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Hockey Challenge 2014

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Tbirds lose pair to Americans

I have said this before, writing about this team is pretty difficult right now. You do have some good moments like the 3-0 win over the Silvertips on Saturday night at Showare Center, but then you fall right back to reality with the 5-1 and 3-1 losses to the Americans in the past 3 days.  I tweeted last night and will reiterate what I said: I think this team is going to have a very hard time making the playoffs. Calvin Pickard clearly has some kind of injury, and one of your most solid defenders, Cason Machacek, has been suspended for 8 (not 7) games. Machacek should return for the final 3 games of the season and you have to hope that Seattle will still be alive for those games.  As for Pickard, I had to assume that when Daniel Cotton started on Sunday that coach Konowalchuk was using the game as an opportunity to give Pickard a rare rest before the final games of the season.  With Cotton starting last night in Tri-City, you have to assume that something is wrong. He might play again on Friday and he might not... your guess is as good as mine but clearly something is wrong.  Combine that with the fact that Seattle has only 4 home games left and 6 games on the road and the formula just doesn't look very good for earning that 8th seed. I realize that they still hold a 1 point lead over Everett and they do host Everett 2 more times before the end of the season but I'm just not feeling very optimistic at this moment. Seattle travels to Everett on Friday, then to Portland on Saturday. You have to expect that Seattle would be lucky to get any points in Portland and the EEC will likely be rocking on Friday night. Seattle then hits the road for Prince George for two absolutely critical games against the Cougars
  • I don't want to spend very much time talking officials because it is a waste of my energy but I'll summarize by saying that the officials in Sunday's game against Tri-City were really bad. It was a poorly called game and I'm surprised that Coach K didn't choose to bust out a little bit of cash and use the opportunity to get thrown out of a game.  Having said that, I heard a fan say that Coach K "Has got to get kicked out of this game." Really? Let's think about this. Coach K sees another call he disagrees with and pitches a fit and let's say... throws a couple of water bottles on the ice and gets tossed from the game.  The fans all feel better and the players might feel a little bit better but at the end of the day it doesn't actually have any effect on the game and you're lighter in the wallet. I just don't feel that it works the same way as it does in a sport like Basketball and by 3 minutes into the 3rd period the team was already losing 5-0. Getting tossed sounds like fun but I don't think it actually serves any real purpose.
  • Daniel Cotton got the call in the last two games and despite looking slightly uncomfortable, I think he has played pretty well and I would still feel pretty comfortable with him as the goaltender next season. He hasn't had a lot of game experience (16 games now and only 9 starts) and I think some of the discomfort will go away as he sees more playing time.  His breakaway stop on Shinnimin last night was a thing of beauty. The league's leading scoring and hottest goal scorer in the league is bearing down on you on the Penalty Kill and you solidly stuff the guy at the right post. What a big stop.
  • Connor Sanvido was back on the ice last night and whipped in a goal with under 2 minutes to play in the game. Sanvido also had a fight earlier in the game against Topping that didn't go quite so well. Props to any guy willing to drop the gloves and Seattle had plenty of fight last night against a team that has owned them lately.
  • Something I had never seen before happened last night: Lukas Walter took his gloves off and got ready to start a fight with Evan Wardley when suddenly Wardley didn't drop his gloves and Jacob Doty decided he would just step in a take the fight. I'm sure Walter was a little surprised at the change of opponent from Wardley to Doty.
  • With just 10 games to play Seattle's leading scorer is Burke Gallimore with 37 points. In the 2005-06 season Aaron Gagnon led the team in points with just 45 points in 62 games. I researched back to the 1996-97 season and I think that given the offensive nature of the league before that time, I can safely say that at the current pace, this team would break the team record for lowest scoring leader in franchise history. Unless, of course, Gallimore can catch fire a little bit and tally 9 more points before the season is over.
Lastly, I just want to thank everyone for helping me make the Hockey Challenge 2012 such a big success. I did a radio interview with Bruce during the Sunday game and hopefully a few of you heard me give all the Tbirds fans a shout for their contributions. The Celebrity game was a lot of fun and you can even see me make an appearance a few times in the video that Ryan Gibbons put together as he was wearing the GoPro helmet cam. You can find the video here. My team raised over $30,000 dollars and at last count we were the highest fundraising team in the Challenge for the 2nd year in a row. My donations approached $1,500 and hopefully next season I can get things closer to $2,000 and wind up in the Celebrity game again. Thanks again to everyone.


Tbirds win, Hunnex loses

Only a quick note this morning as I need to be back down to Showare Center for another game this morning.

