Game one of the WHL Championship finals saw Ryan Gropp and his Seattle Thunderbirds draw first blood over Sergey Zborovskiy’s Regina Pats with a 2-1 overtime win. The win gives Seattle a 1-0 series lead and even better steals away home-ice advantage with the finals played in a 2-3-2 format.
This was a very closely played game with both teams having chances to score only to see the goalies preventing even strength goals until the game winner. Ryan Gropp had a secondary assist on Seattle’s only regulation goal, a power play goal which gave Seattle a 1-0 lead in the second period.
Gropp has scored in 10 of the 11 playoff games that he has played in this year going 4-8-12 on a five-game scoring streak. The numbers represent a career best for Gropp as he and the Thunderbirds look to win a WHL Championship.
Sergey Zborovskiy did not score for the Regina Pats but had a rare -1 as he was on the ice for the game-winner (as was Gropp for the T-birds). Zborovskiy also took an interference minor in the third period.
As for the game itself, the Thunderbirds have been using a rookie goalie who has been playing like Henrik Lundqvist at his best. Carl Stankowski who only appeared in seven regular season games has gone an unbelievable 13-1-1 with 2.39 goals against and a 0.917 save percentage leading the Thunderbirds thus far.
The first period was a scoreless battle thanks to Stankowski and his counterpart Regina’s Tyler Brown. Both made great saves including one on Ryan Gropp who missed on a close-in chance.
In the second with Seattle on the power play, Gropp got the puck to linemate Matthew Barzal who fed Ethan Bear for the power play goal at 4:55 and a 1-0 lead. Seattle would keep the Pats off the board to take the lead into the dressing room after the end of the second period.
In the third, it would be the Pats who finally broke through for a goal as they tied the game by swarming the Seattle goal and eventually scoring to tie the game and force overtime.
Overtime started and ended in less time than it took to type this sentence as Gropp and his linemates would end the game in just 14 seconds of overtime. The play happened so fast that Gropp never touched the puck on the game-winning play.
Zborovskiy did not play bad but he is going to need some help trying to stop the Gropp line. He cannot do it alone as all three forwards and Ethan Bear are serious offensive threats to score.
Game two is in Regina on Saturday night at 7 PM local time (9 PM EDT/6 PM PDT)
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