Did anyone see this one coming?
Beforehand there was a sense of inevitability about this game. Portland has the best record in the WHL, had won all eight previous meetings between the two teams, and whupped the Tips 8-0 and 6-0 in its previous two trips to Comcast Arena. Everett had lost 13 of its previous 14 and was hammered 7-1 by defending WHL champion Edmonton the night before. That 7-1 score seemed like a good starting point for predicting tonight’s result.
But full credit to the Tips. They hung tough with the Winterhawks for two periods, taking a deserved 1-1 score into the third. Then in the third Portland asserted itself and dominated the puck, but it was Everett that found the goals. If you needed a sign that the Tips were meant to win this one, Manraj Hayer made a desperation clearance with time winding down that was going for icing. However, the puck hopped onto its side, then took a detour and rolled into the empty net to clinch it with 12.8 seconds remaining. That gave Everett its first four-goal game since Jan. 20, a span of 17 games. Can you believe that?
Austin Lotz played an excellent game in goal for Everett as Portland outshot Everett 45-25, including 15-4 in the third period. But he received a lot of help, too, as the Tips clogged up the middle and blocked a lot of shots. Portland had a lot of shots, but didn’t get a lot of premium scoring chances.
This victory, coupled with Seattle’s 5-3 loss to Tri-City, pulled the Tips back within one point of seventh place in the Western Conference. Everett also moved seven points ahead of idle Prince George. Could these be the two points that end up securing a playoff berth for the Tips?
That sense of inevitability returned when Portland’s Ty Rattie scored a power-play goal with 6:51 remaining to tie it at 2-2. The Winterhawks seemed the likelier team to find the winner. However, Everett received a late power play of its own, and Kohl Bauml tipped a shot past Portland goaltender Mac Carruth with 2:03 remaining (other Tips take note, this is what can happen when you get bodies in front of the goalie). It was rather poetic that Bauml, who scored twice, got the winner. When Portland scored the tying goal it was Bauml who got picked — with no call being made — allowing the Winterhawks to get off the point shot that led to Rattie’s goal.
First star: Lotz. 43 saves, and in front of a large contingent of NHL scouts.
Second star: Reid Petryk, Everett. One goal, worked his tail off.
Third star: Mirco Mueller, Everett. One assist, did yeoman’s work against Portland’s top line.
The Herald’s honorable mention: Rattie. Two goals. I don’t understand how Portland didn’t get a star.