFB Major penalty last Friday against the Spokane Chiefs.

Couple of observations about this...

I think the suspension is ridiculous but is not unexpected. Wells had already sat out 2 games and will only need to sit out tonight's game against Kamloops to complete the suspension.

Because the player in question (Ryan Letts) from Spokane was legitimately injured by the play I think the league really didn't have a choice but to sit Wells down for a few games. While I disagreed with the initial penalty and I disagree with the suspension, chances are that Letts will wind up sitting out more games than Wells... so I can understand where a 3 game suspension isn't that bad when compared to the games Letts might miss.

I also think the length of the suspension is questionable when compared to the 3 game suspension that Kyle Beach also just received from the league. Beach has been suspended based on "action" at the end of a recent game against Red Deer where he reportedly shot a puck into the crowd at the end of the game and wound up injuring a fan. The point of this is NOT to bash Kyle Beach and make this a discussion about him. Quite frankly, I didn't see what he did so I can't sit here and say "oh typical Beach"... but the league clearly decided he did something wrong in order for him to be tagged with a 3 gamer.

The point of this is.... If the league is essentially stating that either Beach intentionally shot a puck into the crowd or at the acted with poor judgement, I find it hard to believe that what Wells did is an equally offensive crime.

Something to debate I suppose....

EDIT: Also... the WHL weekly update has Lindsay Nielsen is out only 2 weeks with David Richard out 2-4 weeks. That seems like pretty good news to me on Nielsen


Weird night...

So... I left the ShoWare Center at the end of the first period to go play my own game down the street at the Kent Valley Ice Centre and thought to myself, "I'm kind of glad I'm leaving this crap... I don't think I want to see the rest of that game."

Only problem was... my team got smoked 6-1 and apparently the Tbirds made a spirited comeback in the final two periods to almost pull the game tied.

I don't know guys and gals... I thought the team just absolutely sucked in the first period but without seeing the second and the third period it's pretty hard for me to make an overall judgement on the entire night. What do you guys think?

As I type... the Birds are on the bus headed to Kamloops for a pretty big game against the Blazers who will be ready and waiting for them.

Moller Update

Don't get too excited... I don't know anything yet... and you guys are likely to hear from the Thunderbirds about Moller coming back before I do.

Rich Hammond has reported today on his blog that Moller has been ruled OUT of the Kings next game on Thursday. I've seen a few people posting on the message boards that since Moller has rejoined the Kings and has been practicing with them that he is somehow not going to be sent back to Seattle.

I contend that it would be enormously premature to predict what will happen based on that. I have suspected all along that the Kings would likely wait until he is healthy, activate him for a game or two or perhaps even a small handful to determine where he is at and where they are at.

Moller has played in 30 games with the Kings this season averaging right around 13.5 minutes of ice time per game.... but in his first 15 games he was averaging 14.2 minutes and in the past 15 he has been playing about 12.7 minutes per game and over the last 4 games before leaving for the WJC he was getting only 10.7 minutes per game.

If Moller returns to the Kings lineup on Saturday, watch for the ice time minutes. If the ice time is around 15 or above... I think the chances of him coming back take a serious hit. If they below 15 and closer to 10 or perhaps lower... I would seriously look for Los Angeles to be sending him to Seattle by the end of next week.... just a hunch.

Tuesday vs. Medicine Hat

Nice article this morning on Thomas Hickey in the Seattle Times. I love the fact that the article is the lead story on the Sports page but you know if that is the case it must be a real slow news day for the Times.

Either way, it's a nice article by Jim Riley and can be found here.

Tough week for the Tbirds coming up with a home game tonight against a pretty decent Tigers team who sits 4th in the Eastern Conference, but plays a lot tougher at home. I have counted this as a half win for the Tbirds so getting 1 point would be expected and 2 points would actually be a small bonus, but these are the types of games you have to have down the stretch.

Seattle then immediately leaves the ShoWare Center and heads to Kamloops to play the Blazers tomorrow night in what will surely be a very difficult game to win as the Blazers will be home, rested and waiting for the Tbirds to arrive. Friday the Tbirds travel to Everett where they have not played well all season before returning home to play a dangerous Kelowna team while playing their 4th game in 5 nights.

I hate to even mention it... but this could very quickly turn into a 4 loss week if Seattle isn't careful. 10 points behind Kelowna, having played one more game than the Rockets... these games are all very important if Seattle wants any shot as the 4th or 5th spots.


A win is a win... is a win...

No matter how you look at it.... Seattle earned 2 points tonight. It might not have been the worst game in the world and it certainly wasn't the best game in the world, but the Tbirds picked up 2 big points in Portland's first ever trip to the ShoWare Center.

Seattle gets two power play goals tonight from Greg Scott and Jim O'Brien adds an empty net goal as the TBirds pick up the 3-1 victory over the Winterhawks tonight at the Sho.

Seattle found themselves down 1-0 as a funky bounce off the ShoWare Center boards caught Calvin Pickard out of position and Max Brandl buried it for the early lead.

Seattle got the tying goal 6 minutes later when Greg Scott fired a rocket top shelf over the shoulder of Kurtis Mucha before Scott chipped another puck past Mucha 4 minutes later on another power play to give Seattle the lead it would never relinquish.

Scott finished the night with an assist on the empty net goal by O'Brien and earned the first star of the game.

Interesting to see tonight both Sena Acolatse at forward, as we had previously seen, and now rookie Erik Fleming playing a little up front tonight as well.

