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WHL Championship: Seattle Thunderbirds lose series opener on fluke goal

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Puck bounces off glass and onto crease for an easy game-winner for Wheat Kings.

Western Hockey League Championship Series is underway.
Western Hockey League Championship Series is underway.
WHL

BRANDON, Manitoba – An unusual way to end the opening game of the 2016 Western Hockey League Chynoweth Cup Final on Friday night occurred in overtime as Seattle Thunderbirds goaltender Landon Bow lost sight of a puck that sailed high above him and hitting off the end board glass. Assuming that the puck would directly hit the back side of the net, it literally did…after center Tanner Kaspick touched the puck with his stick immediately when it touched the ice from the deflection of the glass and tapped it in.

And with that said, a crowd of 5,610 inside the Keystone Centre’s Westman Place in Brandon saw Kaspick’s goal at 6:22 of the first overtime propel` his Brandon Wheat Kings to a 3-2 win and the early 1-0 series lead. The best-of-7 league championship series continues on Saturday with Game 2 faceoff set for 5:35 pm Pacific time.

Both teams played fairly well despite a couple of minor penalties including an interference call on Seattle defenseman Turner Ottenbreit setting up a Brandon power play scored by center Reid Duke at 17:36 of the first period for the 1-0 lead.

Later in the second period, after T-Birds defenseman Jared Hauf was sent to the penalty box for hooking, Seattle center Donovan Neuls would score short-handed at 8:55 and the T-Birds would close out the period tied at one through 40 minutes. At this point, Seattle outshot Brandon through two periods by 27-15 count.

The third period would start out with Brandon defenseman Ivan Provorov going in for tripping just nine seconds in before Thunderbirds left-winger Ryan Gropp gave his team their first lead of the night on the power play at 2-1 just 28 seconds into the third period. From there, the game would go a quick 180 towards the Wheat Kings favor. Nolan Patrick’s 11th playoff goal of this postseason tied the game at two forcing overtime leading up to Kaspick’s goal.

Bow would stop 39 of 42 shots in the loss, along with a two-minute tripping penalty late in the third period. His efforts was good enough to earn the #3 star of the game. Wheat Kings goaltender Jordan Papirny stopped 31 of 33 shots for the win.

Brandon – between the third period and overtime – outshot Seattle 27-6, 42-33 overall.

After the game, Thunderbirds head coach Steve Konowalchuk told The Brandon Sun’s Perry Bergson:

"I’m a little bit frustrated with the third period and the overtime," he said. "We got ahead of ourselves but the first period and second period we were playing pretty good hockey and skating the way we want to and need to to have a chance to succeed here. That will be our challenge to get back on track."

Seattle is now 12-2 overall in the 2016 WHL Playoffs. Friday night’s game was their first road loss of this postseason.

THUNDERBIRDS NOTES

- Center Alexander True, right wing Keegan Kolesar, and defenseman Ethan Bear earned assists with Kolesar and Bear assisting on Gropp’s go-ahead goal early in the third period.

- Neuls grew up in Grenfell, Saskatchewan, located approximately 150 miles west of Brandon.

- Temperatures soared into the low 90s earlier this week in Brandon but cooled into the upper 70s during the day on Friday. But inside Westman Place, according to T-Birds radio play-by-play Thom Beuning during the broadcasts, it felt like it was hot inside the building although the ice maintained its playing conditions.

- Rogers Sportsnet produced Game 1 on Friday for its national audience via Sportsnet 360. This was the only game produced for this series. NHL Network will simulcast last night’s Game 1 this morning at 10 am; however, due to programming commitments, Game 1 will be cut-down to a condensed 90-minute version.

- There was telephone connectivity issues between Beuning and the team’s flagship radio station KFNQ-AM 1090 The Fan, resulting in portions of the pre-game show to be interrupted on air including his interview with Konowalchuk, which was only heard through WHL TV.

- Western Canada’s Shaw TV will be producing the rest of the WHL Chynoweth Cup Final series beginning with tonight’s Game 2 at 5:30 pm Pacific. ROOT Sports Northwest will start simulcasting the series with a first-run tape-delay scheduled to air on Sunday at 5:30 pm Pacific.