(1090 The Fan) — Seattle Thunderbirds’ forward Branden Troock missed a full month to start the second half when he suffered an upper-body injury in early January.

Upon his return in February, Troock scored in his fourth game back, a 4-0 win against Spokane, but had not scored since. Until Saturday night.

Troock’s third-period goal was reminiscent of the type of play that his hard-working style is capable of. It was a true testament to desire.

From down in the Seattle zone, teammate Roberts Lipsbergs flipped a pass up ahead into the neutral zone where Troock and a lone Winterhawks’ defender were stationed. The two charged after it, with Troock walling off the Winterhawk skater to take control of the puck and eventually deke past Portland goalie Corbin Boes stick-side. It was the 19-year-old’s first goal in nine games.

Troock now has 22 goals on the season and 31 assists for a total of 53 points, good for third on the team behind defenseman Shea Theodore (69) and Alexander Delnov (56). It’s his hope that the goal spurs his game back to where it was in December when he was lighting the lamp nearly every night.

“I saw the puck kinda bounce by me, we were in a footrace and I wanted that one pretty bad,” admitted Troock. “That’s a nice little confidence boost. I was kind of battling the puck a little bit and fighting my play, so hopefully that will get things rolling again and build from there.”

Having Troock return to form would be an added boost to the Thunderbirds’ offense which — prior to the past two victories — had been woefully inconsistent. Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk thinks Troock is close to that form.

“His game is getting better and better,” noted Konowalchuk. “The last few games he’s competing (a) two-hundred foot game, the shifts he’s in. It’s good to see him get that goal because his work ethic is getting better and better and we expect he’ll be a big part down the stretch if he keeps working that hard.”

T-Birds’ Players Relish Energetic Home Crowd

One of the added bonuses of a great rivalry is the crowd that comes with it.

It’s no secret that Seattle and Portland don’t like each other and the fans are the same way. With the teams playing at a high level (the two came in sitting numbers one and two in the U.S. Division) and Portland being about a two-hour drive south, the matchup tends to draw a near-capacity crowd.

It was the case Saturday night at the ShoWare Center in Kent where a near-sellout crowd of 6,031 attendees watched to see if Seattle could snap Portland’s 21-game win streak.

The T-Birds’ players took notice.

“That’s always fun to play in a big crowd like (Saturday night), verse Portland there’s a big rivalry there and the fans have a lot to play into it,” said Troock. “So it’s nice when they come out like that and hopefully, they keep coming.”

Coach Konowalchuk believes the ShoWare Center to be the best atmosphere in the WHL when a sell-out crowd shows up and used Saturday’s game as an example.

“Our guys love it. It’s awesome when there’s a big hit and the crowd goes nuts,” explained Konowalchuk. “All those things, it gives the bench energy.

“Kids are emotional, more emotional than even pros. They get a goal and the crowd’s loud, it gives them extra energy…I think we have the most fun place to play for our guys, it’s an awesome environment going back to the playoffs against Kelowna with that first game we won. It has really helped our guys to want to get back (to the playoffs).”

They’re back now and in three weeks time, the building should be even more energetic.

-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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