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T-Birds Advance to Round Two

KENT, Wash. –Matt Rempe’s second goal of the game, at 1:20 of overtime, gave the Seattle Thunderbirds a, 4-3, victory over the Kelowna Rockets at the accesso ShoWare Center Saturday in the fifth game of their best-of-seven, first round playoff series. With the win, the T-Birds take the series, four games to one and advance to round two against an opponent still to be determined.  Seattle will play either Everett or Portland in the second round. Whichever team they face, they will be the lower seed and begin the series on the road.

After a scoreless first period, the two teams traded goals in period two.  Kelowna struck first, with a Max Graham power play goal at 5:09.  Seattle responded with Jared Davidson scoring at 9:47.

For the third straight game in the series the game went into the third period tied.  The T-Birds broke the tie with a pair of goals about three minutes apart. First Rempe jammed a puck through the pads of Rockets goalie Talyn Boyko at 7:24. Jordan Gustafson then spun and scored from the right face off circle at 10:19.

But the T-Birds couldn’t hold the lead, giving up two goals in ten seconds. Former T-Bird Jake Lee scored at 12:24 then assisted on Gabriel Szturc’s goal at 12:34.

Head coach Matt O’Dette was not pleased. “I think our puck management, shifts after goals, has been pretty good in this series. Starts and ends to periods too. Not in that case, however.” But he said, that’s playoff hockey. “You have to stay focused and finish the job.”

Except for those ten seconds, O’Dette liked how his team played as they put 44-shots on goal. He credited Boyko for keeping his team in the battle. “Their goalie was excellent. But when you’re getting stymied like that you have to stick to the process. You can’t get frustrated.”

Rempe’s game winner came after Gustafson forced a turnover at the Rocket’s blue line.  That led to a 2-on-1 rush between Rempe and Reid Schaefer. Rempe snapped home the game winner, beating Boyko from the right circle. “I had just come off the bench, I saw the turnover. Schaefs grabbed the puck, I called for it and he made a beautiful pass.” Rempe said he picked his spot and shot it past Boyko. “It was just crazy feelings of emotion,” he said as his teammates mobbed him.

O’Dette had nothing but praise for Rempe, who battle through illness in the series. “Super, super proud of Remps. He was percolating tonight.” O’Dette said Rempe played, though not at one hundred percent. “He gave us everything he had in the series. Game three he was under the weather and helped us win that game. And (after missing game four) came back tonight and gave us everything he had.”

T-BIRD EXTRAS

Seattle coaches challenged the Rockets third goal for offside, but the video evidence was inconclusive.

This is the third time in the last five WHL postseasons Seattle has eliminated Kelowna from the playoffs.

Jared Davidson finished the first round series with a team best 11-points (3g, 8a). Colton Dach, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect and the Rockets leading scorer during the regular season, was held off the scoresheet in the series.

Rempe is a draft pick of the New York Rangers, as is Boyko. After the game they gave each other a big hug in the handshake line.  Rempe said he and Boyko are good friends off the ice.

Seattle Seahawks running back DeeJay Dallas was in attendance.

Full boxscore: WHL Network

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