Everett’s season came to an end tonight as the Tips were eliminated from the playoffs. Seattle ended up winning the best-of-seven series 4-1, and the T-birds will play Kelowna, the top seed in the Western Conference, in the second round.
This game was a lot like the first three games of the series through two periods, as it was close, tense and nervous. But Seattle didn’t give Everett anything offensively tonight, and the T-birds scored four goals in the fourth period to turn the game into a rout.
In the end, Seattle proved to be just too big and strong for Everett to handle. The T-birds’ physical play, particularly in the games in Kent, was too much for the Tips. Everett had already lost two defensemen to injury going into Game 5, and Seattle’s forwards just wore the Tips down.
This series reinforced one of my observations of playoffs in this league: one-line teams don’t fare well in the postseason. Everett wasn’t exactly a one-line team, but the Tips were heavily reliant on Joshua Winquist for offense. In the playoffs teams can scheme to take away one player or one line, and the T-birds kept Everett’s record goal scorer quiet in the series, as Winquist finished with just one goal and three assists in the five games.
Though the series ended 4-1, it was closer than the final game tally suggests. Tonight was the first time Seattle outshot Everett in the series. But the T-birds found ways to score goals when it mattered most, and T-birds goaltender Taran Kozun was the better netminder in the series.
Now we have a rematch of the first-round series from last season, when Kelowna became just the second team in WHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in beating Seattle. The Rockets will likely have their hands full again this time around.
Though Everett hadn’t generated much offensively through two periods, it was still just a 1-0 game going into the third period. But just 1:15 into the third Seattle’s Branden Troock was first to a loose puck in the slot, and he shoveled a backhander that squeezed under Tips goalie Austin Lotz to give the T-birds the all-important two-goal lead. That goal completely took the wind out of Everett’s sails, and there was no coming back for the Tips after that.
First star: Scott Eansor, Seattle. One goal, the 17-year-old rookie had one heck of a series.
Second star: Kozun. 24 saves, he finished the series with a 2.27 goals against average and .927 save percentage, despite allowing six goals in Game 4.
Third star: Troock. Two goals, scored them both after having to be helped off the ice injured in the first period.
The Herald’s honorable mention: Really, you can give this to anyone on Seattle’s team. Excellent team effort tonight in shutting the Tips down.
Game 1: Seattle 2, Everett 1
Game 2: Seattle 3, Everett 1
Game 3: Seattle 4, Everett 3 (OT)
Game 4: Everett 6, Seattle 1
Game 5: Seattle 5, Everett 0 (Seattle wins series 4-1)