WHL Roundup: Gropp continues to tickle twine as T-Birds triumph

Marissa Baecker


There was no love lost on Valentine’s Day around the Western Hockey League, with four games smattered across the schedule.

In Regina, it was a clash of two of the league’s best and the Everett Silvertips came out on top, defeating the Pats in regulation thanks to a pair of points from captain Noah Juulsen.

Down the highway in Moose Jaw, the Warriors hosted the Brandon Wheat Kings for CHL on Sportsnet action and for the first time in seven meetings between the two clubs this season, the game was decided in regulation as Jayden Halbgewachs helped his club triumph.

Up north in Prince George, the Cougars scored a touchdown on the Spokane Chiefs to claim a big victory, while south of the border Ryan Gropp and the Seattle Thunderbirds made their way back into the win column by defeating the Red Deer Rebels.

Let’s fill in the gaps…

Everett Silvertips (4) at Regina Pats (2)
Everett (33-12-8-2) // Regina (40-7-6-1)

Noah Juulsen recorded the game-winning goal, along with an assist, as the Everett Silvertips doubled up the Regina Pats by a 4-2 margin Tuesday night. That outcome effectively ended an 11-game winning streak for the Pats.

The Silvertips were in control from the first puck drop as Aaron Irving scored his 16th of the season only 2:24 into the first period to give Everett a 1-0 lead.

Brian King made it a 2-0 game 11:14 into the second period, notching his third goal of the campaign. Filip Ahl cut into the Everett lead with his 24th of the season 5:37 later, but it was Juulsen’s 10th of the year – assisted by King – coming moments later to restore the two-goal edge for the Silvertips. In the dying moments of the middle period, Patrick Bajkov provided some extra insurance, tallying his 22nd of the season with only 11 seconds left of the clock.

Former Silvertip Dawson Leedahl logged his 27th of the season 2:41 into the third period to get the Pats back within two but that’s as close as they’d manage with Carter Hart turning aside 26 of the 28 shots he faced to earn his 22nd win of the season.

Juulsen (1G-1A) and King (1G-1A) recorded multipoint nights for the Silvertips.

Sam Steel managed one assist in the game, which served to register him as the first 100-point player of the 2016-17 WHL season. Through 48 games this season, the first round pick of the Anaheim Ducks has amassed 39 goals and 61 points to lead the entire WHL in scoring.

Brandon Wheat Kings (1) at Moose Jaw Warriors (3)
Brandon (27-21-6-2) // Moose Jaw (33-17-7-1)

Jayden Halbgewachs collected a goal and an assist, helping the Moose Jaw Warriors to a critical 3-1 win over the Brandon Wheat Kings on CHL on Sportsnet Tuesday evening.

Halbgewachs opened the scoring, putting his 43rd of the year to the back of the net 10:27 into the first period as the Warriors outshot the Wheat Kings by a whopping 12-1 margin.

‘The Magic Man’ was back at it again in the second period. After hauling in a chest-high, cross-ice pass from Colin Paradis, Halbgewachs burned down the right wing before dishing to Brett Howden who converted for his 29th goal of the year, giving Moose Jaw a 2-0 advantage 2:06 into the second period.

Stelio Mattheos replied with his 22nd of the season 3:37 later to get the Wheat Kings back within one after 40 minutes of play.

The Wheat Kings squandered a pair of power-play opportunities in the third period, unable to muster much in the offensive zone before Yan Khomenko clicked for his 13th goal of the year to seal the win for Moose Jaw.

The 3-1 outcome served as the first of seven meetings between the two teams this season to end in regulation. All six prior engagements required overtime in order to find a decision.

Zach Sawchenko was steady, making 15 saves for his 22nd win of the season.

Spokane Chiefs (2) at Prince George Cougars (7)
Spokane (24-24-6-3) // Prince George (38-17-3-1)

The Prince George Cougars registered five goals in the third period en route to a 7-2 win over the Spokane Chiefs Tuesday evening.

Jaret Anderson-Dolan scored his 32nd of the season to open the scoring 1:21 into the first period before Jared Bethune’s 17th of the campaign tied the game 1-1 after 20 minutes of play. Aaron Boyd secured a short-handed tally with 4:27 to go in the second period, giving the Cougars a 2-1 lead through 40 minutes of action.

Then the third period rolled around and the Cougars claimed control.

First, it was Kody McDonald scoring 3:28 in on a power play. Then Jansen Harkins sent another power-play tally home to make it a 4-1 game. Colby McAuley’s 20th of the year came next before Brad Morrison boosted the Cougars’ lead to 6-1 with his 21st of the season.

Ethan McIndoe put a brief pause on the Cougars run, tallying his 15th of the campaign for Spokane, but rookie Jackson Leppard rounded out the scoring with 24 seconds to go in regulation, potting his second of the season.

Nick McBride made 28 saves for his 12th win of the season.

Harkins (1G-2A), Radovan Bondra (2A) and Tate Olson (2A) helped drive the offense for the Cougars.

Red Deer Rebels (1) at Seattle Thunderbirds (4)
Red Deer (23-25-6-3) // Seattle (36-16-3-2)

The Seattle Thunderbirds rebounded from a Monday setback in Kelowna with a 4-1 win over the Red Deer Rebels Tuesday night.

Ryan Gropp – who, if not for teammate Mathew Barzal and his 15 points, likely would have been WHL Player of the Week after recording 13 points in four games – continued to help pace the Seattle offense with a goal and two assists Tuesday evening.

The 20-year-old product of Kamloops opened the scoring with his 24th goal of the season with 6:31 to go in the first period. That marker extended Gropp’s goal-scoring streak to eight game. Since the calendar rolled from January to February, the veteran prospect of the NHL’s New York Rangers has registered 11 tallies in eight contests.

Gropp then set up Keegan Kolesar for his 18th goal of the season only 26 seconds into the second period, which went on to stand as the game-winning effort. If that wasn’t good enough, Gropp then provided the primary helper on Alexander True’s 19th of the year, which came on a power play 2:11 after Kolesar’s strike, giving Seattle a 3-0 lead.

Red Deer got some life shortly after that as Colton Bobyk put the Rebels on the board with his sixth of the season, only 18 seconds after True’s tally.

But a third period goal from Elijah Brown – his second of the year – iced the decision for the Thunderbirds.

Rylan Toth enjoyed a relatively quiet night in net against his former team, making 16 saves for his career 30th win of the season. With 30 victories, Toth sits tied with Griffen Outhouse of the Victoria Royals for the league lead in that category.

Gropp (1G-2A), Barzal (2A) and Kolesar (1G-1A) continued to wreak havoc on the opposition defense.

The win ensured the Thunderbirds retain a one-point lead on the Everett Silvertips for first place in the U.S. Division, though the ‘Tips maintain two games in hand.

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