Weekend in review: T-Birds split in Prince George
By Tim Pigulski
The T-Birds split their two games in Prince George this past weekend, falling 4-3 to the Cougars on Friday night before a tremendous last-ditch effort on Saturday night that allowed them to bring home two points.
Here are some of my thoughts from this past weekend:
• The team showed outstanding resilience in their victory on Saturday, scoring their lone regulation goal with just 9.4 seconds left in the third period before sealing the victory two minutes into overtime. After Friday night’s loss, where the team played very well for around 50 minutes but fell apart during a 10-minute span, a victory like Saturday night’s was needed.
The difference between a playoff team and one heading home in the spring is often how they fare in one-goal games, and the T-Birds will be no different. A sustained effort in close games will inevitably lead to a few more points in the standings over the course of the season, and those few points can lead to a playoff berth.
• Brandon Glover once again stood on his head in game two, making 29 saves on 30 shots to earn the victory. Glover can’t be faulted for the lone Prince George goal, when the Cougars’ Alex Forsberg was able to capitalize on some nice puck movement in the T-Birds’ zone.
Justin Myles received the surprise start in game one, stopping 25 of the 29 shots he faced. In his first regular season WHL start, Myles probably should have gotten the victory if not for the sloppy three minutes where the T-Birds’ defense had trouble clearing the zone. The 17-year-old probably helped his case for earning the backup job over Daniel Cotton, who is a year older.
• Jared Hauf played well during game two, using his outstanding reach to shut down more than one Prince George rush. He also appears to be more comfortable utilizing his enormous frame to intimidate opposing forwards. If Hauf can continue to use his size to his advantage, along with his good skating ability, he could see himself moving up the 2013 NHL Entry Draft boards.
• Highly touted Shea Theodore looked great in game two, leading a number of rushes into the offensive zone. Throughout both games, the Prince George commentators would rave about Theodore’s skating ability every time he touched the puck, and his game-winning goal in game two demonstrated what he can bring to the table offensively. Look for Theodore to improve on his impressive rookie season, when he tallied 35 points in 69 games.
• With the exception of a few big hits at the beginning of the first game, the weekend seemed to be pretty light on the physical side. The one time things seemed to boil over, at the end of the second period of game two when Connor Honey and Prince George’s Jordan Tkatch were shoving behind the Cougar net, the refs quashed the confrontation pretty quickly and sent both players to the penalty box. It’s too early to tell if this is a result of the WHL’s apparent crackdown on overly physical play, but after a number of suspensions during the first weekend, don’t be surprised if we see cooler heads prevailing more often.
• It looks like Colin Jacobs’ stellar opening weekend performance versus Everett may not have been a fluke, as he put up three more points this weekend, tying him for the league lead with nine (four goals, five assists) in just four games. Playing on a line with offensively gifted and draft-eligible wing Alex Forsberg, Jacobs may finally have the breakout season fans in Seattle were hoping would come with the T-Birds.
Jesse Forsberg, acquired in exchanged for Jacobs, has been a consistent and stabilizing presence on the blue line for the T-Birds, but seeing Jacobs excel in Prince George has to be tough, although certainly not surprising, for Seattle fans. He showed flashes of talent when playing at the ShoWare Center, but injuries really seemed to throw him off.
Even if he can’t maintain his torrid pace for the duration of the season, watch for Jacobs in his 19- and 20-year-old seasons to be among the league’s leading scorers.
• Another T-Bird who was dealt this offseason, Chance Lund, hasn’t experienced quite the same success as Jacobs for his Swift Current team, notching one goal and zero assists in five games.
For what it’s worth, Lund did fare very well in his lone fight this season, handily taking care of Regina’s Tye Hand.
• Prince George has earned seven of a possible eight points in its first four games of the season — two versus Everett and two versus Seattle. While it will still take some time for the standings to iron out and the strong to separate themselves from the weak, Prince George may be a surprise team to look out for this season. They have an offense that looks like it can keep up with anyone, and their defense and goalie Devon Fordyce have been surprising early in the season.
• Elsewhere in the conference, what’s going on in the Tri-Cities? With only 10 goals in four games, two fewer than the offensively challenged Everett Silvertips, it looks like the losses of Brendan Shinnimin, Adam Hughesman, and now Patrick Holland are going to be tough for the team to overcome. This may be the season where the T-Birds are able to overcome the woes that have plagued them when they’ve faced the Americans for the past few seasons.
Tri-City currently sit in last place with a 1-3-0-0 record with games this coming weekend against Everett, Lethbridge, and Victoria. If they can’t snag four or five points this weekend, it may be an indicator of bigger struggles to come for them this season.
Follow Tim on Twitter @tpigulski