A 36-second span was the Kelowna Rockets’ undoing in the opening game of the WHL’s Western Conference final.
Matthew Barzal and Scott Eansor scored goals late in the second period to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 2-1 victory Friday at Prospera Place in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series.
Landon Bow made 23 saves in the Seattle net, allowing only Rourke Chartier’s power play goal with 22 seconds remaining in the third period.
With the game scoreless late in the second period, Rockets’ centre Tyson Baillie took an interference penalty after crashing into Bow on a partial breakaway chance.
Thirty-eight seconds later, at 18:54, Barzal connected on the power play, rifling a shot over Michael Herringer’s left shoulder for his third goal of the playoffs.
Eansor then banked a wrist shot off Cal Foote’s skate at 19:10 to give the Thunderbirds a 2-0 lead and all the scoring they would need to claim Game 1.
“I thought we started well, I liked our first period, but we had the sequence right at the end of the second period that seemed to seal our fate,” said Rockets head coach Brad Ralph. “I thought in the third period, we didn’t seem to have a lot of pushback, whether that’s emotional or our energy level.
“Certainly we can play with these guys,” Ralph said, “if we make some better decisions at key moments in the game, then we give ourselves a chance.”
Thunderbirds’ head coach Steve Konowalchuk said his team turned in a workmanlike effort against the defending WHL champs.
“The guys battled hard, you’ve gotta fight for every inch and I thought we did that,” said Konowalchuk. “We were fortunate. That’s a good team over there, we gotta make sure we get real focused for tomorrow.”
Rockets’ captain Rodney Southam was penalized with a five-minute major and game misconduct for a check to the head of Seattle’s Cavin Leth midway through the third period. Leth was helped off the ice and didn’t return.
Game 2 goes Saturday night at Prospera Place. Games 3 and 4 will be played Tuesday and Wednesday in Kent, WA.