It has been 19 years since Seattle made it to the WHL finals and the Thunderbirds are one win from finally making a return trip. They stretched their lead to 3-0 over the Kelowna Rockets in the Western Conference finals with a 3-1 victory Tuesday.

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KENT – It has been 19 years since Seattle made it to the Western Hockey League finals — and the Thunderbirds are one victory from finally making a return trip.

The Thunderbirds stretched their series lead to 3-0 over the Kelowna Rockets in the best-of-seven Western Conference finals with a 3-1 victory Tuesday night.

Ethan Bear snapped a 1-1 tie 58 seconds into the third period when his hard shot went off the leg pads of Kelowna goaltender Michael Herringer and into the net. Bear’s rocket came after assists from Mathew Barzal and Keegan Kolesar.

Barzal iced the victory with an empty-net goal with 1:29 left in the final period and Kelowna, which pulled the goalie, on a 6-on-3 power play.

Landon Bow of the Thunderbirds finished with 36 saves and improved to 11-1 in the playoffs.

“I knew they would be throwing everything on net there at the end,” Bow said. “I also knew our guys would be strong and block everything they could, which they did. They did a good job and we got the puck out over and over again. That’s all you can ask.”

Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said it was comforting to have Bow in net as Kelowna pressed the action in the third period.

“He had a really strong game and that’s definitely the most we’ve needed him in a hockey game,” Konowalchuk said. “He made some really big saves for us in the third period. We knew they weren’t going to go away easy and he was there for us.”

Seattle opened the series with back-to-back one-goal victories and Konowalchuk expects nothing different in Game 4 at home Wednesday.

“These are tough games, no doubt about it,” he said. “Momentum goes one way, then the other way. We definitely feel good about being on this side of it, but we know there’s going to be another tough game tomorrow.”

Seattle took a 1-0 lead in the first period, when Kelowna was called for five consecutive penalties. The Thunderbirds broke through after the fourth of the penalties on a goal by Bryan Allbee, his first of the playoffs.