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Thunderbirds rout Pats 6-1 to even series at 2-2

Turner Ottenbreit fights for the puck during Seattle's 6-1 rout in Game 4 on Wednesday (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – Now that’s the way you bounce back from a loss.

The Thunderbirds struck for six unanswered goals on Wednesday night to rout the Regina Pats on the way to an important 6-1 win in Game 4 of the WHL Championship Series.

Six different Seattle players scored as the T-Birds peppered the Pats and eventually chased goalie Tyler Brown, who had stymied them the night before in Game 3.

“That’s a pivotal game in the series,” Keegan Kolesar said. “You don’t want to be down 3-1 in the series. Now that we tied it up, we’re just looking forward to the next one.”

The Thunderbirds fell behind early in the first period after a Sam Steel power-play goal but didn’t falter and would end up exploding for three quick goals in the opening frame. A night after a frustrating loss, Seattle didn’t let the early deficit affect their game plan.

“That was really good,” Scott Eansor said. “I think our team did a pretty good job of staying even keel and not hanging our heads. At the same time, not getting too up when we had a lead.”

Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk praised Eansor’s line, which was matched up all night with Steel’s high-powered line for most of the night. Playing alongside Sami Moilanen and Nolan Volcan, the three combined for two goals and a plus-six goal differential.

“He’s a great player and that line works really well together,” Eansor said about playing Steel. “I thought the key was just our line playing our game and it wasn’t perfect but I felt we took a step in the right direction.”

Regina got on the board early in the first period on a power play when Steel walked the puck off the half boards and whistled a wrist shot past goalie Carl Stankowski.

The Thunderbirds would respond.

“There was a lot of hockey left and you can’t get discouraged,” Ryan Gropp said. “I thought we stuck to our game plan the entire game.”

In Game 3, they generated a ton of chances but were either stopped cold by Brown or missed the net completely. That wasn’t the case on Wednesday.

Seattle responded to the Steel goal with two goals in 19 seconds. It started on the power play, when Gropp banged home his first goal of the series after getting a nice pass from Kolesar. On the next shift, Brown left the puck behind his net for one of his defensemen but Moilanen was there. He stole the puck and slid it in the Regina net on a wrap around.

“It’s a good rebound,” Konowalchuk said. “They score that first goal and we get a couple of quick ones like that. Sami on the forecheck, he had a strong game and it’s good to see him get rewarded.”

The Thunderbirds weren’t done with their first-period scoring.

With under three minutes left in the period, Eansor took a shot that didn’t get through but got to Nolan Volcan who scored to make it 3-1.

Seattle didn’t let up in the second period and struck three more times.

Jarret Tyszka found a way to get a puck past Brown from the slot for his second goal of the postseason. Alexander True followed by deftly tipping an Ethan Bear point shot past Brown for his team-leading 11th playoff goal. Kolesar rounded out the scoring with a goal late in the period to give Seattle its 6-1 lead.

That also marked the end of the night for Brown, who stopped 18 of 24 shots. He was replaced by Jordan Hollett to start the third period.

Kolesar had a big game, adding two assists to his total. He had a slow start to the series but was a force for the Thunderbirds on Wednesday.

“Just going more to the net, playing a heavier game,” Kolesar said of his night. “I thought our line showed up more tonight than other nights.”

Seattle will host a pivotal Game 5 on Friday night and both teams know that they will be headed back to Regina for a Sunday afternoon Game 6. Seattle didn’t want to go into Friday in an elimination game and now will have a chance to put Regina on the ropes with a win.

For the Pats, they have to rebound quickly after suffering their worst defeat of the season.

“It’s not very nice when you read in the paper and online that you lost 6-1, but the result is the same as 2-1,” Regina head coach John Paddock said after the game. “So just as they got the game out of their head last night from losing, we’ll deal with it.”

Game 5 is Friday night at the ShoWare Center, with a 7:35 faceoff.

Notes

• Game 4’s at home have been good to Seattle of late. Last season, they routed the Brandon Wheat Kings in Game 4 by a similar 6-1 score. That win staved off elimination for Seattle for one more night as they would eventually lose the series in Game 5.

• The Pats were 1-for-3 on the power play and continue to find success. After four games, they are 6-for-17 with the man advantage. Seattle was 2-for-7 on the night.

• Mathew Barzal added an assist on Wednesday to extend his postseason point streak to 18 straight, going back to last season.

• In the QMJHL, the Saint John Sea Dogs won their championship series on Wednesday night to be the first team to advance to the Memorial Cup in Windsor, Ontario.