Troy Stecher scores game-winning goal for his late father, Peter, as Canucks top defending champs
Troy Stecher didn't hesitate.
After he hammered a slap shot past goalie Jordan Binnington for the game-winning goal against the defending Stanley Cup champions in Game 1 of the Western Conference quarterfinals, he looked straight to the heavens, pointed to the sky and said a few words.
That one was for dad.
Stecher's first-career Stanley Cup Playoff goal Wednesday night was an unforgettable one.
Two months after he lost his father, Peter, on Father's Day, the former UND star and national championship defenseman broke a 2-2 tie in the third period and led his Vancouver Canucks to a 5-2 win over the St. Louis Blues.
"It's been tough, obviously, at certain moments throughout this process," Stecher said. "I'm thankful to be surrounded by my teammates. Obviously, I had a couple of seconds there to reflect on my dad. And the biggest thing was that everybody showed their support on the bench instantly and kind of gave me and tap and that just motivated me to keep going."
The winning goal was assisted by his UND teammate, Brock Boeser, who scored a personal and meaningful goal in the opening round against the Minnesota Wild .
After the goal, Canucks forward Elias Pettersson grabbed Stecher and said a few words to him.
"I saw the celebration right away," Pettersson said, "and I wanted to congratulate him. What Troy had to go through this summer was just devastating. So, I just wanted to go and hug him."
Canucks coach Travis Green watched Stecher's celebration from the bench.
"I feel great for him," Green said. "Any time someone goes through something like that, you feel for them. Sad. I know he's probably had some hard days. To see that happen to him was special, for sure, and I know his teammates were happy for him."
Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom, who stopped 29 of 31 shots Wednesday, can relate to Stecher. Markstrom lost his father during this hockey season, too.
"I know what he's going through and it's not easy," Markstrom said. "For him to show that kind of emotion -- I was so happy he got it -- I got emotional as well, thinking about it. I gave him a big hug after the game. I'm super happy for him.
"He's a guy who blocks a ton of shots and works. To get rewarded with a goal in a big game, with everything he's been going through, that's huge."
It was Stecher's first playoff point since the 2016 NCAA Frozen Four semifinal win over Denver, when he assisted on Rhett Gardner's empty-net goal.
Stecher played three seasons at UND from 2013-16, leading the program to the Frozen Four each season and winning a national championship in his final game.
On Wednesday, Stecher was matched up against some of St. Louis's top players and he delivered with the game-winning goal, a plus-1 rating, two blocked shots and a takeaway while playing 15:40.
"Stech is a competitor," Green said. "Smart player. Gets himself in good positions. Fearless."
Since his father's passing, Stecher has kept his necklace in his locker.
His father was on his mind after one of his biggest-career goals, too.
"I miss my dad every day," Stecher said. "It was a big goal at a crucial time. We've talked about trying to get the win in Game 1. Obviously, that gave us the lead and the boys hunkered down. The biggest thing is we got the win and I'll take some time to reflect."
After dropping Game 1 in their best-of-five series against the Wild, the Canucks have now won four-straight games.
The Canucks have allowed 12 goals during their five playoff games. Stecher has not been on the ice for any of the goals against. He has a team-best plus-4 rating during the playoffs.
"It's the playoffs," Stecher said. "There are no more excuses. Every single puck battle matters. Winning every single line matters. It comes down to details at this time of year. So, just try to compete as hard as I can and try to help my teammates win. When I'm on the ice, I'm going to work as hard as I can."