Calvin Pickard picks up the win tonight with 25 saves on 26 shots. Pickard looked a little rusty and a little shaky at times tonight but also looked quite solid at other times... probably not a surprise on both points.

Seattle is back in action Tuesday night as they host the Medicine Hat Tigers at the ShoWare Center. I have a game that night... so you guys are on your own for the report that night. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Spokane squeezes past Tbirds 3-1

Another frustrating night for the Tbirds and you can pretty much say goodbye to the Chiefs as I will go ahead and say right now they won't catch them.

Seattle was done in by a questionable 5 minute CFB major handed out to Charles Wells in the 3rd period. Spokane went on to score once on the 5 minute power play before Drayson Bowman dropped a pretty empty net goal from his own zone to give Spokane the 3-1 win.

The major was an extremely tough call and my hope is that Wells is not suspended for the "hit". You never want to see a player get hurt and the check did result in the Spokane player being helped to the locker room and that was likely the reason why Referee Derek Zalaski chose the 5 minute variety. Honestly, I thought Wells did nothing more than bump him and it was only the separation from the boards that created the injury and thus the 5 minute major.

Those are the breaks and last night the Chiefs took advantage and it ended up being the difference in the game.

Thomas Hickey had another great game for the Tbirds notching their only goal while logging about 4 minutes of ice time during the 5 minute power play. In the end... it wasn't quite enough.

Seattle's effort was there the intensity, for the most part, was there... The hitting was down from the past two games and the team seems too easily to lose the focus of taking the body and being as physical as possible with their opponents. Seattle must get back to the physical game they showed last weekend.

They also have to be opportunistic. Bowman scored on a semi-breakaway last night to give the Chiefs a 1-0 lead... which was a nearly identical breakaway to the one Jim O'Brien had in the first minute of the game and was stopped by Dustin Tokarski. Tbirds have to find a way to capitalize on their opportunities.

Tbirds are back in action tonight looking to bounce back against the Portland Winterhawks who make their first trip to the ShoWare Center.


Why tonight means a lot....

Frequently in sports you see teams refusing to call games "must win" during the beginning or middle parts of the season. As they approach the end of the season they suddenly start having bigger and bigger games until eventually someone calls a game a "must win".

I hate calling anything a "must win" because the only true "must win" game is when you are facing elimination in the playoffs.... but tonight is a game Seattle has to find a way to win and it would be a bonus if they could take care of it in regulation.

Let's put it another way... Seattle cannot afford to lose tonight.

I few interesting things have already happened since I went through and projected the season ending point totals for Seattle and the teams directly in front of them.

Kelowna has struggled a little bit. I didn't even include Kelowna in my projections because my feeling was that with their additions they would play well and would finish ahead of Spokane. Kelowna lost both games in Prince George and lost in their showdown against Vancouver. Perhaps the Rockets should have been the team I considered for the 4th spot... because....

Spokane has now reeled off 6 straight wins and looks poised to get the #3 spot and with the number of games they have left with Tri-City they may very well catch the Americans.

Since my projections... Spokane has won 4 straight and now must finish with 12.5 wins to 14.5 losses just for Seattle to finish within 7 points (if memory serves me) of the Chiefs.

Bottom line... Spokane probably already isn't going 12.5 to 14.5 and if the Tbirds lose tonight I would bet my life they aren't going 11.5-14.5 the rest of the way and Seattle has no chance to catch them. Seattle may not catch Spokane either way, but lose tonight and you can forget about it.


Official Word on Nielson and Richard

Most of you already know about this...

On the WHL website the team if officially saying that David Richard will be out another 3-4 weeks with a hand injury and that Lindsay Nielsen is out "indefinitely" with an ankle injury.

I know speculation has him out 4-5 weeks but I don't have anyone admitting that publicly to me.

Here is hoping that both Richard and Nielsen heal quickly and come back better than ever.

Tbirds lose ground to Kamloops, fall 3-1

Justin Leclerc did he best impression of a brick wall last night as Kamloops was able to hand the Tbirds their first regulation loss in the ShoWare Center.

Leclerc stopped 44 of 45 shots and at least a dozen of those were big time saves.

The Tbirds didn't play poorly, which is reflected in the 45 shots on goal, but they also suffered a few defensive breakdowns that lead to the 3 goals scored against goaltender Jacob DeSerres. DeSerres made 23 saves on 26 shots in the game.

As an added note... this was not the reason why Seattle lost the game, but Referee Tyler Johnson was an absolute joke last night. Way to defend the honor of my name! Johnson was just terrible and I can't believe the restraint Rob Sumner had on the post game show to avoid a $500 fine... I would have brought my checkbook to the interview. Yikes...

Seattle cannot afford to lament this loss too much with two big home games this weekend on Friday and Saturday. If you lose to Kamloops at home, you can get those two expected points back by beating Spokane at home on Friday and beating Portland on Saturday.

Right now my projections would be lowered to 81 points based on the loss last night.


Attendance "debate"

I see that we are having quite the "debate" over how full the new arena has been in the first 6 games down in Kent.

A few points...

First off... I too wish the building would be more full. We all wish that every game would be a sell out and that the building would be stuffed to the rafters with people and excitement. So to some extent I share the "disappointment" that people are having about the crowds not being as large as they might have expected. At the same time, I haven't really noticed it being much of a problem. 3000 at the Sho looks and sounds a lot better than 3000 at the Key no matter how you slice and dice it.

