#WHLPlayoffs Roundup: Broncos secure triple-overtime win, push Pats to brink

Darwin Knelsen


If you didn’t catch Tuesday’s edition of the WHL Playoffs, boy, did you ever miss out.

In Swift Current, the Broncos pushed the Regina Pats to the brink of elimination, emerging victorious from a marathon triple-overtime contest to take a 3-1 series lead.

In southern Alberta, Giorgio Estephan and the Lethbridge Hurricanes made it two games in a row as they knocked off the Medicine Hat Tigers to take a 2-1 series lead.

South of the border, Mathew Barzal put a dagger through the heart of the Everett Silvertips as the Seattle Thunderbirds staked out an overtime win and 3-0 series lead.

Finally, the Portland Winterhawks clawed back into their set with the Kelowna Rockets, earning their first victory of the series.

Let’s not waste any time…

Medicine Hat Tigers (2) at Lethbridge Hurricanes (5)
Hurricanes lead series 2-1
Game 4: Wednesday, April 12 – Enmax Centre, Lethbridge – 7 p.m. MT

Giorgio Estephan simply can’t be stopped.

After returning to the Lethbridge Hurricanes lineup to lead his team to a come-from-behind victory, erasing a 3-1 series deficit against the Red Deer Rebels in the first round, the product of Edmonton has maintained his furious production in the second round.

Estephan was particularly sharp in Game 3 as the Hurricanes etched out a 5-2 win over the Tigers to take a 2-1 series lead Tuesday night at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.

Things didn’t look for the Hurricanes in the early going. After James Hamblin booted in the 1-0 goal 12:27 into the first period, Mark Rassell scored off a faceoff 8:39 into the second to give the visiting Tigers a 2-0 edge.

Jordy Bellerive got the ‘Cane Train rolling, scoring his third of the post-season 12:13 into the second period. Then it was Estephan converting on a power-play only 1:04 later to tie the game and that’s where the score remained after 40 minutes of play.

Only 4:04 into the third period, Estephan set up captain Tyler Wong for another power-play strike as the Hurricanes took a 3-2 lead. But Estephan wasn’t done yet.

The reigning CHL Player of the Week provided the insurance marker 11:28 into the third period, making it a 4-2 game with his seventh goal of the post-season. Brennan Menell rounded out the scoring with an empty-net effort late in the game.

Stuart Skinner made 36 saves for the win, while Michael Bullion turned aside 26 in defeat.

Wong (1G-1A), Estephan (2G-1A) and Menell (1G-2A) continued to pace the offense for the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes will look to take advantage of home ice Wednesday night (7 p.m. MT) with Game 4 set to go at the Enmax Centre in Lethbridge.

Kelowna Rockets (2) at Portland Winterhawks (4)
Rockets lead series 2-1
Game 4: Wednesday, April 12 – Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Portland – 7 p.m. PT

The Portland Winterhawks are back in the mix following a 4-2 win over the Kelowna Rockets in Game 3 of their best-of-seven series Tuesday night.

The win was the first in the series for Portland, after they dropped the opening set on the road in Kelowna.

After Evan Weinger and Calvin Thurkauf exchanged first period goals, the Winterhawks rattled off three goals in the second period to take control of the festivities.

Joachim Blichfeld scored his fourth of the post-season only 5:29 into the middle period to give Portland a 2-1 lead. Late in the going, Caleb Jones made it a 3-1 game before Skyler McKenzie notched a short-handed dagger with only 57 seconds remaining in the second period, giving Portland a 4-1 lead after 40.

Thurkauf did collect his second of the night to cut into the Winterhawks’ three-goal lead, but 4-2 was as close as the Rockets got in Game 3 as Portland won its first game of the series.

Cole Kehler made 28 saves for the win, while Michael Herringer stopped 26 in defeat.

Jones (1G-1A), Ryan Hughes (2A) and Blichfeld (1G-1A) lifted the Winterhawks offense with Thurkauf providing his second and third goals of the post-season for Kelowna.

Game 4 of the best-of-seven series is set for Wednesday (7 p.m. PT) at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.

Everett Silvertips (4) at Seattle Thunderbirds (5) – OT
Thunderbirds lead series 3-0
Game 4: Friday, April 14 – ShoWare Centre, Kent, Wash. – 7:35 p.m. PT

The U.S. Division’s regular season champions are on the brink of elimination.

