Carl Stankowski continues to be the story for the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The T-Birds left the WFCU Centre with a 4-2 loss to the OHL champion Erie Otters in the first all-American Memorial Cup matchup since 2007, but Stankowski was the reason Seattle stayed in the conversation until the final buzzer.
The rookie netminder held his team in a back-and-forth one-goal contest despite watching his team get outshot by a staggering 35-20 margin while collecting a handful of near tide-turning stops along the way.
Stankowski has been a feel-good story from the West Coast ever since Seattle’s former No. 1 netminder, Rylan Toth, had his season cut short by injury. Despite playing just five regular season contests before getting called into the starter’s role, and only two more before getting the nod for the playoffs, Stankowski collected a .911 save percentage through his 16-2-2 Ed Chynoweth Cup run, and that number doesn’t seem to be budging on the national stage.
The Calgary-born netminder found his way onto Seattle’s radar while playing with the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League’s Calgary Flames. After posting a 1.88 goals against average and a .920 save percentage in 2015, Stankowski saw his name called in the second round of the WHL bantam draft, at 37th overall.
Stankowski took his game south of the border after being drafted to the T-Birds, opting to play with the Anaheim Ducks Junior 16 squad, of the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League. And when the door opened for WHL eligibility to start this season, Stankowski was ready to answer the bell.
The Thunderbirds were outchanced and ultimately outscored in Saturday’s matinee loss to the Otters — a 12:15 p.m. start by Seattle’s standards — with some of their standout players looking a little sluggish. They may be on the bottom half of the bracket as a result, but with only one more chapter left to write in Stankowski’s storybook rookie season it’s still hard to rule out the WHL champions.
The Thunderbirds get right back to work Sunday against the host Windsor Spitfires — who upset the QMJHL champion Saint John Sea Dogs to open the Memorial Cup on Friday. The puck drops at 7 p.m. ET.
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