WHL playoff recap: Vandervlis powers Hurricanes over Rebels in game 7

Lethbridge 6 Red Deer 2 (Lethbridge wins series 4-3)

Game story:

-While they were on their way to a 3-1 series, lead the Red Deer Rebels got some key goals in big moments from a recurring set of players that included Brandon Hagel, Lane Zablocki and Evan Polei. They got the Rebels, who only led for around 10 minutes of those four games to get to the verge of pulling off a big upset. If the Hurricanes were to come back from the two-game deficit, they would need to find their big-moment goal-scorers. In games six and seven, they found one in Ryan Vandervlis. The 1998-born forward who stands a large six-foot-three and 212 pounds had just eight regular season goals. In game six with the hometown crowd buzzing and the Rebels surging after a Michael Spacek goal, he sat them down. He did so with a momentum sapping marker helping the ‘Canes to a 4-1 win.

Then on Tuesday night in a winner-move-on game seven, Vandervlis netted two markers and added an assist. This led Lethbridge to the Division Final where they will take on the Medicine Hat Tigers.

It was Lethbridge who had all the momentum early in game seven after consecutive Red Deer penalties gave them a five-on-three power play. Brennan Menell and Giorgio Estephan both scored in one minute and three seconds on those advantages to take a 2-0 lead. Zablocki responded to score off a turnover and seemingly send the game to its first intermission at 2-1. That is when Vandervlis stepped up and delivered a big blow to the Rebels’ hopes. Estephan drove around Red Deer goalie Riley Lamb, causing him to sprawl out. His shot went under Lamb and laid in the crease for Vandervlis to poke it in.

Midway through the second, it was Vandervlis driving up the ice short-handed and doing the dishing as he got a shot towards Lamb that Jordy Bellerive batted past the goalie, ending his night early. Lamb stopped 15 of 19 in the game and had a poor ending to a strong series.

Vandervlis delivered his biggest blow in the third though after a Brandon Hagel slap shot cut the lead to two and a Michael Spacek breakaway nearly cut it down to one. While on the power play, Igor Merezhko got a shot on net that Vandervlis tracked down the rebound of. It took two whacks, but Vandervlis got it past Lasse Petersen, giving him three points and running the ‘Canes’ lead to 5-2. Brennan Menell added another power play goal; the ‘Canes fourth of the night and the final score was 6-2.

The Lethbridge power play went four-for-six in game seven after only going four-for-30 over the first six games.

Stuart Skinner stopped 31 of 33 and a total of 239 of 258 in the series for a 0.926 save percentage.

Health:

-Evan Polei was suspended for game seven after his hit on Lethbridge’s Tanner Nagel.

Game 1: Red Deer 4 @Lethbridge 2

Game 2: Lethbridge 5 Red Deer 2

Game 3: Red Deer 4 Lethbridge 3(2OT)

Game 4: Red Deer 5 Lethbridge 3

Game 5: Lethbridge 5 Red Deer 3

Game 6: Lethbridge 4 @Red Deer 1

Leading scorers:

Lethbridge: Tyler Wong (5-5-10 points), Egor Babenko (3-6-9 points), Giorgio Estephan (2-7-9 points).

Red Deer: Michael Spacek (4-8-12 points), Evan Polei (3-6-9 points), Brandon Hagel (7-1-8 points), Lane Zablocki (6-2-8 points).

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Brandon Rivers

Longtime Portland Winterhawks' blogger on hodgesheroes.blogspot.com. I also write for SB Nation on the for the Seattle Sin Bin at http://www.sonicsrising.com/seattle-sin-bin. Further, I have a Seattle-sports podcast over at 206sportsjocks.com Originally from the Portland area, now living in Seattle. Proud husband and Father.