Mathew Barzal ensured that reality Tuesday night as he scored twice – including the game-tying and overtime-winning goals – to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 5-4 win over the Everett Silvertips, securing a 3-0 series lead in the process.

The New York Islanders prospect scored 4:23 into the third period to tie the game 4-4 before then ending overtime only 1:30 into the extra fun, taking all the air out of a Silvertips squad that had executed a rather improbable comeback.

The Thunderbirds built a 3-0 lead as Keegan Kolesar, Nolan Volcan and Alexander True scored consecutively, with the dangerous Dane’s fourth of the post-season coming a mere 3:33 into the second period.

Aaron Irving started the response 7:22 into the second period. Little more than two minutes later, Eetu Tuulola joined in on the excitement, scoring on the power play to make it 3-2. From there, Dominic Zwerger tied the game with another power-play effort only 2:48 down the line.

But the Silvertips still weren’t done.

Tuulola struck for the second time in a five-minute span, giving the Silvertips a 4-3 lead. In total, Everett scored four goals over 7:13 through the middle of the second period.

But Mathew Barzal didn’t care and he finished the night with two goals and an assist.

Rookie goaltender Carl Stankowski made 14 saves for the win, while Carter Hart stopped 28 pucks in defeat.

The import boys – Tuulola (2G-1A) and Zwerger (1G-2A) – did their best to get it done for Everett.

Game 4 goes Friday night (7:35 p.m. PT) at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., where the Thunderbirds can close out the series.

Regina Pats (4) at Swift Current Broncos (5) – OT3
Broncos lead series 3-1
Game 5: Friday, April 14 – Brandt Centre, Regina – 7 p.m. MT

If there ever was a true dark horse heading into the 2017 WHL Playoffs, it undoubtedly was the Swift Current Broncos and, oh my, are the boys from Speedy Creek ever taking the post-season by storm.

Tuesday night provided another epic chapter in what has been arguably the most exciting series in the second round of the WHL Playoffs. This time around, it was Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin playing the role of overtime hero, scoring on a power play 9:54 into triple overtime as Swift Current claimed a 5-4 win and commanding 3-1 series lead over the Regina Pats.

As thrilling as all three overtime periods were, regulation wasn’t short on nail-biting moments either.

Tied 3-3 late in the third period, the hot hand of Ryley Lindgren struck once again as the veteran forward found the back of the net for his second of the night with only 2:25 to play in regulation. It looked like the lights might go out in Regina.

But Dawson Leedahl had other plans.

Having already registered a hat trick, the 21-year-old product of Saskatoon scored with a mere 21 seconds remaining in regulation – his fourth goal of the night – to tie the game 4-4, forcing overtime for the second consecutive night and third time in the series.

Leedahl started the scoring Tuesday, finding the back of the net 9:10 into the first period on a power play. He then made it 2-0 after 5:50 had passed and that’s where the score stood after 20 minutes.

Lindgren sparked the Broncos late in the second period, scoring his seventh of the post-season with 4:30 to go in the period. Then it was big Russian defenceman Artyom Minulin tying the game with 18 seconds to go in the second period and the two teams were off to intermission deadlocked at two.

Leedahl got back to it 4:12 into the third period, restoring the Pats lead before Tyler Steenbergen scored on a slick backhand to tie the game 2:07 later.

We all know the story from there as Lindgren and Leedahl traded goals late in regulation before Gawdin sent Swift Current into a frenzy just before midnight (MT).

For the Broncos, Tuesday night served as their third overtime victory of the series. In total, the Broncos and Pats played 109:54 of hockey in Game 4. Recorded puck drop was 7:10 (MT) and the final buzzer sounded at 11:52 (MT).

Goaltender Jordan Papirny made 65 saves for the win, while Tyler Brown turned aside 64 at the other end.

Colby Sissons (2A), Gawdin (1G-1A), Steenbergen (1G-1A) and Lindgren (2G-2A) factored in on offense for Swift Current.

Leedahl (4G), Josh Mahura (2A) and Sam Steel (2A) got things done for Regina.

The Broncos will have an opportunity to eliminate the CHL’s top-ranked Pats Friday night (7 p.m.) when Game 5 gets underway at the Brandt Centre in Regina.

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