Prospect Park: Gropp’s Goal Helps Thunderbirds Win WHL Championship

In News, Prospect Park by Jess Rubenstein

Ryan Gropp (Keith Hershmiller/Regina Pats)

Ryan Gropp started a Seattle Thunderbird comeback with a goal as his Seattle Thunderbirds rallied from down 3-1 to earn a 4-3 overtime win and the franchise’s first ever WHL Championship. The win in game six allowed the Thunderbirds to eliminate the Regina Pats four games to two and sends the Thunderbirds to the 2017 Memorial Cup as the WHL representative.

The game started pretty much as the previous two games with Regina scoring first and dominating the first period. The Pats scored on a power play at 7:18 of the first period and kept the lead until 8:55 of the second when Seattle would tie the game.

In the third, the Pats would take the lead on an even-strength goal at 11:50 with Dawson Leedahl earning the secondary assist. The Pats would increase the lead to two goals when they added another goal a 1:22 later at 13:12 to make it 3-1.

Things were looking like the Pats would force a seventh game until Ryan Gropp stepped up and got the Thunderbirds on the road to a comeback. Gropp would fire a wrist shot past Regina goalie Tyler Brown to cut the Pat’s lead to 3-2.

It was the third straight game with a goal for Gropp who had been denied by Brown earlier in the game with some outstanding saves. Not this time as Gropp scoring at 14:38 energized the Thunderbirds.

Gropp was not done as Regina took a badly timed penalty giving Seattle a chance to tie the game which they did at 17:06. Gropp started the play as he fed Ethan Bear who found Keegan Kolesar for the game-tying goal to force overtime.

The Thunderbirds would win the game and WHL Championship in overtime when Alexander True put his own rebound back into a wide open net at 12:36 of the first overtime. Ryan Gropp was on the ice for the game winner having made one of the defensive plays to start the attack.

Gropp is 6-11-17 in the playoffs coming off three straight 1-1-2 performances. The Thunderbirds head to their first ever Memorial Cup in Windsor Ontario where they will start play on Saturday against OHL Champions the Erie Otters.

For the Regina Pats, Dawson Leedahl had a secondary assist, was a +2 but also took two minor penalties. Leedahl finished the playoffs with a 12-13-25 +10 which was good for fifth in WHL scoring and fourth in WHL goals. The disappointing part was his taking 17 minors which were 34 PIMs which was third in the WHL.

His junior career is over and he will be looking to make the Hartford Wolfpack next year. Sergey Zborovskiy was scoreless with a -1 as he finished the playoffs with a 0-8-8 +20. The +20 was the best in the WHL during the playoffs.

Sergey Zborovskiy (Regina Pats)

Zborovskiy turn 20 in February could go to Hartford but could also return to Regina for an overage season. That would be a bit of a longshot as it would require Regina to carry him as both an import player as well as an overage player. That is something most CHL teams normally avoid since it means taking up two spots (the overage and import) that most prefer using two players with.

We expect Zborovskiy to make the Hartford roster where he could help the recently signed Russian defenseman Alexei Bereglazov transition to North America.

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