With respect to advertisements. Newspapers are a dying brand of media... take a quick glance at the Seattle PI going out of business and the numerous struggling newspapers in the country right now. Why would the Tbirds advertise in the Seattle Times when they are treated as sub-citizens to High School Sports and the media is dying. Radio... I don't even listen to local radio unless I'm listening to 104.9 when the game is on. I've been told that the Tbirds actually do have some radio ads out there... has anybody ever heard one?? Radio ads are also expensive and if they aren't really getting heard a lot they aren't really working. Billboards... are people actually going to come to a hockey game seeing a billboard in Kent? I would also assume they are expensive and the benefit might not be worth the cost.

So I ask... where exactly should the Tbirds be advertising that would actually generate larger ticket sales that is also worth the money it would take to do it?

Also... let's get a little historical perspective. Let's take a look at our friendly neighbors to the North and how they fared in their first 6 games at the Everett Events Center back in their first season of 2003-04.

A quick spreadsheet yields this...

Seattle averaged 4094 people in 6 dates with 3 games on the Fri-Sat split and 3 either midweek or Sunday. Everett averaged 4490 people in 6 dates with 3 on Fri-Sat split and 3 that were mid-week. Everett averaged about 400 fans per game more than Seattle has but that is largely helped by their opening night at 8250 with the ShoWare being only 6125. In non-opening night games they are nearly identical at 3688 and 3738 a different of roughly 50 people.

Let's look at capacity also... Seattle is at 66.84% while Everett was at 54.42%... considering that the EEC, now Comcast Arena, is over 2000 seats bigger... we can effectively call this a draw.

In addition... Everett opened against Prince George and Seattle opened with Everett. If the Tbirds open against Prince George the building is still full and if they play Everett on Sunday they probably draw 5000 instead of 3265 against Kamloops and that pulls them effectively even.

Looking at the whole picture... it's actually quite amazing how close the two teams started out in their first 6 games at their new arena. This is also assuming of course that the attendance numbers the two teams report are actually "accurate".

I know someone out there will argue that Everett was an expansion team and Seattle wasn't... but for the purpose of selling tickets, Seattle is essentially an expansion team in a new region so I

Bottom line....

Be patient people... I'm sure the front office is doing their best, the season ticket holder count has nearly (or has) doubled in the past year with the new arena, momentum is building.... but it's going to take some time for people to get hooked on hockey and purchase more than a couple of tickets for a Saturday night game against Everett. It is going to take some time for people to go out and buy season tickets, etc. and really boost the attendance. Give it some time... If you want to help boost attendance here is the link to group sales go organize a group of your hockey friends or co-workers and bring them to the game and get them interested in supporting a local team.

Last but not least.... if you're waiting for coverage to come from one of the papers or the radio stations, etc. you might be waiting a long time. Tell people to read all about the team at and if you think I'm joking, I'm not... You want coverage of the team? Your probably going to get it here first and you're probably going to get the most coverage right here and hopefully going forward I can continue to do a better and more comprehensive job covering the team.


Seattle dominates in the third and wins 6-4

What a game tonight at the Sho, eh??

I can already tell you right now this is going to be a poorly written article... the excitement of tonight is just too difficult for me to describe properly.

Where do I start...

Seattle played as badly as I have seen them play at home all season in the first period... I was a few minutes late to the game and the Tbirds were down 2-0 before I could even sit down. Coach Rob Sumner wisely used their timeout, but it only seemed to temporarily delay the American tidal wave and Seattle soon found themselves down 3-0 and that carried over into the first intermission.

The ShoWare Center then provided a little bit of home ice advantage as the second period was delayed by about 15 minutes when the house lights had to be cycled when they didn't come back on to start the period.

Whether that delay actually helped the Tbirds... we will never know... the the comeback started in the second period as Seattle played much better, getting goals from Greg Scott and Prab Rai in between the 24th goal of the season by Jason Reese and Seattle was in the game but still trailed 4-2.

and then the 3rd period started... and what a period it was for Seattle. Brad Haber picked up his first goal of his WHL career (EDIT: we have since learned that this was not his first but his second WHL goal) on a shot from the point that might have screened Chet Pickard and beat him through the 5 hole to make it 4-3....

18 seconds later Devon LeBlanc found the inside of the goal on the short side with a turnaround wrister that beat Pickard and the game was essentially over.... seriously....

The Tbirds were all over the Americans to start the 3rd with everyone from LeBlanc to Lockhart to Acolatse to Cloud.... on down the line... everyone on the team was flying around checking Americans left and right and the Tbirds fed on the crowd and the crowd fed on the Tbirds and the game was effectively over..

It was confirmed 8 minutes later when Chance Lund got his first WHL goal, poking home a rebound to give the Tbirds a 5-4 lead before Jon Parker finished the scoring with a Power Play goal and the final 6-4 margin.

What an amazing comeback over a quality opponent on home ice in your new building and the comeback preserved the Tbirds unbeaten (in regulation) record at the new ShoWare center.

Let's get the negative out of the way... another horrible start from the team. They must figure out a way to get off to a better start against these quality opponents. The defense was not good to start the game, the play was uninspired, the effort wasn't there, the hitting wasn't there and the intensity wasn't there.... and then suddenly it was like everything changed and this team came on like a runaway freight train in the third period.

Here are the positives...

-LeBlanc had a great game and I would have given him a star. His hitting and checking (even when he misses) is what really led this team back. The checking ignites the crowd and the eventually the team feeds off his energy. The same can be said for Cloud, Lockhart and Acolatse... but LeBlanc really led the way tonight and his hard work was finally rewarded with the hugely important tying goal 4 minutes into the 3rd period.

