THUNDERBIRDS

Rockets beat Thunderbirds 4-2 to even series at two games apiece

Apr 26, 2017, 10:08 PM | Updated: Apr 27, 2017, 6:58 am
Thunderbirds, T-Birds...
Keegan Kolesar led the WHL in playoff scoring with 31 points in 19 games ( Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)
( Marissa Baecker/Shoot the Breeze)

The Thunderbirds missed on a chance to take a commanding lead in the Western Conference Championship Wednesday night.

The Kelowna Rockets scored four straight goals to even the series at two behind a 4-2 win at Prospera Place in Kelowna. The Rockets were paced by four different goal scorers as they managed to control the flow of the play for most of the contest.

For the second straight night, Seattle was unable to get their offense going on a consistent basis and were outshot 35-29. The Thunderbirds were bailed out by goalie Carl Stankowski in Game 3 and while the rookie played well on Wednesday – making 31 saves – it wasn’t enough.

Seattle started the game strong, scoring first on a Ryan Gropp power-play goal and had the contest’s first six shots.

It appeared that the T-Birds had scored earlier on a goal by Sami Moilanen after a scramble in front of the Kelowna net. However, as has been a frequent occurrence in this series, the play went to a video review. The verdict came back that the puck was kicked in by a Seattle skate and therefore not a good goal.

It would be the second night in a row that the T-Birds didn’t get the review to go their way.

Down one, Kelowna stormed back and tied it when Nolan Foote scored on a power play from the face-off circle. Just 28 seconds later, Kole Lind got behind the Seattle defense and got the puck past Stankowski for his sixth of the playoffs.

From there, the Rockets took control.

In the second period, Kelowna added a goal from Nick Merkley and dominated puck possession. They outshot the Thunderbirds 15-2 and extended their lead to 3-1.

Seattle erased a two-goal deficit in Game 2 and started the third period with some good chances in hopes of doing the same on Wednesday. Kelowna goalie Michael Herringer robbed Keegan Kolesar early and the Thunderbirds just couldn’t get the next goal. Herringer made 27 saves to pick up the win for the Rockets.

Things got worse for Seattle when Tomas Soustal slid a puck towards the Thunderbirds’ net that deflected off the stick of defenseman Austin Strand and past the Stankowski to make it 4-1. That was the largest deficit Seattle has seen in the postseason.

The Thunderbirds managed to cut the lead to two when Scott Eansor scored after a nice set up from Moilanen late in the period. That’s as close as the T-Birds got, though, as the series now heads back to the ShoWare Center for a pivotal Game 5 Friday night.

Despite the bad result on Wednesday, the Thunderbirds accomplished what they needed to on the road this week. They got the split, which won them back home-ice advantage and they will just need to take care of business at home if they wish to advance.

Notes

• The T-Birds continue to get whistled for more penalties in this series. The Rockets were 1-for-5 on the power play while Seattle went 1-for-3. In the four games so far, Kelowna has 26 power-play chances to Seattle’s 11.

• Seattle was without defenseman Ethan Bear in Game 4 on Wednesday after he suffered an injury blocking a shot late in Tuesday’s Game 3. The severity of the injury is not known.

• The Rockets have done a good job slowing down Seattle’s Mathew Barzal so far in this series. They haven’t shut him down by any stretch, but they have managed to contain him. He has five assists in the four games but has had to fight for time and space on the ice.

• The Eastern Conference Championship is also knotted up at two games after the Regina Pats took out the Lethbridge Hurricanes Wednesday night by a score of 6-2.

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Rockets beat Thunderbirds 4-2 to even series at two games apiece