Has Long Road Trip Provided Pivotal Moment For Thunderbirds?
It isn’t often a team looks back at a game in early October as a pivotal moment in the season. With over 60 games still on the docket, the likelihood come March Seattle points to a 5-4 overtime win over Medicine Hat on October 4th as that seminal moment, is probably remote.
Then again, it just may have been.
The Thunderbirds (6-2), entered the game off two lopsided losses to foes in Portland and Tri-Cities it beat at home to start the season 3-0. All of a sudden, the momentum, the early confidence of a good start, seemed to have melted away.
And there they were in Medicine Hat, Alberta, on game three of a six-game road trip, trailing the Tigers 2-0 early on in the first period. Suddenly all too familiar territory for a team that won its first three.
Then something changed. Before three minutes had been played in the second period, the T-Birds were in a 3-3 game with the Tigers. Then, after falling behind again, the team answered with a Mathew Barzal penalty-shot goal with 29 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime, where Mitch Elliot provided the game-winner.
The emotion of that win carried over for the rest of the weekend as Seattle capped off three games in three nights in Western Canada by beating Lethbridge 6-2 and then Kootenay 4-3.
It may have also helped rid the team of any feelings of complacency which head coach Steve Konowalchuk felt may have seeped into the team to cause the two previous losses.
“You know what, I don’t know for sure. I mean sometimes you just get a little complacent. They won the first three and maybe we were feeling too good about ourselves and the other teams came out and out-worked us,” offered Konowalchuk. “For whatever reason we didn’t work as hard as we needed to and the players came out and really responded with a good game against Medicine Hat.”
“It was a big game, too,” added Konowalchuk. “We needed to respond from a couple poor outings. It was good to see the guys get rewarded for that kind of effort…(It was) a big win and that emotion definitely carried over the next couple games.”
With the three consecutive wins, division-leading Seattle stands 3-2 with a game remaining against Kelowna (5-0-0-1) on its six-game road trip. Kelowna currently sits atop the B.C. Divison and trails only the Thunderbirds in the Western Conference with its 11 points.
Over the course of the road trip, the Thunderbirds have gotten contributions from a host of players. Roberts Lipsbergs notched a hat trick against Lethbridge in the first period, then added a fourth against Kootenay. Alexander Delnov, Shea Theodore and Barzal have three goals apiece, while Barzal added a four assist performance against Lethbridge, Saturday. Then there is Justin Hickman who scored the game-winner on Sunday.
According to Konowalchuk, it shows the talent and depth of this year’s squad.
“That’s what you need,” said Konowalchuk. “It’s hard for one line or a couple of people to do it every day. You need different guys that will step up.”
It certainly looks like Seattle has that. And, who knows, depending on how much success those players can help Seattle achieve this season, we may look back at a game in early October as a turning point.
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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