Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thunderbirds pass big test

From The Daily News of Thursday, Jan. 24, 2008 . . .

One-third of the players on the Seattle Thunderbirds’ roster spent Wednesday
morning writing exams.
Then they flew to Kamloops and passed the test.
The Thunderbirds scored the WHL game’s last two goals, the final one into an
empty net, as they beat the Kamloops Blazers 4-2 in front of an announced
crowd of 4,261 fans in the chilly confines of Interior Savings Centre.
A victory would have lifted Kamloops into a tie with Seattle for sixth place
in the Western Conference. Instead, the Blazers remain eighth, four points
out of sixth. They are one point behind the seventh-place Chilliwack Bruins
with the teams scheduled to go home-and-home this weekend.
While their teammates rode the bus to Kamloops, Seattle goaltender
Jacob DeSerres, defencemen Sena Acolatse and Steve Chaffin, and forwards
Jeremy Boyer, Brenden Dillon, Brenden Silvester and Charles Wells wrote
exams and then caught a plane to Kamloops.
Except that a funny thing happened on the way here . . .
“Our flight to Kamloops . . . we left at 1:10 p.m., and flew three-quarters
of the way here,” offered Seattle defenceman Steve Chaffin, a 16-year-old
from Calgary who played particularly well, “and we had to go all the way
back to Seattle because of a mechanical problem with the plane.
“They couldn’t fix it here in Kamloops so they had to go back to Seattle and
we swapped planes. We got here about 5:20 . . . it was pretty interesting.”
Seattle right-winger Bud Holloway, who rode the bus, admitted there was
concern as game time drew closer.
“We had just the older guys here and there were only about 14 of us in the
room,” he said. “We were hoping they were showing up pretty quick.”
They showed up and the Thunderbirds answered the bell.
“That was the challenge for our team, and full marks to the guys for
answering the challenge,” Seattle head coach Rob Sumner said. “We had a bit
of an unusual day. Obviously it’s a school league, so the exams are a
“They were fully focused students the first half of the day and fully
focused hockey players the second half, and credit to our guys for being
able to do that.”
The Blazers, meanwhile, appeared anything but focused as they had their
five-game home-ice winning streak snapped.
“Our guys weren’t playing the same way,” Kamloops head coach Greg Hawgood
said, pointing out that his club isn’t talented enough to have 10 players
following the game plan while the other 10 freelance.
“We need 23 guys excited and ready to play,” Hawgood said.
Kamloops — AGAIN! — surrendered the game’s first goal, the 34th time that
has happened in 49 games and that set the table for this one.
The Thunderbirds dominated a scoreless first period, outshooting the
homeboys 11-8 and outchancing them, thanks primarily to four power plays.
Most of the opening 20 minutes was played in the Kamloops zone and only some
glittering play by goaltender Justin Leclerc and a couple of goal posts kept
Seattle off the scoreboard.
Still, the Blazers were right in this one until early in the third period.
They pulled even, at 2-2, on left-winger Ivan Rohac’s second goal of the
game at 1:55 of the final period. But Seattle left-winger Greg Scott got
that one back just 25 seconds later and the Blazers couldn’t equalize again.
Seattle left-winger Prab Rai put it away with an empty-netter at 19:13.
Defenceman Thomas Hickey, with the game’s first goal, and right-winger Dave
Richard, at 17:52 of the second period, had the other goals.
“We played fairly well,” Holloway said. “We gave them a couple of turnovers
we’d like to have back but . . .”
Seattle also got a solid game from Finnish goaltender Riku Helenius, who
finished with 24 saves, nine fewer than Leclerc made as he continued his
terrific play.
“That’s what you try to do every night is just give your team a chance,”
Leclerc said.
On this night, he did exactly that.
JUST NOTES: Referee Pat Smith gave the Blazers eight of 12 minors, one of
two majors and the lone misconduct. . . . Seattle was 1-for-7 on the power
play; the Blazers were 0-for-3. . . . Seattle LW Jan Eberle took the warmup
but didn’t play due to a concussion. He has been cleared to play but due to
the medical protocol now used for concussions had to sit this one out. He’ll
play Friday in Spokane. . . . Greg (Spike) Wallace, who has been with the
Blazers forever, was honoured in the second intermission on the occasion of
his 50th birthday. . . . The Thunderbirds spent the night here and headed
south this morning, stopping in Osoyoos for a skate. They will meet the
Chiefs in Spokane on Friday.

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