By Andrew Eide
The Seattle Thunderbirds headed north of the border Wednesday night and ran over the Vancouver Giants by a score of 6-0 at the Pacific Coliseum. Seattle exploded for four goals in the second period to put the game out of reach as goalie Danny Mumaugh picked up his second career victory and first WHL shutout.
As strange as it may sound in a shutout, the story of the game may have been the T-Birds’ offense. Seattle’s top line of Branden Troock, Connor Honey and Alex Delnov were all over the ice on Wednesday and combined for four of the six goals and 11 points. Delnov led the way with two goals to pace the line.
Seattle’s defense was also big on Wednesday as it choked off the Giants, giving them no room to maneuver and limited the number of quality shots that Mumaugh had to deal with. The Giants managed 31 shots on the night but only a handful of them were quality scoring chances. When they did get those chances, Mumaugh held them at bay.
The damage could have been worse as Seattle seemed to score the game’s first goal mid-way through the first period when Honey whacked away at a rebound. Vancouver goalie Payton Lee sprawled to stop it, got a glove on it just as it was about to fly over the goal line. The play was originally called a goal on the ice but waived off after review.
That didn’t deter Seattle (2-0-0-0) as a few minutes later Honey made no mistake and ripped a wrist shot that beat Lee clean on the glove side. Seattle played a solid road period in the first but only had the one-goal lead.
The second period is when the T-Birds took the game over. Their defense continued to stymie Vancouver (1-2-0-0) and their forwards crashed the nets and it paid off in easy goals. Delnov, Seth Swenson, Troock and Riley Sheen all found the twine in the second period and when it was all over, Seattle had a 5-0 lead.
The T-Birds picked up a power play goal in the third period from Delnov and put the game into cruise control.
This was the Thunderbirds’ first road test of the year and as they prepare for a long road trip next week, getting that first one seemingly would build some confidence.
Goaltending was a big story coming into this season and for the second straight game the T-Birds got solid play from their net-minder. Mumaugh’s best save of the night may have come just before the first period ended as he flashed his left pad out to stop a Giants forward who was on the door step.
In the end the victory was as solid a team win as the T-Birds have had in some time. All facets of the game were clicking from the net to the defense to their forwards – all pointing to a fun season to come.
Seattle will try to make it 3-0 on Friday as they host the Tri City Americans, who are coming off an impressive 6-2 win in Portland on Tuesday night.
Seattle’s 2-0 start is the first for the franchise since the 1998-99 season. (stick tap to Shaw TV’s Andy Neal for that nugget).
The T-Birds have yet to give up a power-play goal as they stopped all seven of Vancouver’s attempts. After the five kills agai-nst Portland on Saturday they are now a perfect 12 for 12 on the young season.
Branden Troock picked up the “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” as he registered a goal, an assist and a got into a fight in the second period.
The game was Mathew Barzal’s first game back in his home town and he got a lot of attention from the Vancouver press. He was held off the scoreboard but still managed to play a solid game.
Seattle’s defensive performance is even more impressive when you consider that they are still missing two of their top defensemen. Jesse Forsberg was a scratch as he continues to nurse an injury. Shea Theodore was also not back from camp with the Anaheim Ducks, although it was announced that a day after signing his first pro contract with the Ducks he was being sent back to Seattle and should play Friday night.
Justin Hickman was not in the lineup Wednesday as he continues to serve his suspension that carried over from last season. He will also have to sit out Friday’s game but will be back in the lineup Saturday night in Portland.