T-Birds notebook: Weekend split, home cooking and Jake Lee out
The Seattle Thunderbirds accomplished their most basic mission this past weekend in Langley as they got the split against the Western Conference’s top-seeded Vancouver Giants. The win Saturday night evened the series as the two teams now shift to play Game 3 at the accesso ShoWare Center on Tuesday.
A split didn’t seem possible after the Thunderbirds laid an egg in Game 1.
Seattle saw 10 players make their playoff debut in that game and it showed as the Thunderbirds made several critical mistakes and the Giants pounced, walking away with a 7-1 win.
Vancouver out shot the Thunderbirds Saturday in Game 2, but many were from the perimeter and not overly dangerous. When they did get good scoring looks, goalie Roddy Ross was there, making 39 saves on the evening as he got much better support.
Seattle’s defense and forwards crashed down in front of the net and were able to limit the number of second-chance opportunities Vancouver had.
Nolan Volcan was strong for the Thunderbirds Saturday. He registered numerous hits, had three points and as one of the players with experience, set the tone and example for his younger mates. His physical play was notable, and Seattle overall did a better job of finishing checks and taking space from Vancouver away.
Volcan said they took inspiration from one of their biggest wins during the regular season.
“The older guys, we kind of talked about it,” he said. “Young team and you have to lead by example and other guys will follow. We kind of went with the crazed (Prince Albert) mentality. A turning point of our season was that game in PA. We were really heavy and found our identity. In playoffs, you have to bring that every night.”
The reference is to Seattle’s Jan. 9th 4-1 win at Prince Albert in a game where the Thunderbirds physically dominated the WHL’s top team.
That was the game plan Saturday in Game 2 and it allowed Seattle to make this a series.
“You look for the split when you start on the road,” Thunderbirds head coach Matt O’Dette said after Saturday’s Game 2 win. “Ultimately, we just wanted to play better. We weren’t happy with our overall game, our overall effort (in Game 1). We wanted to come forward and make it right.”
Here’s the latest surrounding the Thunderbirds and the WHL
Home cooking for the Thunderbirds
“We got home ice,” was the chant Saturday night at the Langley Events Centre. It wasn’t the home town Giants fans reminding the Thunderbirds where they were, however. No, the chant came from a loud and noticeable force of Seattle faithful who had made the trip up.
With the win, Seattle has in effect, stolen home ice away from Vancouver and if able to hold serve in its own building, could pull off the upset.
Seattle went 17-14-2-1 at home this year which doesn’t leap off the page at you and is the worst home record of teams in the post season. As is the case when looking at all of Seattle’s regular season numbers, the record is misleading.
After the Thunderbirds pulled off their roster reset prior to the trade deadline, they’ve been tough at home. Seattle finished the second half of the season with a 10-5-0-1 home record and down the stretch went 6-1-0-1 at the ShoWare Center.
The second-half home record is more impressive when you consider who Seattle played over those 16 games. Only one of the Thunderbirds’ second-half home opponents had a sub .500 record but every team they played are in the playoffs.
The one loss in their last eight home games came to the Vancouver Giants, which adds some intrigue to Game’s 3 and 4.
Jake Lee out for Game 3
Seattle will again be without defenseman Jake Lee for Game 3 on Tuesday. Lee was suspended two games by the WHL for his cross-checking major penalty late in Game 1. The length of suspension was originally listed as ‘TBD’ by the league prior to Game 2 but was updated Monday afternoon.
Saturday night, Zachary Ashton stepped into the lineup for Lee and played a strong game. He was paired with Cade McNelly and the two inexperienced blue liners had a tough assignment. With last change that allowed him to dictate the match ups, Vancouver head coach Michael Dyck got Calgary Flames prospect Milos Roman’s line out a lot against the young Seattle pair.
Roman did pick up an assist on a power-play goal but at even strength, he, along with linemates Brayden Watts and Evan Patrician were held scoreless.
US Division series switch venues
Like Seattle, the other four U.S. Division teams will see their series change venues this week. The Everett Silvertips won both games at home over the weekend and head to Kennewick Wednesday up 2-0 against the Tri-City Americans.
The big question surrounding Everett is the health of leading scorer Connor Dewar. The Minnesota Wild prospect was hurt late in the Silvertips Game 1 win and did not play in Game 2. Everett is already without center Riley Sutter and if Dewar can’t go, will need to get secondary scoring.
In Spokane over the weekend, the Chiefs split their two games with the Portland Winterhawks as that series will head to the Rose City Tuesday knotted at 1-1. Another injury unknown surrounds that series as well as the Winterhawks were without Vegas Golden Knights first-round pick, Cody Glass. The star player has been injured for weeks and there was thought that he would be available for this past weekend’s games. His status for the remaining games is still uncertain.