Ethan Bear quietly having a great playoff run for Thunderbirds
The list of heroes from the Seattle Thunderbirds thrilling Game 4 double-overtime win is long.
Matthew Wedman with the game-winning goal is up there, as is Keegan Kolesar, who tied the game with just under three ticks left on the clock, and of course Mathew Barzal, who has been a star all year. As it’s been all postseason and regular season, it’s taken the entire team.
But one of the biggest stars from Wednesday night was Ethan Bear.
Bear is quiet off the ice but on the ice he’s having a spectacular playoff run. He scored twice in Game 4 and it was his last second shot that found its way to Kolesar’s stick. In Game 3 he scored the game-winning goal in the third period and he is second on the club in playoff-scoring with 15 points.
After Wednesday’s exciting win he was all smiles, sporting a freshly minted Western Conference Champions t-shirt and had a pretty simple explanation for his great game.
“I happened to get a few lucky shots,” the defenseman said of his two-goal, three-point performance.
You don’t need to spend too much time speaking with Bear to realize that humility is par for the course. Despite his overwhelming credentials to do so, he rarely will praise his own play and defers credit to his teammates and coaches instead.
The 18-year-old native of Ochapowace, Saskatchewan is having himself a pretty great 12-month stretch.
It started this past June when the Edmonton Oilers selected him in the fifth round of the 2016 NHL Draft. That led to summer and fall training camps with the NHL club before returning to Seattle. With the T-Birds he posted career highs in goals with 19, assists with 45 and points with 64.
Now he’s going to be playing for the WHL Championship.
“The season and the whole year just keeps getting better and better,” Bear said. “I’ll keep working for myself you know, I’m not trying to get too ahead of myself. I’m just going to keep working and stay humble.”
Despite being so far away, Bear gets a great deal of support from his family. Go to any Thunderbirds game, whether in the ShoWare Center or on the road and you’ll often find a contingent of Bears in the stands. They’re easy to spot as almost all of them wear a number 25 Seattle jersey with ‘Bear’ on the back of it.
For Ethan, having that kind of support from home is invaluable.
“It’s huge,” he said. “It makes you feel special and I like it, I enjoy it. But at the same time I don’t let it be a distraction. The main thing for me is limiting outside distractions. My family really supports me well.”
The Bear group in town for Game 4 included his mother, older brother and his two sisters. He also had aunts and uncles, and cousins in the stands, so many that he wasn’t sure exactly who all had made the trip.
Bear and his teammates don’t care who they face in the WHL Final but if ends up being the Brandon Wheat Kings you can bet there will be even more Bears spotted in the stands. Brandon isn’t too far from his hometown and when Seattle made their trip back east last season, he had a pretty sizeable group of family there to see him play.
Bear is excited about the chance to play for the championship in front of them this time.
“That’d be amazing,” he said. “I’ve never had the support I’ve had and it’s going to be really exciting and emotional.”
Follow Andy Eide on Twitter @andyeide.