-Thomas Hickey is a beast out there... Somebody get that guy a Gatorade because Hickey actually appeared to me to be tired at the end of the game and that is not even close to an insult. I don't log minutes and neither does the WHL (officially) on the box score, but I swear Hickey must have played at least 30 minutes tonight, finished with an assist and a +1. And here is the scary part... it wasn't even his best game by a long shot but you have to appreciate the effort and leadership that this guy put out there each night.

-I'll say it again... I love Sena Acolatse at forward and I hope he stays there the rest of the season and the rest of his career. It wouldn't surprise me one bit to see his draft stock rise with a little more work up front. Acolatse tonight finished with 2 assists, a +1 and numerous hits during the 2nd and 3rd period comebacks.

-Prab Rai had another great statistical night, notching a goal and three assists... and I even say him finish a few checks tonight as well.

-Hats off to Chance Lund and Brad Haber who's first WHL goals tonight get slightly lost in the overall euphoria of the come from behind victory.

Seattle stays at home for an important Wednesday night home game with the Kamloops Blazers who picked up a shootout victory tonight over the Everett Silvertips and remain 5 points ahead of Seattle and move past Everett into the 5th slot in the Western Conference.

What a night... what a hockey game... I can't say I will soon forget this one.


Thunderbirds hold serve on home ice...

This was a well played game by both teams tonight and Seattle comes away with the 3-1 victory.

I thought the Tbirds played well and I thought the Silvertips at times played just as well and tonight was a matter of Seattle getting the bounces and Everett did not. Both teams probably "deserved" to win but it was fitting for each team to win on home ice the last two nights.

Jeremy Boyer finished the game with a goal and an assist, while Chris Cloud finished with the Gordie Howe hat-trick getting a goal, an assist and a fight in the victory.

Jacob DeSerres is back... and tonight was another example. DeSerres stopped 34 of 35 shots and controlled the puck brilliantly all night long. If DeSerres plays this way and into the playoffs, Seattle could become a very difficult team to deal with in the playoffs.

Seattle is back to the ShoWare Center tomorrow night to face the Tri-City Americans. Tonight was a game I expected them to win and they did... tomorrow against the Americans is a game where a point or two will go a long way towards getting to the #5 spot in the Western Conference and a win over the Ams will help keep them alive for a shot at the #4 spot.


Friday update...

Not really much to update on today. Tonight will obviously be a bit of a somber game as the Silvertips will no doubt have a moment of silence for the death of Jordan Mistelbacher. The two teams will then try to focus as best they can on picking up two points and your guess is as good as mine how either team will respond and play tonight.

I am bad luck attending games in Everett (I've never seen a Tbirds win at the Comcast Arena) so fans will be delighted to know that I will not be there tonight!

This is not a game I projected as a win for Seattle when I did my season ending projections earlier this week, so a point or two by the Tbirds would be a bonus.


Horrible news...

News broke last night that the Everett Herald and the Silvertips have confirmed the death of Silvertip Jordan Mistelbacher. My condolences go out to the family and to the entire Silvertips organization in this difficult time. Just a horrible way to start the day...

Here is the story by the Herald Staff and Nick Patterson from the paper today:

"Tragedy has struck the Everett Silvertips as left wing Jordan Mistelbacher, who played parts of the past three seasons with the Tips, has died. A representative for the Tips confirmed Mistelbacher's death. No details about Mistelbacher's death were available Tuesday night. He turned 19 on Sunday.

Mistelbacher was reassigned last Saturday and was to join the Winnipeg Saints of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. In 26 games with Everett this season he had four goals, two assists and 41 penalty minutes. In his 96-game career with the Tips he had 14 goals and 13 assists."


I do it... so you don't have to....

So the question is... where is Seattle going to finish? and where could they finish? can they get to 4th? 5th? 6th? and where might they end up.

I went through and charted the home and away games remaining for Seattle, Everett, Spokane and Kamloops.

I then took the Massey Ratings for the teams and factored in their projected wins and losses based on their ratings against those opponents and then accounted for past results and how strong the home ice advantage is (has been).

As most of you know... I'm a pretty heavily stats oriented fan, so I tend to eat this stuff up. Please keep in mind that this is only my best guess and things could easily change in a hurry based on real results.

Seattle's remaining games - 18.5 wins, 10.5 losses (37 points), 21 home, 8 away
Spokane's remaining games - 16 wins, 15 losses (32 points), 14 home, 17 away
Everett's remaining games - 12.5 wins, 17.5 losses (25 points), 15 home, 15 away
Kamloops' remaining games - 10.5 wins, 15.5 losses (21 points), 12 home, 14 away

These results would slot Spokane 4th, Seattle 5th, Everett 6th and Kamloops 7th.

Before the questioning begins (which I welcome)... let's hit a few points here.

A Silvertips fan is going to have a problem with that total... so I have to promise that I did not take any bias into the projections for Everett and Kamloops. Everett has a fairly tough schedule left. They play 3 times in Portland, where the Winterhawks have not only been playing better lately but are actually 13th in the league in home ice advantage. So I have them for 2 wins and 2 losses against Portland in the their final 4 games. You could make that 2.5 or 3 wins and you'll see why later it wouldn't matter. Also... Everett plays 3 more times in Kent and the Tips have played horribly (historically) on the road against Seattle and lost their first game in the new building on the 3rd. They also play Tri-City 5 more times with 3 of those coming on the road where the Americans have the top home ice rating in the league and I have them getting 1.5 wins and 3.5 losses in those final 5 games with the Ams. The only really "easy" games the Tips have left is one home game against Portland, 2 games against Chilliwack, one home game against Lethbridge and maybe a home game against Kamloops. How do the Tips stack up against the Birds? Well they each play 3 more times at home against each other and with Everett trading away Kyle Beach I gave an ever so slight edge to Seattle at 3.5 to 2.5 (which is a .5 win swing over 3-3).

