Travels through Saskatchewan…great games and even better people
That snow I was talking about in my last road journal did indeed come and as expected it was light, only an inch or two. What is worse are the cold temperatures, but hey, it’s Canada right?
We drove from Saskatoon to Regina today. It was nice to be based in a city for three days as checking in and out of hotels every day is a pain. Now we are in Regina for a couple of days before heading to Swift Current, our final town. At long last. I am able to write this because I downed two five hour energy drinks today. I’m not sure how the guys are able to play at the level they play at with all of this travel. It’s not easy on the system and I don’t care how young you are.
The trip has been successful so far, with two games left the Birds have gotten better as the trip has progressed. After a tough loss in Brandon on a contested goal ( I saw the replay and the video replay judge must be blind) they were able to get a tough point in Moose Jaw, where Pickard was at his best. Then it was off to Saskatoon where the Birds had a bad second period and fell behind 4-2 to a team that was 7-1 at home and 9-0 when leading after two periods. They didn’t give up though and tied the game 4-4 and won in the shootout.
That winning goal in the shootout by Marcel Noebels felt like more than just another shootout goal. It felt like something special had just happened. Yes it’s still very early but the Birds then went up to Prince Albert and scored back to back to back power play goals to take control of that game and go on to win 5-2. A rather easy victory for a team that has gone to OT nine times already.
The Thunderbirds power play is now ranked 2nd in the league with a 27 percent success rate. The penalty kill is quickly moving up the standings. Any team with a great goaltender, a top power play and a strong penalty kill is very dangerous. So we will see.
With five out of eight points thus far the Birds are over .500 on the trip with a chance for a great eastern swing for the first time in a while. They play a Regina team on Friday night that has had its troubles. They give up a ton of goals but they also just took the Winterhawks to OT. On Saturday night they play the final game of the trip in Swift Current against the Broncos. They have been hot and cold through 20 plus games but have a goaltender in Mark Friesen that has been very solid. Two big games to go.
The arena experience in the eastern division is a unique one. You go from huge NHL caliber venues such as Saskatoon to small “barns” that hold only 2,500 such as Prince Albert. In Saskatoon I had to climb what seemed like a thousand stairs and walk across a long catwalk high above the ice to get to the press box. In Prince Albert the staircase was so small that I had to watch that I didn’t hit my head at the top. It has been quite the experience.
What really stands out though are the people. The fans in Saskatchewan have been awesome and that goes for the media relations folks who have been incredibly accommodating. I don’t think they are used to “Seattle media” coming out here. They have simply been great.
As you drive through Saskatchewan you notice how flat it is. Farm after farm after farm. Cows and more cows. Then you meet the people and the landscape comes to life.
Two more games to go.