#WHLPlayoffs Roundup: Pats, Thunderbirds advance to WHL Championship Series

Marissa Baecker


The Regina Pats and Seattle Thunderbirds will compete to hoist the Ed Chynoweth Cup.

The Thunderbirds advanced to their second consecutive WHL Championship Series following a victory over the Kelowna Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Championship Sunday night at Prospera Place.

Meanwhile, the Pats moved into the 2017 WHL Championship Series with an electrifying win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Championship Sunday night at the Enmax Centre.

Here’s how it went down…

Seattle Thunderbirds (3) at Kelowna Rockets (1)
Thunderbirds win series 4-2

The Seattle Thunderbirds are Western Conference Champions for a second consecutive year.

The Thunderbirds advanced to the 2017 WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers following a 3-1 win over the Kelowna Rockets in Game 6 of the Western Conference Championship Sunday night at Prospera Place.

Nolan Foote opened the scoring with a power-play goal late in the first period to give the Rockets a 1-0 lead, but the Thunderbirds scored three unanswered goals to secure the triumph.

A seeing-eye single from the point, courtesy defenceman Austin Strand, drew the Thunderbirds even 4:56 into the second period. Then, enjoying a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity, Alexander True scooped up a rebound and found the back of the net to put Seattle in front 2-1 midway through the period.

Captain Mathew Barzal, parked alone at the backdoor, took a feed from defenceman Aaron Hyman and beat a helpless Michael Herringer with 4:46 to go in the second period, providing all the insurance necessary for a Seattle win.

The Thunderbirds locked down the defensive zone in the third period, all while continuing to press offensively, outshooting the Rockets 10-9 in the final 20 minutes of play.

Rookie goaltender Carl Stankowski was once again stellar, making 17 saves for the win. Herringer was good on 19 shots in his final WHL outing.

Barzal finished the night with a goal and an assist, while Donovan Neuls tally two helpers.

The Thunderbirds will now travel to Regina to take on the Pats in the WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers, beginning Friday, May 5 at the Brandt Centre.

Regina Pats (7) at Lethbridge Hurricanes (4)
Pats win series 4-2

For the first time since 1984, the Regina Pats will compete for a WHL Championship.

The Pats advanced to the 2017 WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers following a 7-4 victory over the Lethbridge Hurricanes in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Championship Sunday at the Enmax Centre.

What a ride it was Sunday night in the Windy City.

The host Hurricanes – looking to force a Game 7 back in Regina – came out guns blazing, opening a 3-0 lead before the game was nine minutes old. Egor Babenko scored his 10th of the post-season 1:43 in, taking advantage of a giveaway inside the Regina blueline. Then it was Jordy Bellerive unleashing a wicked shot on a power play to give the Hurricanes a 2-0 advantage 6:56 in. Back on the man advantage, Ryan Vandervlis jammed home a rebound at the 8:02 mark as Lethbridge stormed ahead 3-0.

Shock owned the Regina Pats bench. But this period was far from over.

Robbie Holmes got the visitors on the board a mere 23 seconds after Vandervlis’ power-play effort and then it was Josh Mahura pulling his team within one at the 10:46 mark. Suddenly, this was a one-goal affair barely past the midpoint of the opening period.

Early in the second period, Giorgio Estephan restored the two-goal cushion for the Hurricanes, notching another power-play goal 1:05 in to make it a 4-2 game.

The Pats turned things up late in the period. First, Filip Ahl tallied a power-play goal with 4:13 to go, making it a 4-3 game, then Nick Henry wrapped home his fourth goal of the post-season, knotting the game at 4-4 with 2:40 remaining and that’s where the score remained following 40 minutes of action.

A 60-seconds span midway through the third period provided the final dagger in the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Jeff de Wit registered what went on to stand as the game-winning goal 8:41 into the third period. One minute later, Austin Wagner’s 14th of the playoffs provided the insurance.

But the finish didn’t come without some drama.

With goaltender Stuart Skinner at the bench for the extra attacker and the Hurricanes buzzing the Pats net in the final 60 seconds of regulation, defenceman Connor Hobbs knocked the net off its moorings, resulting in a penalty shot for Lethbridge. Captain Tyler Wong took the opportunity and on the attempt, goaltender Tyler Brown then knocked the net off its pegs in an effort to stop Wong, but before the Hurricanes captain could complete his attempt. After a brief conversation, the officials allow Wong a second opportunity on the penalty shot. This time around, Wong snapped a quick shot that Brown was able to redirect off the tip of his glove and over the cage.

The score remained 6-4.

On the ensuing shift, Wyatt Sloboshan hit the empty net to seal the deal.

Brown made 24 saves for the win, perhaps none of which was bigger than the glove stop on Wong’s penalty shot. At the other end, Skinner turned aside 38 in defeat.

Zak Zborosky (2A) Babenko (1G-1A) and Brennan Menell (2A) logged multipoint nights for the Hurricanes. Sergey Zborovskiy (2A), Mahura (1G-1A), de Wit (1G-1A), Sloboshan (1G-2A) and Ahl (1G-1A) fueled the offense for Regina.

The Pats will now host the Seattle Thunderbirds to open the WHL Championship Series presented by Rogers, with Game 1 set for Friday, May 5 (7 p.m. MT) at the Brandt Centre.

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