Silvertips in pole position in race for WHL playoff spot
Everett heads into the final weekend still seeking to secure a playoff berth. Everett is one of four teams locked in a battle for the Western Conference's final two playoff berths, along with Prince George, Seattle and Kamloops.
The Tips made the playoffs in each of their first seven seasons in existence. This weekend will determine whether Everett extends that streak to eight.
"We still have work to do here," Everett coach Craig Hartsburg said. "We've got nothing accomplished. It's in our hands, it's really about what we can do with it. We've got three tough games coming, but we'll take them one at a time. We've got to find a way to get some more points here."
Though the Tips haven't secured a playoff spot just yet, Everett is in a good spot. The Tips are in pole position in the race, sitting in seventh place in the conference. Everett leads Prince George by one point, and the Tips are four points ahead of both Seattle and Kamloops. In addition, Everett has three games this weekend, while Prince George and Kamloops have just two -- a home-and-home set against one another.
"I think we put ourselves in a pretty good position," overage center Clayton Cumiskey said. "If we can win one more game I think we'll be pretty good, but obviously we want to win more than one."
The biggest reason for Everett's position was Wednesday's 2-1 victory at Tri-City. The Tips received strong goaltending from Luke Siemens (35 saves) and a tiebreaking power-play goal from Ryan Harrison midway through the third period. That win alleviated a bit of the pressure from the final weekend.
"That was huge, knowing all the other teams are trying to catch us and stay in line with us," Harrison said about beating Tri-City. "It was huge to get the two points.
"I think we played great," Harrison added. "We did what we came out to do. We got pucks deep, we got a good cycle on them, we got a lot of chances and Luke played great in net."
Everett's final three games are all on the road. The Tips play Portland tonight, Chilliwack on Saturday and Vancouver on Sunday. Portland is still fighting with Spokane for first place in the conference. Chilliwack and Vancouver are battling for fifth place and the right to avoid Portland or Spokane in the first round. So all three opponents should be motivated.
Everett is also playing for more than just making the playoffs. Seeding is also a significant issue. The team that finishes eighth must play the conference champion, either Portland or Spokane, in the first round. The team that finishes seventh will play B.C. Division champion Kelowna, which is 14 points behind Portland and 13 points behind Spokane.
The Tips would also relish a playoff rematch with Kelowna with the roles reversed. Last season the sixth-seeded Rockets upset the third-seeded Tips in seven games in the first round.
Therefore, Everett is motivated not just to make the playoffs, but also to hold onto their spot in seventh.
"It's definitely important to hold seventh," Cumiskey said. "We'd be playing the second-place team, which would be Kelowna. That's what I would rather have, especially because it's Kelowna because we'd get a rematch from last year."
But while results are tantamount for the Tips this weekend, they also want to make sure they're playing their best heading into the postseason -- provided they earn a spot.
"The main focus is just playing our best," Harrison said. "It does matter whether we win or lose, obviously, but we want to be playing our best going into the first round, getting the momentum going and being the best we can be."
Should two teams finish tied for eighth, the final playoff berth would be determined by a one-game playoff. The team with the most wins would host the game.
Everett will likely be without No. 1 goaltender Kent Simpson and captain Landon Ferraro for this weekend's games. Simpson, who's out with a sprained ankle, and Ferraro, who has a groin injury, are doubtful for the weekend. Defenseman Chad Suer (cut leg) skated Thursday and may be available. ... Tonight's game at Portland is being televised live on FSN. The game is taking place at the Rose Garden, which has a regulation-sized ice surface, as opposed to their regular home at Memorial Coliseum, which has a smaller surface.
Check out Nick Patterson's Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.
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