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T-birds take commanding 3-0 lead on Kelowna with another OT win | WHL playoffs
There could be no more unlikely hero nor a more unlikely hockey team to be up 3-0 in a best-of-seven series. Evan Wardley scored 4:55 into...
Special to The Seattle Times
KENT — There could be no more unlikely hero nor a more unlikely hockey team to be up 3-0 in a best-of-seven series.
Evan Wardley scored 4:55 into overtime to lift the Seattle Thunderbirds to their third straight overtime victory, 3-2 over the mighty Kelowna Rockets Tuesday night.
"Clearly that's not my role," Wardley said with a straight face after scoring his first playoff goal and only his third in 63 games this season. "I really was just thinking of getting it on net. I saw a stick on the ice and knew their player had broken one. I just wanted to get it on net and set up a battle in front, and luckily it went in."
Wardley's shot, from outside the circle, found the corner of the net to set off a wild celebration in front of a season-high 6,021 at the ShoWare Center.
"Wardley had a good game," Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. "He got us going with a couple of bit hits. He's obviously not a goal-scorer, but he can get some pucks through, so I'm not surprised he got it."
Wardley, a defenseman from Vulcan, Alberta, also had three assists and five points in his 60 regular-season games.
The Thunderbirds, the seventh seed after winning only 24 games in the Western Hockey League regular season, can now eliminate the second-seeded Rockets, winners of 52 games in the regular campaign, with a win in Kent on Wednesday.
"It was a tough, tough battle," Konowalchuk said. "They really pushed the pace. and it's so nice to get those overtime wins. They're not giving us an inch. We have to fight for everything we are getting."
Kelowna took a 2-0 lead on goals by Zach Franko and Cody Fowlie and had nine of the game's first 10 shots.
Seattle, winner of two overtime games in Kelowna to start the series, slowly got into the game. The T-birds narrowed the margin to 2-1 on Roberts Lipsbergs' second goal of the playoffs at 15:25 of the opening period.
The T-birds tied it on a goal by Jesse Forsberg with only 25 seconds remaining in the second period. The score came after Seattle kept the puck in Kelowna's end for a full 40 seconds.