My IEB team ended up raising over $30,000 for the RMH and my donations wound up being close to $1,500 without the benefit of the "Microsoft Match". I want to once again thank every single Tbirds fan that helped my team donate to a very worthy cause.  The Celebrity game was a lot of fun and hopefully I didn't embarrass myself too much out there. Overall, I thought I played pretty well but I clearly made a couple of mistakes and Lloyd Shaw made me look absolutely silly on that one rush up the ice.  I felt like every time I looked up I had a former Tbird player bearing down on me!

As an added note, I will be doing the 1st intermission live interview on the radio broadcast for tonight's game to talk about the Challenge and my experiences raising money for the cause. My understanding is that they will be doing the introduction of the Thunderbird parents on the ice during the 1st intermission as well so I'm guessing there will be about 10 people listening to the radio. I think that is probably a good thing.

As far as the Tbirds game was concerned... it was a game that Seattle needed to have to maintain hope for the playoffs and they were able to play one of their most complete games in some time. They controlled the action from start to finish and even though I didn't see much of the 3rd period while getting dressed for my game, the reports I got sounded like the 3rd was much like the first two periods. It was nice having Brad Deagle back in the lineup and he produced 2 assists and a +2 night for the Birds.  I know I have said it before but what a good trade by Russ Farwell to grab Deagle at the start of the season. Deagle has logged a ton of minutes and has generally been one of Seattle's most solid performers on defense.

With the win... Seattle gets just a little bit of breathing room in the race for the playoffs. They now hold a 3 point lead over Everett with a game in hand and 12 games remaining (11 for Everett). Victoria picked up a win in Prince George, giving them a 2 point lead over Seattle (5 points over Everett) for the 7th seed in the West and Seattle holds two games in hand over Victoria.


Donations, Sanvido Back

A huge thank you to everyone for their donations. I would name each of you publicly by name but I don't have specific permission to do that... so let me just say thank you to each and every one of you. My contributions have eclipsed $1000 and my team has now raised over $26,000 and might reach $30,000 before Saturday.

For those curious, I will be playing for the White Team in the All-Star Game. My team will be coached by Dennis Bounds of King 5 news.

I will also be doing a live interview at the 1st intermission of the game on either Saturday or Sunday (likely Sunday) to talk about the Hockey Challenge. I will update when I know which game for sure. I'm sure there will be a lot of nerves and plenty of "umms" and "uhhhhs".

A bit of Tbirds related news today. It certainly appears that Connor Sanvido has now returned to the Tbirds. Of course, I can't confirm this... but it certainly seems to be true.


Exciting News

I could sit here and talk about the Tbirds losing 3 more games over the weekend... but quite frankly I have bigger fish to fry this week.

It's Hockey Challenge week and I have some very exciting news. I have been asked to participate in the Celebrity Game on Saturday night.  We can all pretend that I'm a Celebrity but the fact of the matter is that I was chosen for my fundraising.  I could not have done this without the help of the generous Tbirds fans that read this blog. I can't thank you enough.

However... I'm not going to rest on this. Let's really put this thing over the top and prove to everyone how great Tbirds fans are and add to my totals.  I would consider "my" contributions to be a representation of the Tbirds community of fans.

Watch this video and click on the link to donate a little bit of money in my name. This is why we participate in this event. I thank you in advance. Thank you for already making Hockey Challenge 2012 a success.


Much Needed Two Points

Connor Honey stated in the post-game interview that it was his first ever shootout attempt, although it sure didn't look it. He raced in towards the goal, faked a shot and flipped in a backhand top shelf game-winner over the outstretched pad of Jordon Cooke. This win gives Seattle a 2 point "cushion" on Victoria and a 3 point "cushion" over Everett.
  • I don't have the patience to write about the officiating last night... it was bad again. Let's talk about the one call they probably got right and that was the Penalty Shot awarded in the final minute of the game because Brad Deagle knocked the net "intentionally" off the pegs. Here is the rule: If by reason of insufficient time in the regular playing time or by reason of penalties already imposed, the minor penalty assessed to a player for deliberately displacing his own goal post cannot be served in its entirety within the regular playing time of the game or at any time in overtime, a penalty shot shall be awarded against the offending team. I think the intent of the rule is to say that if a player intentionally pushes the net off and its under 2 minutes left in regulation it has to be a penalty shot, and the same would apply if it was under 2 minutes in overtime.  The rule is poorly written because I think you could reasonably interpret it to mean that if the penalty might overlap regulation and overtime it should not be a penalty shot. The rule does need clarification but I actually think the officials applied it correctly as it is intended.  I have a gigantic problem with the way the rest of the game was called but I don't have the energy for it.
  • The first 5 minutes of the game were awful and Kelowna jumped all over the Tbirds and got a quick goal to start the game. Everything after that was a complete 180. Seattle dominated the final 15 minutes of the period and deserved to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. Kelowna then pushed back pretty hard in the 2nd and 3rd to get themselves back into the game. I'd maddening how inconsistent this team can be. It probably isn't realistic to assume that you can get that effort every single minute of every single game but if they can get that kind of effort more often they are definitely going to get better and make the playoffs.
  • If you didn't see Burke Gallimore's goal I'm sure it will be in the plays of the week. He reached out of the air to snatch a clearing attempt from Kelowna and that sprang him in the offensive zone where he beat Cooke over the glove shoulder off the bar and down into the net.
  • Mitch Elliot is looking pretty comfortable as a defender and I think this might revive his career. His rush up the ice ultimately resulted in the goal by Justin Hickman on a nice pass across by Jacob Doty.
  • Calvin Pickard was excellent as usual and was especially good in the 3rd period when Kelowna was coming on strong. He was also particularly disturbed by the officials, and I can't really say I blame him for his feelings.
Big Big Big points for the Tbirds and they will get ready to face Tri-City at home in a televised game on Friday night.



