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WHL US Division - Seattle Thunderbirds notebook

New contributor Tom George writes his first notebook on the Seattle Thunderbirds. This is the first entry of our improved coverage of Seattle's own WHL franchise.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This was written a week ago, but not published due to the editor's head being stuck up a certain orifice. Please welcome our new contributor, Tom George, who will help us correct one of our big problems in our first season of coverage - the woeful lack of articles about the Seattle Thunderbirds.

After not playing a game during the week (along with most everyone else in the WHL), the Thunderbirds had a taxing three games in three nights weekend with two of those games being on the road. When it was all said and done, the T-Birds closed the week with a 1-2-0-0 record and their team captain with his arm in a sling. Here's how it went...

Friday, January 29, 2016 at Spokane

The Thunderbirds started this game off decently enough. Outshooting the Chiefs 11-8 in the opening stanza, Mathew Barzal scored his 14th goal of the season at the 4:03 mark of the first period to give Seattle the early lead. Then 33 seconds into the second period, Scott Eansor netted a short-handed goal to give the T-Birds a 2-0 lead. After that, it was mostly all Spokane. Keanu Yamamoto had 3 primary assists (including what would prove to be the game winner by Presten Kopeck at the 8:42 mark of the third period) which led to a 5-4 Chiefs win. Seattle's Keegan Kolesar earned the Third Star of the game with his "Gordie Howe Hat Trick."

Saturday, January 30, 2016 at Everett

The Xfinity Arena has been a house of horrors for the Thunderbirds so far this season. Through their first 2 games in Everett, Seattle had scored exactly one goal. They doubled that number at the 15:00 mark of the second period on Saturday night when Ryan Gropp scored his 2third goal of the year that tied the score at 1-1. Seattle actually had themselves a prime opportunity to win the game in this one when Everett's leading scorer, Remi Laurencelle, slammed Seattle defenseman Jerret Smith into the boards from behind, earning himself a 5:00 major penalty and a game misconduct. However, in the ensuing scrum, Seattle's dynamic offensive force, Mathew Barzal, also took a 2:00 minor for roughing. Still, the Silvertips were still able to thwart the Thunderbirds PP and about three minutes after it had ended, Everett's Graham Millar potted a goal that sealed a 2-1 Silvertips win. Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Bow took home the game's Second Star, stopping 21 of the 23 shots ripped his way.

Sunday, January 31, 2016 vs Kelowna

So what's a great gift for a team that just lost 2 games in 2 nights against tough division rivals? How about a home date with the #1 rated team in the WHL and #6 overall in the CHL, Kelowna Rockets. We'll also give the Thunderbirds #1 goalie the night off and start the backup. Sounds like a rough night would be in store for the Thunderbirds, right? Well, it turned out that backup goalie Logan Flodell was the gift that kept on giving for Seattle on Sunday night. The 18 year old net minder stopped every single Rockets shot on the night, ending with 23 saves total. Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer also had an extremely impressive night, stopping 41 of the 43 shots the Thunderbirds hurled his way. However, the two he let in (Ryan Gropp's 24th of the year in the first period and Bryan Allbee's 6th of the season in the second) got the job done for Seattle as they salvaged this weekend a bit with a solid 2-0 win.

Thunderbirds Three Stars of the Week

1. Ryan Gropp. The Rangers second round pick in the 2015 draft scored a goal in all three games this weekend.

2. Logan Flodell. With his 23 save shutout on Sunday night, he helped stop the bleeding at least for now.

3. Mathew Barzal. Picking up a goal and two assists over the weekend, the dynamic Islanders first round pick had himself a decent week.

Defensive Attrition

After being on the bad end of Laurencelle's illegal hit on Saturday night, team captain Jerret Smith was seen walking around the ShoWare Center Sunday evening with his arm in a sling. This along with Jarret Tyszka's still healing hand injury has left the Thunderbirds with only 5 defensemen on their roster. By hook or by crook, I'm pretty sure the T-Birds will be adding a defenseman sometime early this week to fill the void.

On Wednesday, February third they will be taking on the Kamloops Blazers. Kamloops currently holds 4th place in the B.C. Division and the 7th overall playoff spot in the Western Conference. Their leading scorer is Left Winger Collin Shirley who, as of this writing, has 28 goals and 28 assists in 49 games this season. The Thunderbirds are 2-0 against the Blazers this season. In their first meeting on October 16th, Seattle hammered the Blazers 7-2 at the ShoWare Center. Then on November 20th, Seattle squirted by with a 4-3 decision in Kamloops. Watch out for Kamloops native Ryan Gropp in this one. So far this season the NY Rangers draft pick has scored 4 goals & 1 assist against his hometown team.

On Friday, February 5, the Thunderbirds will drive south to Portland to take on their long time rivals. It's been a pretty tight series so far this year with Seattle owning a 3-2 advantage over the Winterhawks. Portland is currently 4th in the U.S. Division standings and has the 8th and final Western Conference playoff position in hand. Their leading scorer is team captain Dominic Turgeon (25-25-50). The Winterhawks have also done a pretty good job of containing Mathew Barzal this season. In the four games he's played against Portland, Barzal has only mustered one goal and one assist. Keegan Kolesar has had the most success against Portland this season, tallying 3 goals and an assist in the 5 games played.

Then on Saturday the 6th, the Thunderbirds get another crack at the team that's given them nothing but fits this season, the Everett Silvertips. Seattle is 1-4 against the Tips and 1-1 at home. The Silvertips leading scorer is Remi Laurencelle (25-22-47), but it's possible he may not play due to a possible suspension for his hit on Jarret Smith in Saturday nights game. What's probable in this one is Carter Hart getting the start between the pipes for Everett. The Silvertips sterling goalie is currently the #1 rated goaltending prospect for the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. So far Hart has stymied the Thunderbirds offense, allowing just 6 goals in 5 games with three of those goals coming in Seattle's lone win againt Everett this season on January 9.