Rockets sweep Thunderbirds in second-round series | WHL playoffs

Kelonwa defensemen Damon Severson (7) and Colten Martin (8) battle the Thunderbirds
Kelonwa defensemen Damon Severson (7) and Colten Martin (8) battle the Thunderbirds' Branden Troock in front of the Rockets' goal.
— image credit: Courtesy photo/Thunderbirds, Brian Liesse

For the Reporter

The Kelowna Rockets defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds 5-2 Wednesday night at the ShoWare Center to sweep their second-round, best-of-seven Western Hockey League playoff series.

The top-seeded Rockets advance to the Western Conference finals, where they will play the winner of the Victoria-Portland series still in progress. Portland has a 3-1 series leading entering tonight's Game 5 in the Rose City.

Making his ninth start of the playoffs in goal, Taran Kozun stopped 42 of 46 shots but took the loss. Jordon Cooke got his eighth win of the postseason, stopping 42 of 44 shots.

The T-Birds took the lead at 14:22 of the first period. Justin 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.

Kelowna tied the game at 16:11 in the second period 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.

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.

Branden 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.

The visitors added a power-play goal at 15:00 to make it a 4-1 game. Tyson Baillie scored, with Madison 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.

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.

Nick Merkley added an empty-net goal with 26.3 seconds left in the game to seal the deal.



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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