Thunderbirds

Final Weekend No Picnic For Weary T-Birds

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Seattle Thunderbirds' forward Mathew Barzal celebrates with teammates after a goal in a game in late January. (Photo by Brian Liesse, WHL)

Seattle Thunderbirds’ forward Mathew Barzal celebrates with teammates after a goal in a game in late January. (Photo by Brian Liesse, WHL)

(1090 The Fan) — It doesn’t get any easier for a weary Seattle hockey team.

The Seattle Thunderbirds emerged from a difficult stretch in which it faced  four playoff teams in five nights only to face a weekend of meaningful games with just a two point lead for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage.

The inability to clinch the No. 4 seed over that stretch, leaves the T-Birds having to take care of business in the regular season’s final weekend. If that wasn’t a tall order in itself, those three games set to be played beginning Friday include two against Portland, not only the U.S. Division champ for two consecutive seasons now, but a team that it is just 4-7 against this year.

“(We) just got to keep winning games,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said after Seattle’s 6-4 loss to Spokane, Tuesday night. “We are still in position to get our goal. There is no panic here. Can’t get frustrated. They played a pretty hard hockey game. Again, we didn’t play terrible, we didn’t play our best…but other teams are trying to stop you as well.

“I saw a good physical effort by most guys, but mentally we just weren’t quite there. I don’t know if that’s ’cause of a lot of the hockey we’ve had. Mentally, just some of our reads were a little slower than usual and a couple of our decisions — that’s why they had five goals,” he finished.

Konowalchuk was particularly displeased by the effort he saw in the defensive zone. There were some uncharacteristic mental errors from his team that he believed could have been a result of the tough stretch his team just emerged from.

“This could be our toughest stretch of the year,” Konowalchuk said.  “But should be in good shape for playoffs. We have to battle, we have to find a way to get through it and it will make us better.

“We’ve got to get our heads up, give the guys a little breather (Thursday)…and get back at it this weekend.”

Here is the situation as it stands heading into Wednesday’s games in the Western Hockey League: Seattle leads Spokane by two points for the No. 4 seed and home-ice advantage. Spokane holds a three point lead over Everett for the fifth seed with a game in hand. Both Seattle and Spokane have just three games left, while Everett has four remaining. And one last tidbit, Everett and Spokane play each other Wednesday.

Having to play through the final weekend to position itself in the best possible way heading into the playoffs isn’t the ideal situation, but Konowalchuk wouldn’t have it any other way for his team.

“If we have to play our best hockey at the last weekend, that’s perfect,” concluded Konowalchuk. “I’d rather be playing the best teams and making ourselves raise to that standard, instead of playing the weakest teams and then thinking you’re feeling good.”

No matter how it shakes out, Seattle will have been tested for two straight weeks in preparation for the playoffs.

Playing their best hockey? Now that’s a position the Thunderbirds want to be in.

-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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