KELOWNA.B.C. –A four goal third period lifted the Seattle Thunderbirds past the Kelowna Rockets, 5-1, at Prospera Place Tuesday in the third game of their best-of-seven, first round playoff series. The T-Birds lead the series, three games to none, needing one more victory to advance to the second round. The fourth game of the series is Wednesday, at Prospera Place. Game time is 7:05 p.m.
The T-Birds were led by the two goals of defenseman Kevin Korchinski, who now has scored three times in the past two games. This after he scored just four times during the regular season. “I’m just shooting to score more, shooting with more confidence.”
Korchinski, the reigning WHL Player of the Week, deflected much of the praise for his scoring spurt, to his teammates. “I just think the whole team is buzzing and we’re finally firing on all cylinders for the playoffs.”
For the first time in the series, Seattle fell behind as Kelowna grabbed a lead with a late first period goal. Jake Poole was slashed on a breakaway and was awarded a penalty shot. He converted at 18:22 and the Rockets took a one goal lead into the first intermission.
The goal was the only blemish on the night against T-Birds goalie Thomas Milic, who finished the night with 27-saves. “We were playing okay,” said head coach Matt O’Dette. “We gave up a few big chances though and he was there for us. Your goalie needs to be there, and he allowed us to get our feet underneath us. He held us in their until we hit our stride.”
The Thunderbirds tied the game at 5:07 of the second period with a power play goal from Reid Schaefer.
The complexion of the game turned when Kelowna’s Mark Liwiski was assessed a five minute, Checking to the Head major for a hit on Schaefer four minutes into the third period. Seattle’s Jeremy Hanzel was given a two-minute Unsportsmanlike Conduct minor at the same time. While skating 4-on-4, Korchinski scored, breaking the tie at 5:57.
“He’s got a good shot,” said O’Dette of his young defenseman. “He has been shooting it a lot more the last month or two of the regular season. Obviously, here in the playoffs, he’s got a really good shot. It’s nice to see him rewarded.”
Just over a minute later, while on the major power play, the T-Birds struck again as Lukas Svejkovsky snapped home his fourth of the postseason. While still skating with the man advantage, Korchinski struck again at 7:29. Seattle finished off the scoring when Sam Knazko snapped home his first playoff marker at 13:41 while at even strength.
Seattle continues to win the battle of the special teams, particularly the penalty kill. Tuesday they were a perfect 5-for-5 in denying the Rockets power play. “A few penalty kills early,” said O’Dette. “We took some penalties in the first period and our penalty kill needed to step up and keep the game close for us, which it did.” The T-Birds have stopped twelve of Kelowna’s thirteen power plays in the series.
T-Birds 20-year-old defenseman Ryan Gottfried was a late scratch. In his place 16-year-old Sawyer Mynio made his WHL playoff debut.
The Thunderbirds finished the game 3-for-5 on the power play and our now 10-for-19 with the man advantage in the series.
With the win the T-Birds are now 13-12 all time on the road against Kelowna in postseason play.
Full boxscore: WHL Network