One month ago, on Feb. 14, Everett played host to Vancouver. The talk before that game was how the Tips needed to win to have any chance of getting sixth place in the Western Conference, and thus fulfill their guarantee to season ticket holders. That's because Everett's schedule was brutal down the stretch.
Who could have predicted we'd find ourselves where we are today?
Everett won its ninth straight Saturday night before a raucous sold-out crowd at Comcast Arena, and other results (Spokane lost 3-0 at Tri-City, Seattle lost 7-0 at Portland) mean the Tips will face Seattle in the first round of the playoffs -- and they are in pole position for home-ice advantage. Are we really talking about the possibility of Everett finishing fourth?
Anyway, it's about time Everett and Seattle met in the playoffs. This is the 11th season in Tips franchise history. Everett has made the playoffs each of the previous 10. The Tips have had multiple playoff series against every other team in the U.S. Division. They had a playoff series against Kootenay, which left the Western Conference ages ago. But they've never faced their I-5 rival in the postseason. Until now.
While the Tips and T-birds know they will be playing one another, home ice is still up for grabs. Everett takes a one-point advantage into the final day. But the Tips have a daunting game at Portland on Sunday, while Seattle travels to face a Tri-City team that will finish below .500. The T-birds also have the tiebreaker. Therefore, despite having a one-point edge, I'm not sure the Tips are favored to get home ice.
The schedules for the first four games have already been determined for either scenario. Interestingly, if Seattle gets home ice the teams will alternate all seven games.
But whoever gets home ice, it's going to be a whole lot of fun! These teams have split the season series 5-5 four years in a row, so it can't get any more competitive.
Everett carried a 2-1 lead into the third period. However, the Tips began playing cautiously, allowing the Royals to gain some initiative, and Victoria tied it with 3:31 remaining. So it looked like Everett would have to work overtime to get their two points. However, with 1:28 remaining, Everett's Dawson Leedahl took the puck away from a Victoria defenseman at the Tips blue line and headed the other direction on a two-on-one. He sent a perfect saucer pass into the path of Carson Stadnyk, who fired a one-timer across the grain to beat Royals goalie Coleman Vollrath and send the sold out crowd at Comcast Arena into a frenzy.
(note, the stars at the game were given to the overagers, but these are the real ones as they appear on the gamesheet)
First star: Manraj Hayer, Everett. Two assists, and an absolutely gorgeous play to set up the goal that gave the Tips a 2-1 lead.
Second star: Ben Betker, Everett. One goal, but it was the little plays he made in his own zone that stood out to me.
Third star: Logan Nelson, Victoria. One goal, showed off both his skill and physicality.
The Herald's honorable mention: Leedahl. One assist, it was a great play that set up the game winner.
Everett 3, Victoria 2
Most Valuable Player: Joshua Winquist
Rookie of the Year: Ivan Nikolishin
Unsung Hero: Mirco Mueller
Coaches Award: Jujhar Khaira
Most Improved Player: Noah Juulsen
Iron Man Awards: Ivan Nikolishin, Carson Stadnyk
F.I.E.R.C.E. Predator Award: Kohl Bauml
Scholastic Player of the Year: Matt Fonteyne
Community Relations Award: Ben Betker
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