KENT, April 9, 2014 – The Kelowna Rockets defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-2 Wednesday night at ShoWare Center in Game 4 of their second round playoff series.
The victory gave Kelowna a 4-0 playoff series win as well. The Rockets advance to the Western Conference Finals, where they will play the winner of the Victoria-Portland series still in progress.
The T-Birds defeated the Everett Silvertips, 4-1, in the first round of the playoffs. The Rockets defeated the T-Bird 4-3 in the first round of the playoffs last season.
Making his ninth start of the playoffs in goal for Seattle was Taran Kozun. Kozun stopped 42 of 46 shots but took the loss. Jordon Cooke started for Kelowna and got his eighth win of the postseason, stopping 42 of 44 shots in the game.
Kelowna had three shots in the first three minutes, but otherwise offense was hard to come by early. Team speed on defense from both teams killed off chances before they started.
The T-Birds got their best chance at 3:40. The puck made its way in front of the net from out of a battle on the boards, where Justin Hickman had a whack at it. Cooke responded quickly and covered the puck to ensure there was no goal. While they weren’t able to create much else in the ensuing minutes, Seattle drew the game’s first penalty on their next breakout, putting them on the power play. The home team left Cooke sprawling about the crease, but four clearances ended the man advantage.
Kozun was put to work at 8:34. Tyson Baillie had the puck alone in front of the crease and deked once to get to the side of the net. Kozun followed the Rocket well and kicked the puck away as Baillie shot, though a penalty resulted soon thereafter to put Seattle shorthanded. Sam McKechnie managed to break out of the zone with the puck and draw a penalty to make it 4-on-4 just 37 seconds into Kelowna’s advantage.
Seattle got their third power play of the period at 13:20. Kelowna had a 3-on-1 attack during a line change that ended with Kozun blocking the puck to the end boards. A Rocket forward ran into Kozun as the goalie attempted to cover the side of the net, ending the visitors’ chance and putting Seattle up 5-on-4.
The T-Birds took the lead at 14:22. Hickman created a turnover on the side boards with a hit, after which Russell Maxwell took possession of the puck. Maxwell laced a pass across the zone to the other faceoff dot, where Ethan Bear was pinching down from the left point. Bear beat Cooke with a wrist shot, his second goal of the playoffs, to make it 1-0.
Shots in the first period were 18-13 Kelowna, who trailed 1-0.
The second period began with open ice, as each team sped around the rink while creating quick attacks. Both goalies did well to deny any rebound opportunities, steering the puck away from any opposition. Mathew Barzal had a big chance at 5:02, flipping the puck to Hickman, who returned it to Barzal through traffic for a shot from the slot. Unfortunately, Kelowna’s response led to a power play. Despite being unable to change for the entire two-minute advantage, Seattle held Kelowna without a shot on goal.
Colton Heffley created Kelowna’s best chance at 9:35. Heffley carried it into the zone on the rush and got it on net from point-blank range. Kozun stood tall and stopped this shot, as well as Kelowna’s next three shots in the possession before a stoppage in play.
Roberts Lipsbergs’ golden opportunity at 10:40 also fell short. Branden Troock made the pass around a defender on the rush to Lipsbergs, who was all alone on his way to the net. Lipsbergs deked Cooke but couldn’t get a shot off as he attempted to control the puck. Even so, the play gave Seattle a spark that helped them along to a power play. Six shots on goal during this advantage weren’t enough to get a goal, however, thanks in large part to Cooke’s stalwart stopping.
Kelowna tied the game at 16:11 with a shot from the point through thick traffic. Damon Severson took the shot, which bounced toward the net through bodies before Kozun could get his glove on it. Jesse Lees and Justin Kirkland had the assists on the goal.
The lead came at 18:14 for the Rockets. Cole Linaker wrapped around the back of the net and shoved the puck in as Kozun tried to readjust and slide to the post. Linaker just beat Kozun there, getting his fourth goal of the postseason. The assists went to Nick Merkley and Severson.
Less than a minute after Kelowna’s second goal, Seattle got the break they needed, drawing a double minor to give them a four-minute power play. The T-Birds couldn’t score during the second period, meaning they began the third with another 2:45 of 5-on-4 time in their favor.
Shots were 17-12 in Kelowna’s favor in the second.
