The largest hockey crowd in ShoWare Center history was rewarded with perhaps the biggest win in Seattle Thunderbirds history. The T-birds beat the Regina Pats 7-4 in front of 6,223 in Kent to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven WHL championship.
The largest hockey crowd in ShoWare Center history was rewarded with perhaps the biggest win in Seattle Thunderbirds history Friday night.
The T-birds beat the Regina Pats 7-4 in front of 6,223 in Kent and are one victory from winning their first Western Hockey League championship.
It’s hardly over, though.The T-birds are up three games to two, but must win one of the series’ final two games in Regina to claim the title.
Seattle vs. Regina. Seattle leads series 3-2.
Game 1: Seattle 2-1 (OT)
Game 2: Regina 4-3 (OT)
Game 3: Regina 3, Seattle 2
Game 4: Seattle 6, Regina 1
Game 5: Seattle 7, Regina 4
Game 6: at Regina, Sunday, 5 p.m.
Game 7: at Regina, Monday, 6 p.m.*
Mathew Barzal scored two goals in the win and has scored at least one point in all 15 playoff games he has played in this season. Twelve different Seattle players had at least a point in Game 5.
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Scott Eansor, the heart and soul of the team who was playing in his final game at ShoWare Center, said he never gave that or the big crowd a thought.
“We’re just always thinking about the next shift and how we can do all the little things right,” Eansor said. “I am already thinking about my first shift once we play in Regina. The last win is always the hardest to get and we know it’s not going to be easy, by any means.”
The last two victories were by a combined score of 13-5.
“We are a confident team, a good team and we know we can win,” Eansor said. “We just have to focus on every shift and I think we’re fully capable of grabbing it.”
Eansor assisted on Seattle’s first goal after Regina had taken a 2-0 lead.
If there is momentum for Seattle in the series, Eansor said that will be over once the puck drops in Regina for Game 6 on Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say we take momentum, but I wouldn’t say we don’t have it, either,” Eansor said. “I feel like our team is playing the right way and capitalizing on our chances.”
It only took 65 seconds for Regina to jump on top and shake off the hangover of a 6-1 loss to Seattle in Game 4.
A long shot from the Seattle blue line by Josh Mahura found the upper corner of the net and the T-birds were down, just as they had been in Game 4.
This time, though, Seattle was not able to quickly get the equalizer. Regina went up 2-0 on a goal by Jeff de Wit.
Seattle then responded with power-play goals by Donovan Neuls and Barzal and it was even. The T-birds had the majority of the chances, but Regina capitalized on the ones it was able to muster.
Regina, outplayed for the majority of the period, regained the lead when Dawson Leedahl, the former Everett Silvertips captain, scored a power-play goal at 9:37 of the period.
The T-birds continued to press, finally evening the score on a goal by Keegan Kolesar, another player probably playing his final game in Kent.
Barzal then gave the T-birds the lead with a one-timer power-play goal that went over Tyler Brown’s shoulder and into the net.
The T-birds were dominant with 30 shots and Regina had 17.
Regina had an early chance in the third period to tie the game, but Carl Stankowski stopped a breakaway by Austin Wagner.
Exactly one minute later, Nolan Volcan made the score 5-3 and the game was all but over.
The T-birds stretched the lead to 6-3 on a goal by Ryan Gropp.
Another breakaway stop by Stankowski kept the lead comfortable, but Wagner made up for his breakaway miss by scoring at 11:22 to cut the margin to two.
Stankowski held strong and the game was finally over when Turner Ottenbreit scored into an empty net with two seconds left.