Late Ethan Bear goal powers T-Birds past Rockets in Game 1
Apr 21, 2017, 11:54 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2017, 1:33 am
KENT – The Thunderbirds saved some of their best work Friday night for the waning seconds.
Seattle scored goals late in both the second and third periods to escape Game 1 of its Western Conference Finals series with the Kelowna Rockets. An Ethan Bear slapper on the power play with just 11 seconds left in the game powered the Thunderbirds to a 5-4 victory.
“It’s not over until the buzzer goes off so you just have to keep playing,” Bear said. “You just have to keep going.”
The play started with defenseman Austin Strand getting the puck and sliding it across the blue line to Bear who unloaded his patented slapshot past Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer.
“I don’t remember how it got to Strand but once he passed it I guess I just put it top shelf,” the Edmonton Oilers prospect said. “I don’t remember how much I got on it, I just remember shooting it and seeing the goal light go on.”
It was Alexander True’s second period goal with just two seconds on the clock that tied the game at two for Seattle. That came at the end of a period where Seattle was on its heels as the Rockets outshot the Thunderbirds 15-7.
Kelowna scored early in the second period to take a 2-1 lead and pushed the pace.
“There’s going to be momentum swings at times and you have to weather that and I thought we did that,” Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “I thought the third period was our best period. I thought we were playing a little bit more to how we want to play.”
The Thunderbirds had to overcome seven Kelowna power plays and a couple of official video reviews but in the end, found a way to win.
“There were definitely some interesting things that happened out there today,” Konowalchuk said.
The game had a strange start to it. After nine minutes of physical hockey the refs stopped play on two separate occasions to review potential goals.
First, Kelowna’s Reid Gardiner thought he scored but the review showed that the puck hit a player in front of the net and never went in.
A minute later, Ryan Gropp deflected a Jarret Tyszka shot past Michael Herringer for the first goal of the game. That goal went through quite a lengthy review process before finally being ruled a good goal. It would be Gropp’s second of the post season and the ninth straight time that Seattle scored first in a playoff game.
The Rockets would even things up with just six seconds left in the period when Cole Lind deflected a shot from Gardiner in the slot. Kelowna took that momentum into the second period when Gardiner would score from in close, just over a minute into the period to give the Rockets a 2-1 lead.
However, much like the Rockets at the end of the first period, Seattle would score just before the horn sounded. Herringer made an initial save on a shot by Moilanen but True was there to bang it home as bodies were crashing into the net.
As the Rockets did, the Thunderbirds used the momentum off the late marker to their advantage.
Turner Ottenbreit jumped into a rush 52 seconds into the third period and perfectly deflected a Gropp pass over Herringer’s shoulder to give Seattle the lead back at 3-2.
“I saw him going with a full head of steam there and was hoping that he would tip it exactly as he did,” Gropp said.
Gropp would end the night with a goal and an assist but had to earn it. Kelowna’s line of Tomas Soustal, Dillon Dube and Carson Twarynski made life difficult on Gropp and his linemates for long stretches of the night.
But in the end, Gropp, Keegan Kolesar and Mathew Barzal all found a way to get involved.
“The first couple of periods they were clogging the neutral zone pretty good,” Gropp said. “Kind of forced us to chip it behind them and make those simple plays.”
With a one-goal lead again, the T-Birds would add on shortly after the Ottenbreit marker. Herringer would stop a Nolan Volcan shot but Moilanen was there to bang home a rebound to make it 4-2. The Finnish import would end the night with a goal and two assists.
The Rockets wouldn’t cave however and cashed in a second power play goal when Soustal knocked home a rebound past Carl Stankowski to make it 4-3. They would then tie the game up on another power-play conversion by Calvin Thurkauf.
Seattle went on only its second power play with exactly two minutes left in the game when Dillon Dube shot the puck over the glass for a delay of game call. That’s when Bear would step up and give Seattle a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
“There were some things we need to clean up early on but we found a way, we found a way,” Konowalchuk said. “That’s what you have to do this time of year, you have good hockey teams playing.”
Game 2 is Saturday night at the ShoWare Center.
• Stankowski won his night straight game Friday night as the young rookie goalie continues to impress. He ended the night with 29 saves which were highlighted by a big stop on Devante Stephens late in the third period.
• Seattle trailed Kelowna for 18 minutes and 48 seconds in the second period which is longer than it had trailed in the previous eight games combined.
• With Ottenbreit scoring, the T-Birds now have goals from 16 different players in nine games.
• In the Eastern final, the Lethbridge Hurricanes beat the home-standing Regina Pats 3-1 to take a one-game lead.