The T-Birds had two chances in their extended power play, both coming on the left side of the goal mouth. The puck reached a T-Bird skater each time before Cooke could get across, but Kelowna’s defensemen tied up sticks and fought off Seattle well enough to stop them. All in all, the T-Birds had four shots on the advantage, but could not score and continued to trail by one.
Seattle’s desperation, coupled with Kelowna’s defensive play, led to the T-Birds controlling the puck for most of the third period. The Rockets had just three shots on goal after 10 minutes but continued to hold their one-goal lead. Troock’s steal on the forecheck at 11:15 led to another chance for the T-Birds. Maxwell couldn’t get a shot off on Troock’s centering pass, as a Rockets defenseman tied up his stick.
Marek Tvrdon increased Kelowna’s lead to three goals at 12:46. Tvrdon raced past the Seattle defense and beat Kozun from deep within the faceoff circle. Rourke Chartier and Madison Bowey had the assists on the goal, Tvrdon’s fifth of the playoffs.
The visitors added a power-play goal at 15:00 to make it a 4-1 game. Tyson Baillie scored, with Bowey getting the only assist.
Seattle scored almost immediately after Kelowna’s fourth goal, potting their second just 12 seconds later. Scott Eansor won the faceoff in the offensive zone and got the puck to Sam McKechnie who beat Cooke with a bouncing shot.
Kelowna’s first rush when play resumed nearly netted another goal. A Rocket forward held the puck just outside of the crease and stick-handled in an attempt to force Kozun’s hand before skating behind the net and throwing a backhand shot behind Kozun’s pads. The shot trickled straight across the T-Birds’ crease and stayed out.
Seattle pulled Kozun with 2:53 left in the game and a two-goal deficit. The home team was on the power play as well, giving them a 6-on-4 advantage. This two-man advantage almost worked in Seattle’s favor, as they appeared to score at 18:42 to make it a one-goal game. However, the goal was waved off as a penalty was called on Seattle. After review, the no-goal call stood, keeping the score at 4-2 with 1:18 left in the game and the teams even at four skaters a piece for 25 seconds before Kelowna went to a power play.
Merkley added an empty-net goal with 26.3 seconds left in the game to seal the deal. Tvrdon and Ryan Olsen had the assists.
Shots in the third period were 19-12 in Seattle’s favor.
Second Round Results vs. Kelowna
Game 1 – At Kelowna 6, Seattle 2
Game 2 – At Kelowna 6, Seattle 3
Game 3 – Kelowna 5, at Seattle 4
Game 4 – Kelowna 5, at Seattle 2
First period – 1, Seattle, Bear 2 (Maxwell, Hickman), 14:22 (pp). Penalties – Lees, Kelowna (kneeing), 5:11. Smith, Seattle (high-sticking), 8:34. Lees, Kelowna (hooking), 9:11. Kirkland, Kelowna (interference), 13:20. Elliot, Seattle (interference), 17:43. Wardley, Seattle (cross-checking), 18:15. Merkley, Kelowna (roughing), 18:15.
Second period – 2, Kelowna, Severson 4 (Lees, Kirkland), 16:11. 3, Kelowna, Linaker 4 (Merkley, Severson), 18:14. Penalties – Wardley, Seattle (holding), 5:22. Rigby, Kelowna (slashing), 11:56. Olsen, Kelowna (double minor-high-sticking), 18:45.
Third period – 4, Kelowna, Tvrdon 5 (Chartier, Bowey), 12:46. 5, Kelowna, Baillie 3 (Bowey), 15:00 (pp). 6, Seattle, McKechnie 1 (Eansor), 15:12. 7, Kelowna, Merkley 2 (Tvrdon, Olsen), 19:33 (pp, en). Penalties – Elliot, Seattle (elbowing), 13:24. Martin, Kelowna (tripping), 17:07. Hickman, Seattle (slashing), 18:42.
Shots on goal – Seattle 13-12-19 44, Kelowna 18-17-12 47. Goalies – Seattle, Kozun 46 shots-42 saves (4-5); Kelowna, Cooke 44-42 (8-1). Power plays – Seattle 1-7; Kelowna 2-5. A – 2,219. Referees – Jeff Ingram, Steve Papp. Linesmen – Ron Dietterle, Ryan Gibbons.
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