Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mixed Opening Weekend for T-Birds

Faceoff: Lindsay Nielsen & Zack Dailey (Photo: Su Ring)

The Seattle Thunderbirds seem to be a team that will keep fans guessing this season, after going 1 an 3 their opening weekend. The T-Birds came out strong Friday night against one of their two I-5 rivals, the Everett Silvertips. Seattle and Everett both showed lots of spirit during the game, with plenty of hard hits and several shoving matches that landed players in the box on roughing penalties.

Seattle came out strong in the first two periods, scoring just two minutes into the game on a power play goal by Brenden Silvester (assist: Luke Lockhart and Colin Jacobs). The T-Birds scored 3 in a row in the second, to quickly go up 4-0 (2nd goal at 6:34 on a PP by Luke Lockhart, assist: Charles Wells and Colin Jacobs. 3rd goal at 7:10 by Prab Rai, assist: Stefan Warg. 4th goal at 8:29 by Colin Jacobs, assist: Lindsay Nielsen and Charles Wells).

Following the T-Birds' fourth goal, the Silvertips pulled Kent Simpson out of net and replaced him with Thomas Heemskerk, who just returned to the team following an outstanding training camp with the San Jose Sharks. Heemskerk shut down the T-Birds offense for the rest of the game, as the Silvertips staged a comeback of their own. They peppered Seattle netminder Calvin Pickard with shot after shot and finally found a way through, late in the second period. Markus McCrea notched his first goal, with help from Travis Dunstall and Cameron Abney. The Silvertips scored twice more in the third. Byron Froese fired a shot past Pickard at 11:36. Tyler Maxwell and Ryan Murray assisted. Two minutes later, Maxwell scored, with help from Froese and Kellan Tochkin.

The third period saw the Silvertips gaining momentum, while the T-Birds seemed to lose some steam. Seattle held on for the win, though at great expense, in my opinion. They played hard- but let Everett fire 49 shots at Pickard, who showed at age 17 and in just his second year in the WHL, that he's one talented netminder.
Final score: Seattle 4, Everett 3.

Seattle v. Portland (Photo: Su Ring)

Saturday night, the T-Birds faced their other I-5 rival, a strong Portland Winterhawks team, and from the opening face off, the Winterhawks dominated the ice at ShoWare Center. They broke up play after play, while pushing the action down to Seattle's end and keeping it there. Portland scored about 17 minutes into the first period, on a shot by Troy Rutkowski. Nino Niederreiter got the assist. Chris Francis scored a shorthanded goal with about 30 seconds left in the first to put Portland up 2-0. Luke Walker and Brett Ponich got the assists. The Winterhawks also outshot the T-Birds, 11-3 in the first period alone.

Portland scored 3 more times in the game. In the second period, Niederreiter found the net in the final minutes of the period, with help from Ryan Johansen and Rutkowski. Rutkowski scored at the beginning of the third. Brad Ross and Niederreiter got credit for the assists. A short time later, Spencer Bennett scored, with help from Walker.

During the third period, some fan sitting right behind us heaved a fish onto the ice. I have to say that was a pretty classless thing to do. I understand that fans are frustrated, but we must remember that the majority of players on any team that plays at the WHL level are younger than 20 years old. I know a lot of players on the T-Birds this year are 16 and 17, and trying very hard to find their footing while adjusting to living far away from their families. Try to remember that before you start shouting insults and swearing at them, please. You wouldn't want people to scream at your kid playing high school football, baseball or whatever sport they play.

Anyway, Portland ended up shutting out Seattle, 5-0.

The Winterhawks outshot the T-Birds 34-22.

But the T-Birds didn't have the luxury of going home and thinking about how they played. Nope, they hopped on a bus to drive up to Vancouver, BC, for a 5:05pm puck drop against the Giants tonight (Sunday). I didn't see or hear the game, but I did get a recap from the WHL website. Colin Jacobs scored in the first for the T-Birds, with help from Charles Wells. Jonathan Parker put Seattle up 2-0 in the opening minutes of the second period. Newcomer Tyler Alos got the assist.

Then, the Giants went to work. Sebastian Svendsen put Vancouver on the board at the 5:50 mark, with help from Brendan Gallagher and James Henry. The Giants scored again just moments later, on a shot by Lance Bouma, to tie things up at 2 apiece. Neil Manning and Kevin Connauton got the assists. Manning scored an unassisted goal on a power play at the start of the third period. JT Barnett put the Giants up 4-2 about halfway through the third, with help from Bouma and Connauton. The T-Birds did not get another scoring chance. Calvin Pickard stopped 34 of 39 shots in the T-Birds losing effort. Giants' goalie Brendan Jensen saved 22 of 24 shots.

The T-Birds face a long bus ride home tonight and no doubt will go over the weekend's games at practice tomorrow, as they begin preparing for another busy weekend. They'll host the Chilliwack Bruins Friday, September 25 at 7:35pm, then drive down I-5 to face the Winterhawks again in Portland on Saturday, September 26 at 7:00pm.

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