The CHL’s Memorial Cup tournament is underway in Windsor and New York Islanders first round draft pick Mathew Barzal’s Seattle Thunderbirds are hanging on by a thread.
After dominating their way through the WHL playoffs, New York Islanders first round and fifteenth overall pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft Mathew Barzal and his Seattle Thunderbirds are already fighting for their place in the tournament.
The tournament is the best of the WHL, OHL, QMJHL and the host team. After two games against the host Windsor Spitfires and the OHL champions led by Arizona Coyotes prospect Dylan Strome, the T-Birds are down two games with an unflattering -8 goal differential.
Tonight they take on the QMJHL champions Saint John Sea Dogs in a do or die game. The loser would be out of the tournament, while the winner would go on to the semi-final game against the tournament’s second-ranked team.
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Easy Road Turned Difficult
Through the WHL playoffs, Mathew Barzal and his Thunderbirds dominated. Losing just four games in their four-round journey to the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Their biggest loss was in the second round when they lost 4-2 to the Kelowna Rockets. In their first game of the Memorial Cup, they lost 4-2 to the Erie Otters followed by a 7-1 trouncing by the Windsor Spitfires the next day.
The back-to-back losses are the teams first since December 30th, 2016. Now they go up against a Sea Dogs team that’s looking to atone for their truly embarrassing 12-5 loss to the Erie Otters yesterday. A loss that had the younger Strome brother put up seven points.
We’ll see how Mathew Barzal responds in this important game. Before the game his coach, Steve Konowalchuck was asked what he wants to see from his team today:
"“It’s a character game a little bit. Coming off adversity you want to see who steps up after some adversity. […] I want to see the way guys respond and show their character and what they’re all about.”"
How Barzal deals with the importance of this game will be scrutinized by the Islanders brass. Remember that last season Barzal was scratched and subsequently sent back to his WHL outfit after a mental lapse in a big regular season game against the Capitals.
The Islanders want to see that Barzal got the message after sending him down last season. A win today would put the Thunderbirds into the Memorial Cup playoffs, while a loss would send them home earlier than they would have liked. Barzal is already the team’s top point producer. But he’ll have to put this team on his back at least once more.