EVERETT – Facing a desperate Everett Silvertips club, the Thunderbirds used two quick strikes to snatch the momentum Saturday night and take a commanding lead in the series.
Down a goal in the second period and with the Silvertips buzzing, the Thunderbirds scored two goals in 18 seconds to take the lead and turn the game around. They would use the momentum swing to go onto a 4-3 win at the Xfinity Arena to take a 2-0 lead in the second round, best-of-seven series.
The Silvertips came out strong and seemed to be in control heading into the second period but Seattle persevered, despite playing from behind for the first time all post season.
“I don’t think you can plan on leading the entire way so you’re going to have to battle,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “There were times we could have had better composure but we found a way and battled back.”
The turnaround started with a goal from a fourth line player in Zack Andrusiak. He took a pass from Luke Ormsby and beat Everett goalie Carter Hart clean with a shot off the wing. It was his first goal of the playoffs and the 15th Thunderbirds player to find the net in the first six games of the playoffs.
Seattle’s depth was once again key as the entire roster continues to contribute.
“He’s got a good shot,” Konowalchuk said of Andrusiak. “We see it every day in practice. We’ve seen the odd time he can get it off there, it was good to see him chip in like that.”
That goal tied the game at two and then Sami Moilanen would put the Thunderbirds ahead for good seconds later when he got a pass from Nolan Volcan and beat Hart with a nice misdirection shot.
Volcan, along with Moilanen and Scott Easnor had a strong game. Eansor scored a goal and the trio caused a number of Everett turnovers which made life tough on its defense.
“I think the key tonight was Volcan,” Eansor said. “He had an excellent game. He started the pace on the first shift and started the first goal, he gave that perfect pass to Sami. I think he played an excellent game and I love having him on my line.”
Seattle added to the lead later in the second period when Ethan Bear blasted a slap shot from the point on a Thunderbird power play. Seattle ended the evening 1-for-3 with the man advantage and that one goal turned out to be a big one.
As they did in Game 1, Seattle scored first again on Saturday night. Eansor stole a loose puck in the Everett zone after a Silvertip turnover and fired a wrist shot that Hart couldn’t stop.
Before the dust could settle from that goal however, Everett tied it up after Bryce Kindopp put back a rebound after a Carl Stankowski save.
The Silvertips took the lead in a busy first period when Connor Dewar walked the puck out from the corner and beat Stankowski with a back-handed, top shelf shot. It would make it 2-1 Everett and was the first time that Seattle had trailed a game in the playoffs.
“We told each other to stay composed,” Bear said about being behind. “Keep going and we’re going to get our chances and get our shots. We’re a pretty veteran team and we understand that now.”
Stankowski ended the night with 20 saves and despite allowing the two, first period goals, never looked rattled.
“He’s a really calm guy,” Bear said. “Once he got scored on he didn’t lose any emotion and focused up right away. It’s nice to see from a young goalie like that, he bounced up and made the next save.”
Everett came out flying in the second period but the Thunderbirds would strike quickly, and often, to take control of the game back with the Andrusiak and Moilanen scores.
Everett managed to cut the lead in the third period on a Eetu Tuulola marker that he was able to slide under a diving Stankowski.
With the lead only at one, there were a few anxious moments for Seattle but Stankowski made a big pad save on Connor Dewar with about five minutes to go and the T-Birds held off the late, extra-skater push by the Silvertips.
The series now shifts back to the ShoWare Center and the Thunderbirds have to be feeling confident. They won two games in a tough building and will host a Silvertips squad that did not win a game at Seattle during the regular season.
The Thunderbirds will have the home crowd on their side Tuesday night for Game 3 but for moments in Game 2, Xfinity Arena sounded like a Seattle home game due to the large number of T-Birds fans in the building.
“Its awesome hearing the fan support,” Eansor said. “I’m not going to lie, I definitely heard the fans a few times today and it makes you feel good.”
• Seattle killed off all three Everett power plays and have killed off 23 of the 24 power plays they have faced so far in six playoff games.
• Ryan Gropp and Rylan Toth were again scratches for Seattle on Saturday night.
• The T-Birds have the top power-play in the WHL playoffs after six games. Their 1-for-3 on Saturday night put them at 40-percent.
• Not only has Seattle picked up goals from 15 different players, but there are 18 players on the roster who have recorded at least one point.