Thunderbirds goaltender Brandon Glover: Puck stops there
Brandon Glover has made 939 saves already this season for the Seattle Thunderbirds, and he's ready to save 1,000 more if it gets his junior-hockey team to the playoffs.
Special to The Seattle Times
KENT — Brandon Glover already has stopped nearly a thousand shots in the first half of the Western Hockey League season, but the Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender can't wait to climb back in harm's way.
So far, Glover has made 939 saves — second-most in the WHL — but is ready to make a thousand more if it will get the Thunderbirds back into the playoffs.
No wonder the emphasis will be on team defense when the T-birds open the second half with two games against the Everett Silvertips, Friday in Kent and Saturday in Everett.
Those two games could well set the tenor for the rest of the season for both teams. Eight of 10 teams in the Western Conference make the playoffs, and Seattle sits seventh at 16-17-1-1 as it tries to return after being left out three consecutive seasons. Everett, which has played in the postseason in all nine of its WHL seasons, is 13-22-0-2 and tied for eighth.
Glover, a 6-foot-5, 167-pound Victoria, B.C., product, came to Seattle in a trade after playing for both Calgary and Moose Jaw.
He is well aware how many shots he has faced, but said the only other stat he pays attention to is the number of team victories.
"We gave up quite a few shots early in the year, but lately it's been much better," Glover said. "It's a collective effort. It's not just me, or the defense, but the forwards, too. It takes all six guys to take pride in not giving up scoring chances for us to be successful."
Glover knows what it takes to get to the playoffs, having been there twice in his career.
"All of us have been around teams that have had success and realize that as hard as it is to get there, that's when the intensity really goes up," Glover said. "It's not something we talk about. We talk about playing our best in the next game."
Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk has established a buoyant attitude for the second half, that this is a team on the rise. He's not talking about just making the playoffs, but about improving the team's seeding.
"I like the way we measure up against a majority of teams when we push," he said. "We've set the tone for what we want. Now we want to climb the ladder. The ultimate would be to get home ice in the first round.
"The first half was a little frustrating because we let games we could have won get away. We could easily have four or five more wins. We've shown that we can score goals and that gives us a chance to win every game."
So that brings it all back to defense and Glover if the T-birds are going to end their playoff drought.
At times, Glover has played exceptionally well. Other times, he has fallen victim to the relentless barrage of shots given up by a young defense now experienced enough not to use age as an excuse.
"Our defense is not where we'd like it to be, but we know it's going to get better," Konowalchuk said. "It has to be better if we're going to chase down the teams ahead of us. When Glover has been good, he's been really good. There have been times when he looks like he can stop anything. We definitely believe in him when he's on his game."
Glover began skating when he was a toddler and was originally a defenseman. When his team's regular goaltender got sick, Glover jumped at the chance.
"Once I put those pads on I never went back."
His father, Rod, was a goalie in Junior A, giving Brandon someone to learn from. "That gave me someone to talk to, someone who can relate to the situation I'm in," Brandon Glover said. "Things have changed, but it's the same principle. You have to stop the puck."
Glover, 20, knows the second half of the season will determine where he stops the puck next year, either as a professional or in college.
"The goal is to start my pro career," Glover said.
Konowalchuk said that kind of motivation also is true for undrafted overagers Luke Lockhart and Brendan Rouse and 2013 draft-eligible players Shea Theodore, Jerret Smith and Jared Hauf.
"Depending on what this team does, what success we have here and whether we can climb the ladder, will dictate what level or chances these guys have next year," Konowalchuk said.
"We have the personnel," he added. "It's doable."
Glover is ready to agree, a thousand more times if necessary.