I was out of town over the weekend. The reports I got were that the Tbirds played well on Friday night and managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Saturday night sounded like another example of how good Portland is and Seattle's inability to stay on the same playing level as the Winterhawks. Portland is a very good club and I think when they are motivated they might be the best team in the league.  It seems pretty clear to me that Portland is very motivated to stick it to the Tbirds and you can see the results reflect that.

17 games to play for Seattle and things are starting to really look bleak on making the playoffs.  Seattle is now tied for 7th (and 8th) with Victoria and Everett has closed to within 1 point of both teams after going 6-4 in their last 10 games.

I want to address what seems to be the most common "complaint" in the comment sections lately...

It seems to me that a handful of people really want to see Russ "step down" or give the General Manager job to someone else and focus on just being an owner of the team. Let's address this first.

I don't really see Russ ever stepping down... but let's say that he did and he hired a true G.M. to make the roster decisions, etc.  Don't you think Russ would probably be involved in the decisions that were being made by this new GM?  I just personally can't see a situation where Russ wouldn't be involved in some way in the decision making process as long as he was still an owner.

Second complaint - Russ doesn't care about winning.  Russ and the front office have failed to produce a quality team in the past three seasons but I can assure you that it isn't because they don't care about winning. Winning would put more people in the seats and in turn would put more money in the owners pockets and allow them to spend more on the franchise.  You can make an easy argument that the last three years have not worked out well but you can't make a very easy argument that they aren't trying.

Tbirds are back in action tomorrow night against Kelowna and each one of these games gets more critical as the margin of error shrinks.


General Thoughts

The season is officially starting to wear on me. I'm finding it less and less useful to write about the same things game after game as this team slowly slips out of the playoff race. Seattle is, of course, still in the playoff picture but the current 6 game losing streak has them holding on by a thread. The good news is that Victoria, Prince George and Everett have played only various degrees of "slightly better" and the Tbirds still hold a 4 point lead over the Cougars and a 5 point lead over Everett. Rather than try to recap the last couple of games, here are some general observations:
  • The team's effort lately has been pretty darn good and that is kind of a good-news/bad-news situation. The good news is that the team doesn't appear to be quitting on the season and they have had some fair chances to win some games. The bad news is that they have lost in spite of their decent efforts. The other bad news is that the "good effort" really only applies to a small handful of players on the team while some other players appear to be content to just let the season play out.
  • One player who has been excellent lately is Connor Honey. If you can believe this... check this out. 17 year old Connor Honey who joined the team in the middle of the season, now has 4 goals, 5 assists and a -6 in 26 games. Colin Jacobs, our heralded and drafted 18 year old out of Texas who had 44 points last season... has 5 goals, 4 assists and a -15 in 25 games. Honey has been on the receiving end of more and more ice time both at even strength and on the power play and has tallied 6 points in his last 6 games. The mistakes are still going to happen but he appears to be getting more comfortable with each passing game. He reads the play well and has what scouts call good "hockey IQ".
  • Another guy who has played very solid over the past 6 weeks and deserves to get a mention has got to be Cason Machacek. At the beginning of the year, Machacek was spending far too much time in the penalty box for the wrong reasons. Through the end of November, Machacek had logged 17 games with 54 penalty minutes and a -7 rating. Since that point he has played in 23 games with 59 penalty minutes with a rating of Even and he has even chipped in 2 goals and an assist. He has been as steady as them come since the Christmas break.
  • I see fans both online and at the games questioning why Jacob Doty isn't playing. It hurts me to say this but the reason why he isn't playing is because he just isn't very good. Doty is fearless when it comes to fighting and his willingness to stick up for teammates is admirable. Right or wrong, this team is desperately trying to win games right now and Doty is just mostly taking up a bench spot waiting for his chance to drop the gloves.  Recently, there was an article written about Emerson Etem by Kelly Friesen where Etem talked about all of the time he spent in the offseason working on his skating and working diligently on his stops and starts. This is what Doty will have to do if he wants to become a regular on this team and in this league.
  • Where is Burke Gallimore?
  • Where is Luke Lockhart?
  • Things aren't going to get any easier for Seattle as they have traveled to Kelowna for a game tomrrow before returning back to Spokane for Friday night and finally back home for Portland on Saturday. It is becoming difficult to see where the Tbirds are going to be able to get points the rest of the way.
I wish I had more to say but this team is getting increasingly difficult to "cover" as the season winds down.


