THUNDERBIRDS

T-Birds look to recapture identity before holiday break

Dec 11, 2017, 12:40 PM
The Thunderbirds need to get back to crashing the net and creating chances (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)...
The Thunderbirds need to get back to crashing the net and creating chances (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)
(Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

The last couple of weeks have been tough for the Seattle Thunderbirds and coach Matt O’Dette.

With the holiday break just a week away, O’Dette and his squad have a week of practice before two weekend games, and a 10-day breather for the holidays. Seattle has dealt with some frustrating losses lately and the break may be coming the right time.

This past weekend was especially frustrating for O’Dette.

Despite finding a way to scrape out a point in Friday’s loss to Tri-City, the two games this weekend were the first two games that Seattle was truly dominated and out-worked. They were out-shot in the losses to the Americans and the Spokane Chiefs by an 81-36 tally and struggled to force the issue.

That is uncharacteristic of the Thunderbirds.

On the season, Seattle is averaging 30 shots a game while allowing an average of 31. It took the Thunderbirds two games to hit 30 shots this weekend and we never saw them create chances the way that we have earlier.

“We have to find our identity again,” O’Dette said after Saturday’s blow out loss to Spokane. “We’ve lost our identity a bit. That team that plays a north-south game, played it simple, got pucks to the net and out-worked teams.”

That has been Seattle’s identity for the first half of the season. Even in games that they lost, they often created chances, crashed the net, and were just one play away from getting the win. In Friday and Saturday’s games, we didn’t see any of that and Seattle paid for it.

They have a week of practice to find it again before a needed breather.

“This week is going to be about re-establishing our identity as a hard-working, hard to play against team that does the little things well and is willing to grind teams out.,” O’Dette said Saturday night.

One potential reason for the struggles this past weekend, and over the past week, may be the inexperience of the club and some mental fatigue.

The Thunderbirds have had eight rookies play regular minutes this season and the WHL load is higher than what they are perhaps used to.

Rookie Dillon Hamaliuk has looked promising for Seattle so far and has played in all 31 games to start. Last season, he only played in 37 games in total. Defenseman Jake Lee, another promising rookie, has played in 30 games this year – counting the six he played at the U17 championships last month – after a 2016-17 campaign that saw him only play 43 games.

Major-junior hockey can be a grind and it can take a toll on rookies who have to play a full season for the first time in their lives. Its an adjustment for sure as they learn to manage the day-to-day mental and physical grind of a full 72-game season.

The holiday break will be a time for those young players to return home, relax and recharge for an uncharted second half of the season.

O’Dette will need those rookies to re-energize because the club will continue to rely on them to make a playoff push the rest of the way.

“We’ve talked about how throughout the year we’ve out-worked and out-competed teams,” O’Dette said. “We’re super tenacious on the forecheck and in the o-zone, creating turnovers. That’s the style of play we need to play. If we’re going against these high-powered offenses and don’t do that then we’re going to be in trouble.”

Seattle can’t relax just yet as they will host the Prince George Cougars on Friday night before another trip to Spokane on Sunday.

After those two games, the team will disperse for some home-cooking and what they hope will be a revitalized tenacity.

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