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T-Birds notebook: Youth, penalty kills and former Bird in NHL

Rookie goalie Carl Stankowski will look to keep his playoff record perfect in Friday's Game 4 (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

In the days leading up to Seattle’s second-round playoff series with Everett, the Silvertips head coach did his best Lou Holtz impression.

Just like the former Notre Dame football coach was famous for, Kevin Constantine said that Seattle were the favorites. This, despite his club winning the U.S. Division and leading the Western Conference in points.

Was it gamesmanship? Or did he know something the rest of us didn’t?

With Seattle holding a 3-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, perhaps Constantine was on to something.

In his comments, the Everett bench boss mentioned that Seattle was older and bigger and therefore the favorite. Is Seattle the older club?

If you go by the birth year of each player on the respective team’s roster, you find an interesting result.

In Game 2 of the series, the Silvertips iced a line up with three 20-year-olds, seven 19-year-olds, four 18-year-olds, six 17-year-olds and no 16-year-olds. That’s an average of 18.35 years old. Seattle’s Game 2 lineup saw them skate one 20-year-old, eight 19-year-olds, four 18-year-olds, five 17-year-olds and two 16-year-olds for an average age of 18.05.

With Ryan Gropp returning for Game 3, Seattle’s average went to 18.25.

Seattle is actually slightly younger than Everett. Granted, we are talking about junior hockey and all the players are relatively young and there really isn’t much difference in these two teams’ ages.

Constantine is correct about Seattle’s size. The Thunderbirds lineup in Game 3 averaged 192.1 pounds while the Silvertips weighed in at 181.3.

What about experience in the league?

Everett’s Game 3 lineup has a combined total of 3,055 regular season games played in the WHL. Seattle’s lineup only has laced them up in 2,920 games in the regular season.

Playoff experience is where Seattle has Everett’s number. Heading into Game 1 of this series, Everett had a combined 342 games of post season experience while Seattle had 374.

While that number is still close, most of the Thunderbirds’ key players in last season’s run to the league finals are back and playing in this series. That may be the biggest difference in a series that has seen three one-goal games so far. The T-Birds haven’t flinched when the Silvertips have either tied up the game or taken a lead.

Seattle has been on the other side of this as recently as last spring. The Brandon Wheat Kings erased third-period deficits in each of the first three games in the finals, winning them all. They were a team coming off a long run the previous season and were able to remain poised while trailing.

With Game 4 looming Friday night, here is the rest of the news surrounding the team and the WHL.

Silvertips crack the T-Birds PK

The Silvertips roared back in Game 3 with four unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. Two of those goals came on the power play as they were finally able to solve the Seattle penalty kill.

Prior to those goals, the Thunderbirds had only surrendered one power-play goal in the playoffs. The special teams are a big factor in this series and the T-Birds will want to stay out of the box on Friday.

Everett’s top two scorers in the playoffs, Dominic Zwerger and Patrick Bajkov, have feasted on the power play. Zwerger has 14 points in the post season and nine have come with the man advantage while eight of Bajkov’s 11 points were picked up on the power play.

So far in this series, Zwerger has two even strength assists and Bajkov has one. Keeping those guys off the score sheet is a big key to Seattle’s success so far.

Former T-Bird makes mark in Stanley Cup Playoffs

The NHL playoffs got going this week and former Thunderbird defenseman Shea Theodore didn’t waste any time to contribute. Playing for the Anaheim Ducks, Theodore picked up his first career post-season point when he assisted on a first-period power-play goal scored by Ryan Getzlaf.

Theodore can expect to get a lot of playing time in the Ducks first-round series with the Calgary Flames as Ducks’ defenseman Cam Fowler is out with an injury.

Bad blood in Portland

The winner of the Seattle and Everett series will move on and face the winner of the Portland Winterhawks and Kelowna Rockets series. Kelowna is leading 3-1 but there has been some bad blood in this one.

Game 3 on Tuesday night saw three players injured and three players suspended. Kelowna’s Cal Foote was suspended for three games after a hit to the head of Portland’s Skyer McKenzie. Portland’s Evan Weinger and Alex Overhardt were each suspended for a game as well.

In Wednesday’s Game 4, Kelowna’s Carsen Twarynski has also been suspended for a boarding major late in the third period of a 7-2 Rockets win. The two teams combined for 111 minutes in penalties, most coming in the last four minutes of the contest. Game 5 will be played in Kelowna on Friday night — bring your popcorn.

About the Author

Andy Eide

Andrew Eide is the Thunderbirds reporter for 710Sports.com. He attended his first T-Birds game in 1987 and has been hooked on hockey ever since. He also covers the WHL for Sportsnet.ca. Follow Andy: @AndyEide

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