Seattle falls to Spokane

Seattle falls again last night in what was basically another 1 goal game. Seattle battled back from being a goal down on three separate occasions, but couldn't find the back of the net for a 4th time in the final minutes of the game before Dominik Uher tapped in an empty net goal to seal the deal. Uher ended his career night with 4 goals, getting a Power Play goal in the 1st, an Even Strength goal in the 2nd and 3rd and added the Empty Netter to close the scoring. Uher's 3rd goal came with just over a minute left in the game and broke a 3-3 tie as the Tbirds turned the puck over at the blue line and he converted with a high finish over Calvin Pickard to the short side. Seattle has lost 3 straight games again and now find themselves only 4 points ahead of Prince George in the battle to hang onto a playoff spot.
  • Calvin Pickard had a bit of a strange game last night. He made about 2 or 3 absolutely phenomenal highlight reel saves, but also struggled a bit giving up short side goals to Uher in the 1st period and the go-ahead game winner with a minute left in the game. It's difficult to fault a goaltender in any situation where a player is breaking in on them uncontested but I can bet that Picks would love to have another crack at both of those goals.  The goal scored by Uher in the 2nd period was a tip and the goal scored by Brandon Kitchton in the 3rd was uncontested from the slot and was hammered off the bar and down... hard to fault him there.  Playing for this team has to be frustrating for Pickard and only a fellow goalie can understand how a lack of trust in your teammates can negatively affect your game.  I'm not using that as an excuse and I'm sure Pickard wouldn't either but simply "focusing on the shot" is tougher when you don't trust your teammates.
  • Aside from the outcome... the most interesting aspect of the game last night was the (regular season) debut of Mitch Elliot playing on defense. I like the idea, and quite frankly it is probably something they should have tried earlier. Elliot has not taken any steps forward this year and if anything I think he might have taken a step backwards. I thought he actually looked pretty good back there (expectations considered). He got beat around the outside on one rush and showed that his lack of foot-speed is still likely to be an issue but most of our defenders have similar issues.  He also clearly missed an assignment on a stretch pass that led to a scoring chance on another occasion. The good news... He carried the puck on his first shift and looked fairly comfortable doing it even though he wasn't able to get the puck deep and he he we very physical in front of the net, something that our defense has needed for the better part of the last 3 seasons.  It's a work in progress but this team looks unbelievably short on defense next year and if Elliot can provide the team with some minutes it would provide a small boost.
  • Connor Honey had a fantastic game for the Tbirds and looks as though he is really starting to settle in. His centering pass to Dillon Wagner for the game tying goal in the 3rd period was a thing of beauty and really showed the kind of natural vision and passing ability that he possesses. If he improves his decision making just a little bit and works on his skating, and as his size/build increases, he is going to be a force in the league maybe sooner than later.
  • Jacob Doty had a nice fight with Corbin Baldwin after Baldwin ran Colin Jacobs into the boards from behind. For whatever reason, I'm not sure Baldwin even tried to throw any punches, he looked like he was just holding on for the duration of the fight.
  • Rough night statistically for Shea Theodore as he was -3 but I would like to point out that he has looked much better in the past several games after suffering through his "slump" in the middle of the season.
  • Officiating was far from perfect last night but I didn't have a problem with most of the calls. Pat Smith has taken a lot of crap over the years (probably most deserved) but in my mind he is an example of the development that happens for officials as well as players and I believe he has become one of the better officials I have seen this season.
  • Seth Swenson now has 4 goals and 7 points in 11 games after having 7 points in 33 games for Portland and only 5 career goals in 132 games with the Winterhawks.
  • With points being an absolute premium right now Seattle skated hard for 40 minutes and fell flat in the 3rd period, eventually getting the result that they probable deserved.
I'm tired. I'm tired of writing about this team losing. This team needs some points badly. They wake up on February 1st with only a 4 point lead over Prince George for that final playoff spot.  The effort has been pretty good for the most part but this team just can't afford to take a shift off much less a period. This team needs points in a bad way and things just appear to be headed towards eventually falling out of the playoffs again.

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