#WHLPlayoffs Roundup: Barzal returns as Thunderbirds score dramatic win over Silvertips

Chris Mast


It was a busy Friday night in the Western Hockey League as all four of the second-round series hit the ice.

In Regina, the Pats made they avoided falling behind 2-0 to the Swift Current Broncos after dropping an overtime decision Thursday.

The Medicine Hat Tigers blanked the Lethbridge Hurricanes and the Kelowna Rockets doubled up the Portland Winterhawks.

Down south, the Seattle Thunderbirds won in dramatic fashion in Everett.

Here’s how it happened…

Swift Current Broncos (2) at Regina Pats (6)
Series tied 1-1
Game 3: Monday, April 10 – Credit Union i-Plex, Swift Current – 7 p.m. MT

The Regina Pats weren’t about to drop back-to-back games on home ice in the second round of the 2017 WHL Playoffs.

With Game 2 in the national TV spotlight with Sportsnet in the house, the Pats rattled off five unanswered goals to secure a 6-2 win, evening the best-of-seven series at 1-1 Friday night.

After Jonathan Smart opened the scoring for Regina, Max Lajoie and Tyler Steenbergen scored back-to-back to give the Broncos a 2-1 lead through minutes of play. Then the Pats went to work in the second period.

Only 43 seconds in, defenceman Connor Hobbs unleashed a power-play blast that found the back of the net to tie the game 2-2. Then it was Nick Henry converting on a second man advantage less than six minutes later to give Regina a 3-2 lead. Austin Wagner added another before the second period came to a close and the Pats were out in front 4-2 after 40 minutes of play.

Robbie Holmes put the game out of reach 1:30 into the third period and Wagner hit an empty net as the Pats closed out a 6-2 victory, exacting revenge for Thursday’s 2-1 overtime loss.

Tyler Brown was only forced to make 15 saves, while Jordan Papirny stopped 34 in defeat.

Sam Steel (2A), Wagner (2G) and Hobbs (1G-1A) provided their typical offensive support for the Pats. Steenbergen (1G-1A) and Aleksi Heponiemi (2A) did the same for the Broncos.

Game 3 will also be featured on Sportsnet Monday night (7 p.m. MT) as the series shifts to Swift Current.

Lethbridge Hurricanes (0) at Medicine Hat Tigers (4)
Tigers lead series 1-0
Game 2: Saturday, April 8 – Canalta Centre, Medicine Hat – 7:30 p.m. MT

Michael Bullion made 16 saves for his first-career WHL playoff shutout as the Medicine Hat Tigers skated to a 4-0 win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series Friday night.

John Dahlstrom’s marker with 4:37 to go in the first period went on to stand as the eventual game-winning goal as Bullion slammed the door from there.

Chad Butcher and Steven Owre provided second period scoring and Zach Fischer iced the game late in the third period.

With only 16 shots in on the Medicine Hat net, the Hurricanes didn’t really provide many significant tests for Bullion, the product of Anchorage, Alaska.

Stuart Skinner stopped 33 shots in defeat.

Owre finished the night with a goal and two assists while both Butcher and Fischer collected a goal and an assist apiece.

Game 2 of the Highway 3 rivalry renewal goes Saturday night (7:30 p.m. MT) at the Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat.

Portland Winterhawks (2) at Kelowna Rockets (4)
Rockets lead series 1-0
Game 2: Saturday, April 8 – Prospera Place, Kelowna – 7:05 p.m. PT

Calvin Thurkauf enjoyed a three-point night as the Kelowna Rockets scored a 4-2 win over the Portland Winterhawks in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series Friday night.

Thurkauf opened the scoring with a beautiful effort 3:42 into the second period, opening the floodgates following a scoreless first period.

Only 50 seconds elapsed before Kole Lind converted to make it 2-0 Kelowna and then it was Reid Gardiner piling on only 45 seconds after to make it 3-0.

Dillon Dube notched his fifth goal of the post-season late in the second period, scoring on a power play to make it 4-0 after 40 minutes as the Rockets poured it on, outshooting the Winterhawks 43-12 in the process.

The Winterhawks turned a corner in the third period, mustering 17 shots and producing two goals along the way to close the score.

Brad Ginnell made it 4-1 with 9:10 to go in regulation and Cody Glass converted on a power-play opportunity with 2:26 to go. But that’s all the Winterhawks managed as the Rockets held on for the Game 1 one.

At the final buzzer, the shot count read 54-29 in favour of the host Rockets.

Michael Herringer made 27 saves for the win, while Cole Kehler stopped 50 pucks in defeat.

Lind (1G-1A), Reid Gardiner (1G-1A) and Thurkauf (1G-2A) helped pace the Kelowna offense.

The Rockets will aim for a two-game lead in the series as Game 2 is slated for Saturday night (7:05 p.m. PT) from Prospera Place in Kelowna.

Seattle Thunderbirds (3) at Everett Silvertips (2)
Thunderbirds lead series 1-0
Game 2: Saturday, April 8 – XFINITY Arena, Everett – 7:05 p.m. PT

Donovan Neuls put a dagger through the hearts of Everett Silvertips fans Friday night, scoring with 58.2 seconds to go in regulation to give the Seattle Thunderbirds a 3-2 victory in Game 1 of their best-of-seven series.

Making matters worse for the ‘Tips was the fact they had only just tied the game 2-2 off an Aaron Irving blast with 1:38 to go and Carter Hart at the bench for the extra attacker.

As expected, Friday was a back-and-forth affair between two of the top clubs in the WHL, highlighted be the much-anticipated return of Thunderbirds star Mathew Barzal. The Seattle captain was out of the lineup for the entire four-game first-round series against the Tri-City Americans, but didn’t miss a beat upon his return Friday night.

After a scoreless first period, Barzal executed in gorgeous fashion to convert on a power-play opportunity and give his team a 1-0 lead only 2:07 into the second period.

Late in the middle period proceedings, Eetu Tuulola drove the net and put one past Thunderbirds goaltender Carl Stankowski to knot the game 1-1 heading into the second intermission.

Tyler Adams restored the Seattle lead early in the third period, diving to swat home a loose puck 5:31 in. Then Irving tied the game. Then Neuls shattered the Silvertips’ dreams of overtime.

Stankowski made 21 saves for the win, while Hart turned aside 30 in defeat.

Alexander True collected a pair of assists while Barzal and Neuls notched a goal and an assist apiece for Seattle.

The two teams will get back down to it Saturday night (7:05 p.m. PT) with Game 2 set to go at XFINITY Arena in Everett.

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