Scott Eansor scores twice to lead Seattle to a 3-2 win in Game 2
KELOWNA, British Columbia – Thunderbirds center Scott Eansor continues to find a way to score in the playoffs.
Late in a tied third period of Game 2 Saturday night with Kelowna, Rockets goalie Michael Herringer stopped a dump-in at the side of his net. He didn’t see Eansor, who had beaten two Kelowna defensemen, racing into the zone and casually attempted to play the puck into the corner. Eansor was there, however, and swung his stick at the puck and knocked it in to give Seattle a 3-2 win.
“We just were going in on the forecheck,” Eansor said. “I just whacked at the puck and his stick. I don’t know what it hit or what happened, but it just happened to bounce off me and go in.”
The goal turned out to be the game-winner as Seattle won Game 2 to take a commanding lead in its second-round series with the Rockets.
It was Eansor’s second goal of the night and third of the Western Conference Championship.
“What a game from Scotty Eansor,” head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “That line was flying all over the place, both ends of the ice. Really good game by him.”
It was also Eansor who gave Seattle a 2-0 lead in the first period when he snapped a loose puck past Herringer after Donovan Neuls’ attempted wrap-around shot. While his line was strong again in Game 2, Eansor continues to play his best hockey at the biggest moments.
In his 26 WHL playoff games, he has 16 goals and 19 points, totals that are above his regular-season scoring rates.
“He works hard,” Konowalchuk said of Eansor. “He’s speedy and you just keep playing out and sometimes you get a bounce. We got a fortunate bounce there and we’re going to take it.”
Eansor takes a simple approach to why he has had success in the postseason.
“Playoffs are a lot of fun,” he said. “Big games is where hockey is at its best … I feel like its not just me, it’s everyone.”
It was everyone for Seattle on Saturday night.
Mathew Barzal scored another power-play goal and Landon Bow was strong in net, making 28 saves. The big goalie was at his best in the third period when the Rockets were pushing to get the go-ahead goal themselves.
For the 20-year-old Bow, who only had four playoff games of experience coming into the season, he’s enjoying the deep run that he and the T-Birds are on now.
“Sometimes I wake up and I’m like ‘Wow, this has gone pretty far,'” Bow said. “I’m used to being home at this time of the year. It’s way more fun to be playing hockey than starting my workouts.”
Seattle started Game 2 in a similar fashion as it did Game 1 – by scoring goals quickly.
Barzal’s power-play goal came in the first period when the defense backed off of him, allowing him to take a shot for his second goal of the series. On Friday, Eansor followed a Barzal goal with one of his own 36 seconds later. Saturday night, it took him 33 seconds.
Neuls had the puck deep and attempted a wrap-around shot but lost control of the puck. It slid to Eansor in the slot and he snapped a quick shot for his sixth goal of the playoffs.
The Rockets got one back before the first period ended. Tanner Wishnowski raced around the Seattle net and flung a shot at Bow. He made the save but the rebound was potted by Cole Linaker.
The Rockets took advantage of the momentum they gained by that and were able to tie the game on a nice goal by Rourke Chartier in the second period. Tomas Soustal won a battle on the boards and got the puck to Chartier alone in front. He waited Bow out, got the goalie down and lifted a back-hander over him. It was Chartier’s second of the series and ignited the 6,003 in attendance.
In the third period, the Rockets pushed Seattle hard and created the majority of the scoring chances. Bow kept Seattle in it long enough for Eansor to get the game-winner.
Saturday night saw another loud and sizable contingent of Seattle fans who made the long journey north to Kelowna. They chanted, cheered and helped inspire the team on the ice.
“It’s so cool,” Bow said of the fans. “Especially with the long distance it is. It wasn’t like Everett, where its a quick afternoon jump up. They had to put in effort to come up and it really helps motivate the team.”
Seattle now heads home with a two-game lead and can wrap up the series with a couple of wins on home ice. The T-Birds aren’t looking that far ahead, however, as they know that the Rockets have a lot of talent.
“We’re going to spend time making sure we’re getting ready for next game,” Konowalchuk said. “They’ll be ready to go. We need to make sure we’re ready to go.”
Game 3 will be Tuesday night at the ShoWare Center
• Cavin Leth was a scratch on Saturday after getting injured in Game 1. Kelowna’s Rodney Southam was suspended by the league for the hit and did not play. It still has not been determined how long of a suspension he will face and his availability for Game 3 is unclear.
• Seattle has won the first two games of a playoff series in Kelowna before. In 2005, the T-Birds won the first two games on the road but eventually lost in seven as every team won on the road. In 2013, the T-Birds surprised Kelowna by winning twice at Prospera Place in overtime before again eventually losing in seven games.
• Herringer has to feel bad about the last goal, but he played a strong game for the Rockets on Saturday. He made 24 saves, which included several big ones that kept the game close.
• In the Eastern Conference Championship series, the Brandon Wheat Kings beat the Red Deer Rebels 6-4 Saturday night to take a 2-0 lead.
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.