So hear’s the deal. Everett had played four games since the coaching change going into Saturday, and in each of those games one of the teams put a lot of pucks into the net. With Everett piecing together a makeshift defense tonight because of injuries, I figured that streak would extend to five.
How makeshift was the defense? It included four rookies (Ben Betker, Mirco Mueller, Cole MacDonald, Michael Zipp), a converted forward moving back to defense (Landon Oslanski), and a 15-year-old emergency call-up (Kevin Davis) who played a game with his midget team earlier in the day.
But that group turned in an inspired performance tonight. Once Everett got ahead, they did an excellent job of limiting Lethbridge’s scoring chances, particularly during the bulk of the third period when it was a one-goal game. And on the rare occasions when Lethbridge did find a way through, Austin Lotz was rock solid in goal.
How impressive was Lotz? He gave me something I’d never seen before as it was the first time I ever witnessed a crowd give an ovation to a goaltender who just gave up a goal. Lethbridge had a 1:52 five-on-three power play, and the Tips nearly killed it all off, with Lotz making a number of incredible stops before Adam Henry finally picked out the top corner following an extended scramble. As the Hurricanes celebrated and Lotz grabbed a drink from his water bottle, the fans behind Lotz rose to acknowledge Lotz’s efforts.
The game turned on the first five minutes of the second period. Lethbridge controlled play in the first, outshooting Everett 15-8, and the Tips were perhaps fortunate to escape trailing just 1-0. But Everett responded in the second, scoring three quick goals. It was sparked when, just 19 seconds in, Joshua Winquist circled the Lethbridge net and sent a diagonal pass to Mueller wide open at the top of the left circle. Mueller gathered, then fired a wrister that Lethbridge goaltender Christopher Tai could only get a piece of. That moment sparked a three-goal outburst that turned out to be all the offense the Tips needed.
First star: Winquist. Two assists, including the one that sparked the turnaround.
Second star: Tyler Sandhu, Everett. One goal and one assist, excellent shot for his goal.
Third star: Adam Henry, Lethbridge. One goal, solid on defense.
The Herald’s honorable mention: Take your pick between Lotz and Mueller. Lotz was excellent again and has now won eight of his past 12 starts after beginning 3-10-0-1. Mueller, in addition to his goal, was immense on defense, just when the Tips needed it most.