Game day: @ Tri-City 9/26

Seattle makes their first trip across the Cascades this season to take on the Tri-City Americans at Toyota Center tonight. The Thunderbirds are looking to rebound from Saturday’s loss in their home opener to Everett. Seattle needs to show up at the start of the game and play hard for all 60 minutes. Let’s take a look at tonight in these game day news and notes.

Seattle Thunderbirds @ Tri-City Americans
9/26/14 705pm
Toyota Center
Radio: The Fan 1090AM (Seattle) News Talk 870AM (Tri-City/Pasco) 101.9FM (In-Arena)

Last game
Seattle opened their home schedule last Saturday vs the Everett Silvertips. In front of 5342 at ShoWare Center, the TBirds let the Tips take a very early lead. Everett scored 113 seconds in and never looked back. Seattle had no shortage of chances to tie the game but just couldn’t convert. The Thunderbirds allowed only 8 shots over the last 40 minutes while taking 15 of their own so there were certainly opportunities. They’ll need a similar defensive effort tonight against a team and goalie who may be stingy with the goals.

The most important American is Canadian
The Americans got a little better this week when they got G Eric Comrie returned to them from Winnipeg Jets camp. Comrie is arguably the best goalie in the Western Conference(perhaps the WHL) and, for the most part, as he goes so go the Ams. Getting him back and early is a big boost to the Americans lineup and solidifies their roster. However, his backup is no slouch. From nearby Black Diamond, G Evan Sarthou is a bright spot in Americans and USA goaltending. He made the most of his opportunity last Saturday night as he got his first WHL shutout as TC beat Prince George 7-0.

Comings and goings
Seattle is still a little short going into their one game this weekend. D Evan Wardley is still with Montreal, D Shea Theodore is injured (out 4-6 weeks) and F Sam Mckechnie was traded to Saskatoon yesterday. F Justin Hickman is still listed day-to-day with an upper body injury and F Calvin Spencer is still day-to-day with illness.

With yesterday’s trade of Mckechnie, the TBirds are down to having 4 20-year old players, one over the limit. It feels like Seattle won’t make a move until the status of Wardley is decided. He could be returned by Montreal at any time or he could end up signing in the AHL. Once that is decided, either way, Seattle will need to get down to 3 overagers by October 15th.

Keep it up
Being shutout in their last game, no Seattle players come into tonight with a scoring streak for this season. F Mathew Barzal has scored in the last 3 games played in Kennewick, getting a goal and 2 assists in those 3 games.

Seattle’s last regular season game at the Toyota Center was game #72 of last year. The 6-1 victory for the Birds solidified their spot as the 4th seed going into the playoffs last season. Taran Kozun got the win that night, stopping 18 out of 19 shots. In 3 career games in Kennewick, with both the Kamloops Blazers and the TBirds, Kozun is 2-1 and has given up 1 goal in each of the 3 games. Those are some great numbers in a rink where Seattle has had trouble winning over the years.

A little history lesson
Seattle was 7-3 versus Tri-City last season but only 2-3 in Eastern Washington. A win tonight may keep whom some consider to be a darkhorse in the US Division at bay.

Since the 2000-01 season, the Thunderbirds are 56-73-6(ties) overall vs the Americans. On the road against Tri-City since that same season, Seattle is 24-44.

On December 6, 2012, Seattle won at the Toyota Center 8-4 and in the process broke a 22-game losing streak on the road against Tri-City. Since that streak ended, including that game, the TBirds are 4-5 in Kennewick.

Stat leaders

F Ryan Gropp 2 0 2
F Keegan Kolesar 1 1 2
F Mathew Barzal 0 2 2

F Ryan Gropp 2

F Mathew Barzal 2

F Kaden Elder 15
(WHL site shows Elder with only 5 PIM. However, he received a game misconduct in the game vs Portland after his fight and those are usually counted as 10-minute penalties. For some reason the WHL game sheet shows that but the stats section doesn’t reflect that.)

Around the division
Only 1 division game has been played since last Saturday and that was the 7-0 TC win over PG last Sunday.

Tonight, the Portland Winterhawks are the only other US Division team in action tonight. They are in Vancouver to take on the Giants in the first rematch of their first round playoff series from last year.

Seattle is off the rest of the weekend but the other division teams will all be in action. Everett is in Portland Saturday and Sunday for the rare back-to-back away games against one team. Tri-City heads to Spokane tomorrow for the Chiefs home opener, the only action on the weekend for both teams.

Up next
As mentioned, this is the only game for the TBirds in the middle of a 12-day stretch of days off. Their reward at the end of that is another trip to the Moda Center next Friday against the Winterhawks.

Next home action for Seattle is next Saturday night against perennial playoff foil, the Kelowna Rockets.