Ryan Gropp scored three goals Tuesday night at Save-On-Foods Memorial Arena in Victoria to the lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 3-1 victory over the Victoria Royals.
The T-Bird and Royals meet for a final time this season Wednesday at 7:05pm in Victoria. The T-Birds return to ShoWare Center on Friday against the Tri-City Americans at 7:35pm.
The T-Birds are in second place in the US Division three points behind the Everett Silvertips for first place. They are four points ahead of the third-place Tri-City Americans.
Defenseman Jake Lee made his T-Bird debut Tuesday night against the Royals. Lee was the T-Birds first round pick, 18th overall, in the 2016 Bantam Draft. Lee, from Sherwood Park, Alberta, has been playing with the Sherwood Park Kings midget team this season. He has three goals and 10 assists for 13 points in 28 games with the Kings. Lee signed a standard WHL Player Agreement with the T-Birds on June 1, 2016.
Seattle goalie Matt Berlin stopped 17 of shots and his record is now 5-0-2-0. He is 2-0-0-0 against the Royals this season.
Seattle (32-15-3-2) took a 1-0 lead on a crisp passing play from the line of Mathew Barzal, Keegan Kolesar and Gropp. Kolesar fed the puck from the neutral zone to Barzal and he entered the Victoria zone on the right wing. Barzal stopped up at the right point and dished the puck to Kolesar coming into the right circle. Kolesar crossed the puck to Gropp coming down the left wing. Gropp caught the puck on his stick and snapped a wrist shot past Victoria goalie Griffen Outhouse high on the stick side.
Victoria (30-20-4-0) tied the game 1-1 at 18:36 of the first on a power-play goal from Dante Hannoun. Matthew Phillips and Tyler Soy had the assists.
Gropp struck with 18 seconds left in the first period to give the T-Birds a 2-1 lead. Barzal won a faceoff in the right circle back to Ethan Bear the right point. Bear skated towards the right circle and then dropped the puck for Gropp coming up the right-wing boards. Gropp took the puck and curled into the slot. Gropp beat Outhouse over the blocker for his second goal of the game.
Seattle outshot Victoria 7-5 in the first period.
The T-Birds outshot the Royals 16-6 in a scoreless second period and led 26-11 in shots after two periods.
The T-Birds killed off a Royals four-on-three power play and then a five-on-four power play midway through the third period.
The Royals pulled Outhouse with 2:23 left in the third period for an extra attacker. Matching roughing minors were called on Barzal and Phillips to give Victoria a five-on-four power play with Outhouse on the bench.
Victoria was pressing when Austin Strand chipped the puck up the right boards to Donovan Neuls. Neuls found Gropp heading up ice in the neutral zone. Gropp went wide on a Victoria defenseman and hit the empty net from the top of the left circle with 1:01 left in the game.
Seattle outshot Victoria 9-7 in the third period and 32-18 in the game.
Outhouse made 29 saves on 31 shots and his record is now 29-17-3-0.