Editor’s Note: As part of the YouTube broadcasts of the 2017 WHL Championship the T-Birds are giving high school students in the Kent School District who have an interest in or are studying journalism, graphic design and video production the opportunity to be part of the team’s promotion of the YouTube broadcasts as an extended learning opportunity. High school students are producing stories, graphics and video highlights that will be posted on the team’s website and social media platforms during and after the YouTube broadcasts.
This story on Game 2 was written by Mitch Escandon, a junior at Kentridge High School. The graphic in the story were created by RJ Rico, a sophomore at Kentwood High School.
Coming off a big Game 1 win the T-Birds look to take a 2-0 series lead. Regina has other plans on the night after a heartbreaking overtime loss, they are out for redemption. The Birds and Pats play another hard-fought battle, that can’t be settled in regulation once again, this time the Pats flip the script and score the overtime winner to win the game 4-3.
The start of Game 2 comes with promise for Seattle with Keegan Kolesar back in the lineup after serving a one game suspension. Kolesar has been a big factor on the right wing in Seattle’s attack all season. Unfortunately for Regina their captain Adam Brooks is going to be watching from the stands after getting injured in Game 1.
This series continues to deliver, only 50 seconds after the puck dropped to open the game Sam Steel picks up the puck off a turnover. Steel takes the puck, pushes it to his right, just above the crease and sneaks it past Carl Stankowski to score the opener and give the Pats an early 1-0 lead. Just a few moments later Mathew Wedman is guilty of interference and this gives Regina the early powerplay. Seattle’s high press kills the powerplay and keeps the lead to a minimum. Turner Ottenbreit finds the puck on his stick with a great chance and hits the slapshot to the upper corner of the net only to be denied off a great glove save by Tyler Brown. With no goals to show off their nine shots the Thunderbirds storyline of the first period was defense. Aside from allowing the goal they held Regina to only five shots and killed two powerplays, to keep themselves in the game. Sam Steel’s poke in is the difference in this period. Carl Stankowski is going to look to improve his postseason form and keep Regina out of the back of the net heading into the second period.
Both teams come out of the dressing rooms hungry for goals and both have their share of early looks. But four minutes into the action Donovan Neuls finds Austin Strand up by the blueline who rips a shot into traffic and the puck bounces around and is redirected at the top of the crease by Tyler Adams who is credited with the goal, bringing the ‘Birds and the Pats level quickly in the second period.
Less than 20 seconds later Keegan Kolesar finds himself back in the middle of things with a pass to Mathew Barzal who seeks out Tuner Ottenbreit at the blueline. Ottenbreit slaps the puck on goal and there was nothing Tyler Brown could do to stop it with the pace behind the puck. Ottenbreit has been showered with “boos” from the crowd all night after his hit on Regina’s captain, but that doesn’t seem to faze him as he gives Seattle a 2-1 lead.
Moments after the second goal Regina’s Wyatt Sloboshan is caught with a tripping penalty putting Seattle’s stellar powerplay on the ice. Seattle gets down to business early as Ryan Gropp shoots from the right faceoff circle which is stopped by Brown. Brown losses control of the puck and Alexander True collects the puck and shoots from an incredible angle to see the puck hit the far post and bounce into the goal, to give Seattle a 3-1 lead. Ethan Bear is also credited with his second assist in two nights. Ethan bear was asked about how Seattle was able to control the game in the second he said, “Using our speed and keeping it simple.” This was his key to Seattle’s big second period.
With momentum completely flipped after Seattle scores three in under a minute, Regina finds themselves on the powerplay and an amazing chance finds the puck sitting on the goal line. With great defense Mathew Barzal comes up big and fishes the puck off the goal line keeping Seattle’s lead at two. Seattle still is putting on quite the defensive display and keeping pucks out of their zone coach Steve Konowalchuk shared his comments about that, “Trying to have a five-man effort trying to help out and get back… a lot of our stars have been good through the neutral zone.”
As good as Seattle has been defensively a lack of discipline set in as they conceded three more penalties. With two of those penalties killed as Seattle had just gotten back to 5-4 play Sam Steel brought the puck between the two faceoff circles and fires a shot that’s stopped and rebounded to Dawson Leedahl who is also denied but only to see his rebound fall to teammate Josh Mahura who puts the puck away bringing Regina back within one.
Going into the third Regina has gotten the crowd back into the game and found some hope as Seattle leads 3-2. Ethan Bear commented after the period about how well they have kept the puck away from their net with only 13 shots on six powerplays his insight was, “We like to block shots and take away lanes and box out guys and try not to give them any second chances.” Bear also made note about his health after the period he said, “I feel good, I don’t have any pain, and get more confident every game and every shift.” Very promising news for T-Birds fans knowing their star defenseman is feeling ready to go for the rest of the series.
Regina was able to carry their late goal momentum into the start of the third, as a turnover deep in Seattle’s zone is snagged by Filip Ahl who spins around a defender, rips a shot and buries it to tie the game at three. Now it seems the momentum of this game has completely flipped back to Regina and the home crowd is getting loud.
The Thunderbirds apply late pressure on the attack and nearly find a winner, nothing can find the back of the net. As for Regina they have their share of opportunities but settle for nothing. For the second straight night there will be overtime. Regina is hoping to write a different story tonight and be victorious in overtime. Seattle will be looking to steal a second straight road game and take a massive advantage back home.
Going into the overtime period assistant coach Tyler Alos takes a minute to talk with rink reporter Darren Dupont. He was asked how last night” overtime victory effected them after last year’s overtime disappointments, he said, ““Gives us a little confidence going into this one, we can get this one, and go home with two on the board.” Lastly, he was asked how the team will approach the extra time, “Keep it simple… and throw pucks on net, that’s what you need in overtime.” Similar to Bear’s comments after the second, “keeping it simple” must be Seattle’s theme and it has worked well for them here tonight.
Five minutes into the extra period of play Keegan Kolesar takes a penalty after the whistle giving Regina a powerplay in overtime. This penalty proves to be the difference in the game as Josh Mahura will net his second goal of the night from a slapshot near the blue line. This shot makes its way through traffic and finds the back of the net. The assists were given to Filip Ahl and Dawson Leedahl. This goal gives Regina the 4-3 overtime win as they tie up the series 1-1 heading out west to Seattle for the next three games.
The penalty to Kolesar was asked of head coach Steve Konowalchuk post game and his response was, “Mistakes happen, I’d go to bat with Keegan anytime… he’s an emotional kid and it’s an emotional game… he’s got to be able to move on and we have to move on.” Very positive and optimistic, Konowalchuk did not blame the loss any one thing and looked at the positives, specifically winning one of the two games in Regina on the road.
Turner Ottenbreit was instrumental in the rally tonight amidst the constant booing from the home crowd he said, “You try to not think too much about it and just play your game… you don’t really notice it.” He sure did not seem bothered playing a solid game all around.
Lastly, Scott Eansor was asked postgame how he felt these first two games went and he answered, “At this level of play every little detail is magnified and you have to pick your guys up after mistakes and capitalize on the other team’s mistakes.” Eansor focused on the momentum of the series and not getting down on any of his teammates. A very positive sight to see that this team stands together despite challenges.