Also... Spokane might have a beef. Chiefs fans are going to say "Are you really telling me we go 16-15 the rest of the way?". Well, yes, sort of... First off... Spokane is 5-5 in their last 10 games so .500 hockey isn't something they haven't experienced and it has happened recently. Second, and more importantly, Spokane has 17 road games to only 14 home games left. They have 3 road games in Everett where the Tips are pretty tough so I gave them 2.5 wins in 4 games with Everett. They play the Americans 6 more times with 3 on the road at the Toyota Center, so I gave them 2 wins and 4 losses in 6 games with Tri-City... maybe that is slightly low but even a .5 adjustment isn't going to move things a ton. They also play Vancouver twice and I have them losing both, which isn't much of a stretch right now, though I did give Seattle a split with Vancouver in their 2 games and I did that for a reason which we will discuss later. They play Kelowna 3 times and considering Kelowna's upgrades I have everyone struggling a little bit with the Rockets the rest of the way. I'm willing to admit that Spokane seems capable of playing above my projection where I see Kamloops and Everett being fairly solid.

Kamloops just doesn't have enough games left and still has a Central Division road swing left on their schedule and plays Vancouver 4 times. All that together and it doesn't seem hard to imagine them getting about 10.5 wins and 15.5 losses, which leaves them in 7th.

and Seattle....

I made a few optimistic adjustments to the Tbirds projections. I have them splitting with Vancouver in two home games with the Giants. I guess I just sort of hope the Tbirds win one of those games when they have also been pretty solid at home this season and pretty tough at the ShoWare Center so far. I have them winning 4 out of 6 with Portland. I have them winning 3.5 out of 6 with Everett (as discussed above). I have a split with Tri-City in 4 games with 3 coming at home. I have them sweeping Kamloops, including a road win up there.... which is definitely a stretch right now. A win over PG, a win over Chilliwack and Lethbridge at home and I threw in a .5 win night against Medicine Hat and a split with Spokane in 4 games with 3 coming at home. So while I made a few optimistic judgements with Seattle, you could see where the Tbirds could gain a little ground in two games I gave to the Americans and Chiefs.

So here is the point.....

With these projections the totals are:

Spokane - 83 pts
Seattle - 77 pts
Everett - 70 pts
Kamloops - 66 pts

Keeping in mind that we are already perhaps a little low on Spokane and a little high on Seattle, the Tbirds still finish 6 points behind the Chiefs in the standings.

Seattle would need a 7 point swing from these projections in order to catch Spokane.

If Spokane holds their projection, Seattle would need to go 22-7 the rest of the way to pass them. If Oscar Moller comes to Seattle, would the Tbirds get the 3.5 win boost? Probably not, but it's possible. If Spokane actually played worse than projected... let's say at 14-17, Seattle would still need to go 20-9 the rest of the way to get it done.


I think Seattle finishes 5th and faces Spokane in the first round and I think right now they probably lose the series with Spokane having the home ice advantage. If Oscar Moller comes to Seattle, you could probably give Seattle a slight boost with Spokane still favored. Both teams are excellent on home ice an that would give Spokane the edge. It will be very difficult for Seattle to catch Spokane and if they out play their projection by a game or two it will be near impossible.

I think Everett could improve their projection, but in my opinion they have about the same chance of catching Seattle as Seattle has of catching Spokane. I think it is far more likely that Everett might find themselves in a dog fight with Kamloops for the 6th spot. I know this is going to come across like I'm being a homer... but I would challenge anyone to explain to me where Everett is going to pick up some tough games and where Seattle is going to falter more than expected.

Ok... fire away...

Where will the Tbirds finish...

I've been contemplating this since last night....

If you asked me... can Seattle finish 5th in the Western Conference, I would say yes. That isn't to say that I think they will (though I'm leaning that way)... just to say.... is it possible and that answer is yes they definitely could.

So... could Seattle finish 4th?

I'm breaking down the numbers and when I'm finished I'm going to post the results....

It's a teaser... You have to come back to find out the answer....


Hot first period leads Tbirds to 5-2 victory

Seattle starts hot and fast tonight on their way to the 5-2 victory over the Cougars of Prince George.

A lot of positive notes from the game tonight.

-Seattle started the game as well as they have in any game all season as they out shot the Cougars 21-4 in the first period and scored three times on their way to the 3-0 lead after 20 minutes.

-Lindsay Nielsen scored twice, including a short handed goal that essentially put the game away almost exactly a minute into the second period. Nielsen, who has 10 goals, has now scored 6 of them in his past 7 games played.

-Stefan Warg again played a really solid game for the Tbirds and ended the night +3.

-Special night for Erik "mahogany" Fleming who notched his first WHL goal on a seeing eye wrist shot from the point that finished the Seattle scoring on the night. I could not agree more with Coach Rob Sumner who stated after the game that the increased playing time that Fleming saw while Hickey was away at the WJC has helped his game dramatically. Fleming ended the night with a +2 as well.

