Sunday, December 6, 2009

WHL: T-Birds honor slain officers, then defeat Silvertips 3-2

(Photo Courtesy: Mick White/Kent Valley Sports) - See more pix of the game by clicking here.

The sound of bagpipes evokes strong emotion among anyone who hears them. Lately, people living in Western Washington have heard that too much, as the community mourned the deaths of five police officers in the last two months. Last night, the sound of bagpipes filled ShoWare Center in a mournful song of remembrance, honor and tribute. Last night, the Seattle Thunderbirds invited the Lakewood Police Department’s Independent Guild to be part of their game against the Everett Silvertips. Last night, the T-Birds invited law enforcement officers from around the region to come to Kent and forget about their caseloads and their heavy hearts, even if only for a couple of hours. And last night, 4,694 fans showed their love and appreciation for the men and women who uphold the oath to “serve and protect.”  (To see the story done by Tricia Manning-Smith and Michael Bachety of KING 5 TV, click here.)

The teams took the ice in their usual fashion, to the sounds of upbeat music. Goaltenders Calvin Pickard and San Jose Sharks signee Thomas Heemskerk got busy cutting up the ice in front of their respective nets. Players skated around, making grooves in the smooth surface in common pre-game frenzy. The starting lineups were announced. Then, a moment of silence to remember Sergeant Mark Renninger, Officer Greg Richards, Officer Tina Griswold and Officer Ronald Owens, the four Lakewood Police officers gunned down last Sunday morning inside a cafĂ© as they prepared to begin their shift. As the moment of silence swelled, the strains of “Amazing Grace” floated up from the ice, played by 3 bagpipers. A young man continued the emotional tribute, with a beautiful rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner”. Two Lakewood Police officers met T-Birds Captain Lindsay Nielsen and Silvertips Captain Zack Dailey at center ice for the ceremonial puck drop, to thunderous applause and cheers from the crowd. And then, the game got underway, hopefully taking people’s minds away from their troubled to cheer on their favorite local teams.

Seattle struck quickly. Vancouver Canucks prospect Prab Rai teamed up with Lindsay Nielsen and Charles Wells to put the T-Birds up 1-0, just 6:19 into the first period. The three connected for the T-Birds’ second goal five minutes later during a power play, as Silvertip Tyler Maxwell sat out an interference call. The three dazzled with a tic tac toe effort that ended with Rai shooting the puck past Everett goalie Thomas Heemskerk. Seattle scored one more time in the first period, again on the power play. This time, Rasmus Rissanen sat in the box for hooking. This time, Brendan Rouse scored for the T-Birds, with help from Philadelphia Flyers prospect Sena Acolatse and Jonathan Parker. The T-Birds went to the locker room after the first period, sitting on a comfortable 3-0 lead. (SOG: Everett 8, Seattle 14)

The second period went by pretty quickly and with a lot of aggressive, back and forth play. The Silvertips drove the puck again and again into Seattle’s end and found a way past T-Birds goalie Calvin Pickard 3 minutes into the period. Los Angeles Kings prospect Tyler Maxwell drove up the ice and scored on an unassisted play. This period featured four penalties (2 for each team): Kellan Tochkin/Everett: high sticking at 5:01; Mikhail Sentyurin/Seattle: interference at 7:38; Zack Dailey/Everett: hooking at 17:32; Tyler Alos/Seattle: high sticking at 17:32. The second period ended with the T-Birds still in the lead, 3-1. (SOG: Everett 9, Seattle 13)

The Everett Silvertips really turned up the heat in the third period. They seemed to steal the puck again and again and keep the play in Seattle’s end. They even fired off some pretty dangerous shots at Pickard. A powerful one by Vancouver Canucks signee Kellan Tochkin hit the upper post of the net and bounced away. The T-Birds kicked up their play a notch to try to match the Silvertips’ aggressiveness. They found ways to knock the puck away from their net and into neutral territory. Players went toe to toe, digging for the puck. They missed passes, then regained control. The Silvertips found one more opportunity to score, on a power play at 14:22 while Brendan Rouse served a hooking penalty. Once more, Tyler Maxwell single-handedly took the puck to Seattle’s net and scored this 19th goal of the season. The ‘Tips were now within one goal of tying the game and had plenty of time in which do it. They turned on all the jets, but on this night, the T-Birds were not willing to lose their lead. Within the final minute and a half of the period, Prab Rai scored an empty-net goal that would have closed the door on the Silvertips’ efforts to tie things up, and give Rai a hat trick on the night. As a matter of fact, a few hats came flying out of the crowd before Tom Helm announced that the goal had been called back because the T-Birds were off-sides. That didn’t deter the T-Birds. And on this night, they would prevail. As the crowd counted down the final ten seconds in the third period, the Silvertips rushed the net. A T-Bird (I can’t remember who), got a piece of the puck and fired it down the ice. The game ended with the final score: Seattle 3, Everett 2. (SOG: Everett 11, Seattle 7. SOG for the game: Everett 28, Seattle 34).

A couple of notes: Prab Rai scored his 18th and 19th goals of the season. He’s riding a 9-game point streak and has scored in 7 of those 9 games. He leads the team with 35 points (19 goals + 16 assists), ten points ahead of Jonathan Parker, the next high scorer on the team. Tyler Maxwell is second in scoring for the Silvertips, with 19 goals and 11 assists for 30 goals. Shane Harper leads the team with 37 points (20 goals and 17 assists). Kellan Tochkin rounds out the top 3 scorers for Everett, with 25 points (6 goals and 19 assists).

The Seattle Thunderbirds have a week off, before facing the Tri City Americans next Friday, December 11 at ShoWare Center. You can find more information about the T-Birds’ schedule and players by clicking here. The Everett Silvertips welcome the Portland Winterhawks to Comcast Arena on Tuesday, December 8. You can find more information about the Silvertips’ schedule and players by clicking here.

Another note: After the game, the T-Birds invited all women at the game to come out onto the ice and shoot for a ham, courtesy of Fred Meyer. Hundreds of women took part in the challenge. I don’t know how many actually walked away with a ham.

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