(1090 The Fan) — With a dominant third period effort, Seattle finished off Everett with a 5-0 victory in Game 5 at the ShoWare Center, Saturday.
Branden Troock scored twice and goalie Taran Kozun bounced back from allowing six goals, Friday, to secure his first shutout of the series with 24 saves to help Seattle advance to the second round where it will face Kelowna.
It’s the first time since 2008 the T-Birds have advanced into the second round of the playoffs. For a number of the Seattle veterans, it’s a reward for all the trials and tribulations the franchise has been through in their respective tenures.
“That’s a great feeling in the (locker) room,” Seattle captain Justin Hickman said after the team celebrated its first playoff series win in six years.
“It definitely feels nice to get the series win. There’s a lot of guys in the room (for whom) it’s the first time going through this and we’re all enjoying the ride,” he added.
After an uncharacteristically sloppy showing from the Thunderbirds in Game 4, Seattle returned to the type of physical, disciplined and efficient brand of hockey that carried them to a 3-0 lead to open the series.
Even still, Everett didn’t make it easy for the Thunderbirds through the first 40 minutes.
Neither team was able to break through with a goal in a scoreless first period. Everett would take an 11-10 shots on goal advantage into the second period, but lost that edge as the second frame tilted towards Seattle.
The home team took a 9-5 shots on goal edge, including the game’s first tally when Scott Eansor was able to tip home an airborne rebound just in front of the Everett goal at 12:59.
The goal came just moments after the T-Birds saw their two best chances of the game get thwarted by Tips’ goalie Austin Lotz. It was Eansor’s third goal of the series after scoring just three goals the entire regular season.
Eansor, 18, was a key component of Seattle’s shutdown line which held Everett’s Jujhar Khaira in check after a hat trick in Game 4. What was the difference, Saturday night?
“We had a really strong start,” Eansor noted. “Play the body, taking away time and space. Everyone bought in today.”
Up 1-0, Seattle closed out the period with a strong penalty kill after defenseman Jared Hauf took the first penalty of the game at 18:00 on a high stick. To Seattle head coach Steve Konowalchuk, getting that penalty kill to carry the 1-0 lead into the intermission was vital.
“It was a big kill,” Konowalchuk admitted. “I really wanted to get into that intermission there with a one-goal lead. It could have been a tough third if they tie it up there, but you get in there and now they can start gripping their sticks a little bit knowing time may be running out.”
The momentum certainly carried over as the T-Birds opened up the offense in the final 20 minutes. Troock scored his third and fourth goals of the series at 1:15 and 7:02, the latter coming on a breakaway after Russell Maxwell forced a turnover at the team’s own blue line and extended a pass to Troock as he streaked down the left side of the ice.
Sandwiched around Troock’s goals were the first of the series for both Alexander Delnov and Mitch Elliot coming at 4:51 and 17:57 respectively.
The dominant victory came in stark contrast to a blowout defeat the previous night. How did the team turn its play around in such a short time span?
“(It) just showed how bad we were in that first period and how we got away from our game,” Konowalchuk said of Friday’s effort. “We’ve got to focus on how we’ve got to play. The guys put their mind to it and got back on track.
“We were totally off structure, totally off puck management (in Game 4).”
The team got back to its game in a big way, Saturday. Now it gears up for a rematch with the Kelowna Rockets beginning Thursday after the devastating series loss it suffered last year.
“They are a very good team, so we got to be ready for them,” Troock said. “I’m really excited. I didn’t get to do it last year so it will be a fun series.”
1. SEA Scott Eansor (3) (McKechnie, Yakubowski), 12:59
2. SEA Branden Troock (3) (Lipsbergs), 1:15
3. SEA Alexander Delnov (1) (Kolesar, Elliot), 4:51
4. SEA Branden Troock (4) (Maxwell), 7:02
5. SEA Mitch Elliot (1) (Bear), 17:57
-Anthony Dion, 1090 The Fan
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