-Jeremy Boyer had a goal and an assist to go along with his +2 and is really starting to come on strong as well.

-I thought Jeremy Schappert had a nice game tonight as well and spent an entire shift deftly quarterbacking a power play that had several dangerous chances.

-I heard one fan around talk about how uncomfortable Sena Acolatse looks playing forward... but I would have to disagree with that. While Acolatse did not have his best game skating up front tonight, I still like his instincts up there a lot and having a big physical forward who WANTS to hit people is something this team has been mostly lacking this season. LeBlanc and Lockhart are the only other forwards who regularly like to throw their weight around and LeBlanc unfortunately misses about 50% of the time and Lockhart (who skates his butt off) isn't exactly striking fear in the hearts of opposing players at 160 lbs. I like him up there... and I'm excited to see what he can do up there for another 6 weeks as Richard has been confirmed to have had surgery on his hand and will be out at least for 6 weeks.

-Chris Cloud had another nice game as well chipping in two assists and leading by example by his work ethic. Cloud is a classic Sumner player and I'm sure he loves having him around.

Ok.... on to the negative side.

This game drives me absolutely crazy. Look, I know it's only Prince George who will probably be lucky to even make the playoffs... but where has this been all season? or for the last month? If Seattle played with this kind of intensity and determination each and every game they are probably capable of getting themselves into the 5th seed and perhaps even the 4th seed in the Western Conference. It's about time for this team to figure out how to get this kind of effort game in and game out and take this season from mediocre to a shot at potential. General Manager Russ Farwell has given them the green light. Despite my feelings on the issue... Farwell has sent a message to the team that this is who we have and they are expected to contend and that management has not given up on the season. It's time for the team to decide that it wants to play each night like tonight... and make sure that the faith Farwell has shown in his club gets rewarded in the standings and to the "new" fans of Kent.

Thank you...

As I expected... yesterday had the biggest number of visitors to the blog ever at 351, which is about double the size it was on the highest day last year.

Thanks to everyone that reads... hopefully we can double in size again by next year or better.



I just got some comments from General Manager Russ Farwell about the events of the day.

Farwell confirmed that Seattle has traded for Swede Oscar Moller.

About Moller, Farwell stated:

"We took a gamble and traded for Oscar Moller’s rights from Chilliwack on the off chance he might still be returned to junior this season. If so it would be home run and a great addition to our team and if not it was at a price we felt we could afford. It is just a hunch but looked better than a minor upgrade which most other deals represented."

You would have to agree with that statement. If Moller indeed returns to Seattle this winds up being a huge deal for the Tbirds and if not... so be it. Seattle did have to give up Ondrej Palat and a 4th round pick to get him listed. If Moller actually comes to Seattle the pick is upgraded to a 2nd round pick.

Moller of course is currently out of action with a broken clavicle that he suffered at the WJC tournament and actually played the final two games of the tournament with that injury. I would think that Farwell thinks there is at least a chance that Moller will be sent back to Seattle or otherwise he wouldn't have made the move.

Farwell went on to comment about the rest of the events from the deadline:

"We did not make a trade today that will immediately add to or take away from our team as it stands. We simply have too many home games left to justify taking away from our present team and prices were simply too high to justify trading a big piece of our future to add one player. It is the quietest deadline I can remember for a long time due to the prices and so many teams in the hunt. This means more buyers than sellers and everyone has to have enough to finish the season. With the early deadline (January 10) and so many home games every team has an obligation to their home town supporters."

While I still stand by my statement from earlier this week that I think Seattle should have been a seller here at the deadline, I certainly understand why they made the decision they did and quite honestly it does not surprise me that Farwell decided against making a big splash one way or the other. We certainly would not have wanted them to empty their future if the asking prices were that high.

No major deals...

It appears that Seattle made no major moves...

I am trying to confirm one minor move that I got a tip on... but I would classify it more as interesting than exciting.


Trade Deadline has passed....

and so far the Thunderbirds have done nothing...

That doesn't mean they didn't make a deal... but so far nothing has been announced.


Haas gone...

Colin Haas is no longer listed on the Tbirds roster... take that for what it is worth.

All quiet on the Tbirds trade front...

I'm a little afraid to actually go to lunch... it seems like they always make moves when I can't immediately blog about it.

Having said that... with no game Saturday... I wouldn't be surprised if nothing happened until after the game tonight or tomorrow morning.

That is... assuming something actually is going to happen and it may not.


Tbirds fall 5-2 to Kelowna as Trade Deadline approaches

Seattle falls in Kelowna in front of over 6000 fans at Prospera Place 5-2.

After falling behind 1-0... Seattle tied the game on an unassisted goal from Devon LeBlanc.
After falling behind 2-1... Seattle tied the game on a goal by Jon Parker, his 8th of the season, on an assist from Greg Scott.

After that, it was all Kelowna who showed once again that they are solidly ahead of Seattle at this point in the season. Seattle was still without Thomas Hickey and Jim O'Brien, as the team allowed them to spend some extra time with their families after playing at the WJC during the normal holiday season.

While I think this is a really nice touch by the organization... the Kelowna WJC players were back and the team certainly needs the boost that O'Brien and Hickey would provide. I have no idea if they will be back for the two weekend games at the ShoWare Center.

The good news is... its January 8th and the Tbirds amazingly only have to travel to Canada once more the rest of the season. Yeah... I had to double check that a few times.

The bad news is this...

