KENT — Scott Eansor is known for his gritty defense, canceling out the best offensive players on the opposing team.
Eansor did that, but he also chipped in with a goal to help the Seattle Thunderbirds beat the Everett Silvertips 5-0 Saturday to win their opening-round Western Hockey League playoff series four games to one.
Eansor broke a scoreless tie with what proved to be the winning goal at 12:59 of the second period. He collected a rebound of a shot by Sam McKechnie and skillfully lifted a backhanded shot into the top of the net.
He then helped the T-birds kill off a penalty in the last two minutes of the second period to preserve the one-goal advantage. Branden Troock scored twice, Alexander Delnov and Mitch Elliot once each in the third period as the T-birds poured it on.
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The win moves the Thunderbirds into the second round against the Kelowna Rockets. The series begins Thursday in Kelowna in a matchup of two teams that went seven games in the first round last season before the Rockets prevailed in overtime.
The loss ends the season for Everett, the seventh straight season the Silvertips have been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
Eansor sat out much of last season with a shoulder injury that has completely healed. He scored three goals in 52 regular-season games and now has three in five playoff games, something that doesn’t really surprise him.
“I think in the end if you work hard, do all the little things right, things will start to come,” Eansor said. “I’ve just started clicking now. I consider myself a player who will do anything it takes to win.”
Seattle goaltender Taran Kozun, acquired in a trade with Kamloops in January, stopped all 24 shots he faced to pick up his fifth shutout of the season.
“They’re a really good hockey team,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said of Everett, which won 6-1 in Game 4 and tied Seattle with 88 points in the regular season. “I’m really proud of our guys that they were able to beat them.”
Konowalchuk didn’t shy away from the way his team played less than 24 hours earlier.
“We just showed them how bad they were, how we got away from our game,” Konowalchuk said. “We had to focus on how we have to play to be successful. They put their minds to it and got back on track. It was the best game of the series.”
Konowalchuk said Eansor’s goal and the late penalty kill in the second period were the keys to victory.
“Eansor is a great defensive player, and when you watch the NHL playoffs, a lot of those checking lines end up having a big impact,” Konowalchuk said. “They can get underneath the skin, and the next thing you know they put one in. I’m not really surprised.”