Monday, November 2 – 2:30pm
The T-Birds arrived back at the ShoWare Center at about 4:30am this morning. I think every trip out east should end with a game in Cranbrook. That way the final leg of the trip is not so long. Certainly not like two years ago when the team finished their swing through the Eastern Division with a game in Prince Albert. That was one long bus ride back.
Playing six games in eight days made this one of the quickest trips to the prairies that I can remember. Certainly not a lot of down time. I’m just knocking on wood I survived without getting touched up by the flu. There are 14 players though who can’t say the same thing. What a miserable trip it had to be especially for Steve Chaffin, Prab Rai and Scott Ramsay who seemed to be hit hardest by the bug, although team trainer Phil Varney called Ramsay one of the jolliest sick people he’s ever come across.
Under the conditions, the team was dealing with earning a point Sunday night against Kootenay as a positive way to finish up and earned the club its fourth point on the swing.
If not for the flu you have to wonder how much better the T-Birds might have fared. In the game they were the healthiest for, the first game in Calgary, they gave the Hitmen all they could handle before losing, 2-1. They probably should have earned the win rather than settle for the shootout loss in Red Deer but it got them their first road point of the season. The flu reared its ugly head in the 7-1 loss to Edmonton, but the team bounced back with a gritty 4-3 win at Lethbridge. I’m not sure even a healthy Thunderbirds team could have altered the results in Medicine Hat. The Tigers were really focused and intent on winning that game. Then road weary and flu ridden the team pushed the Ice as for as long as they could before dropping the game, 1-0, in overtime. It was a winnable game, especially when you have three 5-on-3 power play chances, but again under the circumstances you’re happy with the point.
And I’ll close out the coverage of the Central Division swing with this; still no update on the whereabouts of Turner Stevenson’s phone lost inside the bus on last season’s trip.
Sunday, November 1 – Noon
Not too eventful of a night on the drive from Medicine Hat to Cranbrook, unless you count the very large elk we encountered just east of Fernie, B.C. If bus slaloming through elk was an event at the upcoming Vancouver Winter Olympics then T-Birds bus driver Eli Johnson would be a shoo in for the gold medal.
Three large bull elk had wandered onto the highway in the darkness of the early morning. Now we’re talking a two-lane highway not your four-lane interstate so there’s not much room to maneuver a bus when you’re traveling at about 65 mph. But like Phil Mahre skiing down a mountain side, Eli swooshed back and forth through the large beasts, safely negotiating the hazards. The last one was close as the elk threw a head fake on Eli, changing direction and heading back the other way across the road. As Rob Sumner said, with thousand of acres of wilderness why do these animals hang out along the side of the road? Apparently the grass is greener on the other side.
T-Birds GM Russ Farwell, who was 40 minutes ahead of the bus in his car, apparently had a similar elk experience.
Not much to comment on in regards to the loss in Medicine Hat. 11-2 pretty much tells the story. The one shining moment though was Connor Sanvido registering his first WHL goal. Considering he wasn’t with the team when the trip began and was only here because players were sidelined by the flu, that’s a pretty accomplishment for the young 16-year-old.
The other listed player who joined the team on the trip to fill in for the ill players, defenseman Zach Walker, appears to be okay after taking a nasty hit along the boards. Zach won’t play tonight in Cranbrook, in fact he’s already headed back to Saskatchewan.
Chance Lund should be back in the lineup tonight and there is a chance Steve Chaffin could return as well but it doesn’t appear that Sena Acolatse or Prab Rai will play. The good news is that no other players appear to have come down with flu symptoms.
Saturday, October 31 – 11am
Well deserved and well earned win by the T-Birds in Lethbridge last night. Still, no time to celebrate as they are back in Medicine Hat for tonight’s battle with the Tigers. Medicine Hat has been on the losing end of their last three games but like Seattle was missing some key cogs from their lineup. They’ve got some of those players back for tonight’s game. Last night in Red Deer the Tigers lost to the Rebels, 4-2, but dominated the third period, outshooting Red Deer 17-2. By the accounts in the local paper they are targeting this game tonight as the one to get them back in the win column.
Even with seven regular players out of the lineup last night (and some of the same players will miss tonight’s game as well) the T-Birds continue to be solid on the penalty kill. More impressive were the two power-play goals scored. Those second period goal were the difference in the game.
T-Birds celebrate after defeating the Hurricanes
The unsung hero of last night’s game was Brad Haber. Haber has seen little ice time recently but came through last night with an assist and the game winning goal. He saw time as both a forward and back on defense against the Hurricanes and was solid on every shift. He’s shown he can be a very versatile player.
Good work done by Connor Sanvido and Zach Walker as they gave the T-birds solid shifts. They remain with the team through the rest of the road trip.
Jon Parker was the first star in the building and well he should have been with a goal and two assists, but it is the goal he didn’t score that will have him kicking himself. He made some of the slickest moves I’ve seen from a T-Bird since Brooks Laich as he cut through the Lethbridge defense and deked the goalie out of his skates only to miss the wide open net. Oh what a highlight goal that could have been.
One of the strangest displays at any arena in the WHL has to be the Running Man at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge. It’s a mannequin in full hockey gear, including skates, running on a working treadmill. The legs are actually moving on the tread! It’s located at the open end of the arena, behind the goal the T-Birds shot at twice. I’m not sure what they are advertising; a sports equipment store? A gym? A mannequin factory? An Arnold Schwarzenegger movie? What ever it is, that has to be one of the fittest mannequins around because he’s been running for years.
The Lethbridge Running Man
Definitely no rest for the weary. After tonight’s game in Medicine Hat the Thunderbirds bus five hours west to Cranbrook, B.C., for Sunday evening’s game against the Kootenay Ice. Estimated time of arrival in Cranbrook is between 3 and 4 am.
Friday, October 30 – 11am