I was the final piece of evidence to me... that this team needs to be a seller in the next two days before the January 10th trade deadline. If that means Seattle has to part with Thomas Hickey, Jim O'Brien and/or Greg Scott... I think they need to do it and here is why.

This team isn't going anywhere this season. Vancouver looks extremely strong, Tri-City looks better, Spokane looks better, Kelowna looks better and while Everett doesn't look better, Seattle is no sure bet to even catch them in the standings for 5th place in the conference. In addition... Calgary looks just as tough as Vancouver and pretty much handled Seattle at Key Arena earlier in the season. The bottom line is... this team is going to have a tough enough time getting past even Kelowna in the first round if they were to get to the 5th place spot, much less getting anywhere beyond the second round against the other teams in the conference.

I know the franchise and the team are concerned about building a fan base in Kent and getting people to come to their new arena... but here is why they shouldn't be concerned with that.

In sports in general... and I think the WHL is no different... teams will always have their hardcore fans regardless of how the team does and currently the Tbirds are boasting around 2000 season tickets and that number is slowly growing everyday. So their "core" group of fans has already grown beyond what it was while playing at Key Arena.

While playing at Key Arena the team had very important reasons for making sure the team made the playoffs, ensuring them at least two playoff games at Key Arena. This was vitally important to the health of the franchise for reasons I'm not at liberty to disclose publicly. Part of the reason the Tbirds and their fans have constantly been subjected to mediocrity over the past 13 years is because of the situation they were in at Key Arena and the constant need to do whatever was necessary to make the playoffs. Seattle has been extremely successful doing this, missing the playoffs only once during their time at Key Arena (granted... missing the playoffs is a little bit tough to do when most teams make it... nonetheless). What this does NOT allow you to do is be a seller of your better players in seasons where you might not be very good but still have the ability to make the playoffs. Many seasons the Tbirds have been forced to continue fighting for their playoff lives for the sake of at least earning those extremely important home playoff games.....

This is no longer the case... Seattle doesn't NEED those home playoff games. Sure... how much fun would it be to see the Tbirds go on a long playoff run in the first year of the ShoWare Center and feel the noise and energy that most of us have been hoping to see and hear for many years. The probability of this happening with the current team or even with a team that acquires a player or two at the deadline is highly unlikely.

Fans will come and the fan base will grow when the team is really good. Fans don't flock to teams that are kind of good or just not terrible... they flock to teams that WIN and win a lot. This has always been true with sports and it always will be.

Seattle's goal should be to build a REAL winner... a team that can make a run at a league title and possibly a Mem Cup title and it is much more difficult to do that without building and stockpiling assets.

This team does themselves and their fans nothing if they simply stand pat with a team that likely isn't going anywhere past the end of March and they have some very valuable trade pieces that they could move to teams looking for help.

As an added bonus... they might STILL make the playoffs. This team without Hickey, O'Brien and possibly others is still capable of holding on and earning the 7th or 8th spot in the playoffs and giving their fans a little taste of playoff hockey in the new arena.

So... what would I do?

It pains me to say this... but I think the market has been set where you could fetch at least a 1st round talent for Thomas Hickey and possibly a player and a 1st rounder for him. I think the team could add a player or a pick for O'Brien and I think that something useful could also be obtained for David Richard and/or Jacob DeSerres. Hickey will not be back next season, neither will O'Brien and the team will have to make some tough choices on the current 19 year old's where at least one other player would not be able to return.

The team however likely will not do this... I think the franchise believes their best shot at building a fan base in Kent is to do whatever it takes to be successful this season while the "Arena iron" is still hot and I think this would be a big mistake. I have always understood and agreed with the reasons why the team constantly held on each season to their playoff hopes... but doing so now might severely hamper the potential success of the team down the line.

It is a very exciting time to be a Thunderbirds fan... but the time is right to trade some players to prepare for future seasons.

On a separate note....

I want to quickly defend one of the players. Someone posted a message on the WHL message board claiming that during the Chris Cloud - Brandon Underwood fight... that Cloud 'jumped" Underwood as he was taking his helmet off and was also the cause of the cut that Underwood sustained during the fight.

This is horribly inaccurate and is the reason why you should always take the opinions of people on message boards with a grain of salt... in the same way you should take MY opinions with a grain of salt. Cloud, in my opinion, did not jump Underwood in any way shape or form and the fight did not commence until at least a good couple of seconds after Underwood finally remembered to rip his helmet off. In addition to this... to claim that Chris Cloud had anything to do with the cut that Underwood suffered is completely irresponsible when Kamloops beat writer Gregg Drinnan reported that they believed Underwood had been accidentally stepped on by one of the linesmen while trying to pull the two apart. Make no mistake... I never like to see anyone get hurt and the injury to Underwood is a real shame... but neither Cloud nor Underwood did anything that would violate the unwritten rules of "combat". Just my two cents....


in... ahem... other news...

Kyle Beach was traded to Lethbridge...

this trade actually totally bums me out... not only did Everett get a pretty darn good deal from the Hurricanes but we no longer get to see Brad Haber break Beach's nose. Atta boy Haber....

also in other news... Cody Hanson was assigned to Melville of the SJHL by the Regina Pats. Hanson is only 18... but if he isn't the worst 1st round bantam pick in team history he has to at least be in the discussion. This note also from Drinnan... the master of our WHL news universe, found here.

Go Doc Blue

I don't think I have ever had a reason to mention Doc Blue here... and Doc had obviously a beloved member of the franchise for so long I honestly have no idea how many years it has been now... this comes from the Gregg Drinnan's blog and stemmed from the Kamloops game on Sunday night at the Sho.

"JUST NOTES: The Kamloops Blazers will be without defenceman Brandon Underwood, 16, for as long as four weeks after he suffered a severed tendon in his left thumb in Sunday’s game with Seattle. The Blazers believe one of the linesmen stepped on Underwood’s hand in the aftermath of a scrap with Seattle’s Chris Cloud. According to Blazers general manager Craig Bonner, Underwood was fortunate that the doctor on hand was a surgeon and was able to repair the tendon right there. . . ." link here...


Team Canada takes Gold

It is the 5th straight World Junior Gold Medal for Team Canada. Congratulations to Thomas Hickey... the Captain of your Seattle Thunderbirds and the Captain of Team Canada.

Credit The Canadian Press for the photo.


2-0 at the Sho

Tbirds make it two straight wins to open their new building with a 3-1 win over the Kamloops Blazers. Jacob DeSerres was the story tonight... he was solid and at times spectacular in making 33 saves on 34 shots to pick up the win. DeSerres stopped all 20 shots he faced in the 3rd period at the Blazers poured on the pressure as they were down 2-1.

Luke Lockhart, the just turned 16 year old from Burnaby, turned in another great night as he scored the Tbirds first goal, a Power Play goal, on the rebound of a Greg Scott shot. Lockhart looks like a like a player with some real potential and Sumner is obviously not afraid at all to throw him out there in just about any situations.

Greg Scott also had a solid game again notching the eventual game winner to go with his assist on the Lockhart goal. If you're only looking at the point totals you would think that Greg Scott is having a tough/bad year... but I think if you're only looking at the totals you have missed a lot of the near misses that Scott had early in the season and slowly the points are starting to catch up.

I also thought Stefan Warg had one heck of a game tonight and I think he had a great game last night as well and I think slowly Warg is really starting to live up to his potential as well. I thought Warg actually deserved a star tonight to go along with Scott, Lockhart and certainly DeSerres.

I know this was probably the last game we will see this happen for at least a while but I sure do kind of like seeing Sena Acolatse playing up front on a line with Wells and Lockhart. That line looked way too dangerous for a 16, a 17 and a D-man. While Sena will most likely move back to the blue line with Jim O'Brien expected back for Wednesdays game, I sure liked what I saw.

Those were the positives...

The negatives.... The Tbirds still did not manage to generate a whole lot of scoring chances and they missed the net with a ton of shots. 3 shots, 9 shots, and 5 shots just isn't going to get it done on most nights and while Acolatse and Prab Rai could have (and maybe should have) scored during a flurry in the 2nd period there were just too few chances generated by Seattle.

Hope everyone made it home safely in the snow!

Some Pictures

These are only the decent pictures I took last, I took a bunch of others that were crappy.

Tbirds open the ShoWare Center with a win...

and much more to come tomorrow. I took a lot of pictures tonight and I will have a lot more to say tomorrow. I have been out celebrating with some of the 20 friends I helped get to the game tonight and I hope many of you were doing the same. I think you can again find a lot of fault in the Tbirds game tonight, but the most important fact was the 4-0 lead that the Tbirds built that basically put the game away.

I know the Tips got the game back to a 4-3 final but the outcome of the game was never really in doubt until perhaps the last 30 seconds.

More importantly... this marks a very historic night in the history of Seattle hockey and the night and the arena was much bigger and more important than the final score. The Tbirds could have lost 10-0 and it would have only slightly put a damper on the overall feeling that I have about the evening. This begins a new era of Thunderbirds Hockey... and what a beginning it was.

More tomorrow... I promise....


The day is finally here...

13+ years in the waiting and the wait is finally over.
The Tbirds move into a home of their own tonight as they welcome the hated Everett Silvertips into the new ShoWare Center. I ended up not taking very many photos last night and I just didnt feel it was right to take pictures of the Tbirds locker room. I did however take a picture of the beautiful new Visitors locker room... a thing of beauty. See you all tonight... it can't come fast enough!


ShoWare Center Eve

My disgust from Wednesday night has faded to a certain extent. I had conversations with a few fans and we all seemed to say the same thing. Portland has been piling up some young talent for a couple of years now and eventually that was going to pay off... so to expect Seattle to win every single game against Portland this season just isn't realistic and you could probably expect that the Tbirds were going to lose 2 or maybe even 3 games to the Winterhawks this year.

If you lose 4-3 and you played hard and Portland just played a little better or if the bounces just didn't go your way... that we can all live with. To get beat by that Portland team 5-1 and then essentially 4-0 (because those last two PP goals were essentially meaningless) and to look so bad doing it in both games is just a huge disappointment.

Let's hope that when the ShoWare Center opens tomorrow night there is a certain buzz and energy in the building that Key Arena has just never been able to provide, and let's hope that this team channels that energy into their play on the ice. If the Tbirds lose their home opener to the Silvertips it really won't mean anything in the long run... but it sure will be a LOT more fun if they can win the opener and get things started on the right foot. I just hope that pressure doesn't cause the team to squeeze their sticks just a little bit tighter trying to do it for the home crowd. The balance of the energy and the pressure is crucial to the game tomorrow.

Also... in case anyone forgot... tonight will be the Grand Opening event at the Sho. I will be down there later in the night in the event that anyone wants to say hello... of course you have to recognize me first!

I'll try to take as many pictures as I can and get them up here tonight for anyone who cannot make it down tonight.

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