By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Matt Pufahl had this date circled on his calendar.
Sitting in the opposing bench were his hometown Saskatoon Blades, the team he played for the previous one-and-a-half seasons. The Everett Silvertips captain was determined to have a good showing in his one-and-only meeting with his former teammates.
Consider it a mission accomplished — in style.
Pufahl scored twice against his former mates, leading the Tips to a dominating 5-1 victory over the Blades at Comcast Arena.
Everett used the combination of puck possession and a lethal power play to control the contest against Saskatoon. Right at the center of it all was Pufahl, the overage defenseman Everett acquired from the Blades during the offseason specifically to improve the power play.
“I was looking forward to this game for a long time, ever since I got traded,” Pufahl said. “It was good to get the win, I’m just happy to get the two points against these guys, that’s the bottom line.”
Ivan Nikolishin added a goal and two assists, while Kohl Bauml and Matt Fonteyne also scored for Everett (20-4-4-0), which was playing its first game in a week following a brutal stretch of 10 games in 16 days. However, there was little sign of rust on the Tips as they dominated the puck, outshooting Saskatoon 39-16 en route to winning their fifth straight. The last time Everett won five straight was when the Tips won all 14 of their games in January of 2010.
“For the most part we were where we wanted to be,” Bauml said about solving the long layoff. “The coaches were saying all week that, ‘Yeah, we have a week off, yeah it’s time to rest, but we have to get back into work mode.’ A week off is a very dangerous thing in hockey, letting your minds drift away. But we got our minds into the game real quick, and I thought the coaching staff did a good job preparing us.”
Joshua Winquist added three assists for Everett, extending his franchise record points streak to 17 games. Austin Lotz picked up the win in goal for Everett, getting his full money’s worth for his 15 saves as, in the rare instances when Saskatoon was able to gain control of the puck, the Blades’ top line created quality scoring chances.
Nikita Scherbak scored the lone goal for Saskatoon (10-16-1-2). Troy Trombely made 34 saves in net for the Blades.
Saskatoon came into the game with the top-ranked power play in the WHL. However, it was Everett’s power play that was clicking. The Tips finished 5-for-7 on the power play as they did all their offensive damage with the advantage. It was a huge improvement for a power play that was a modest 5-for-28 (17.9 percent) the previous eight games.
“We were really moving the puck on the power play,” Pufahl said. “We were shooting, that’s been our emphasis lately. We just kept shooting the puck and everything was going in.
“This game was a huge step up for our power play,” Pufahl added. “We needed it. We usually only score one goal on the power play, and now we’ve scored five. That’s a big confidence builder for our team.”
The play was fast and furious during a breathless first period, with Everett holding a 16-4 shot advantage, but neither team was able to find the net. Bauml had a short-handed breakaway, but skied his shot. Then late in the period Saskatoon’s Colin Valcourt was sprung free, but Lotz got just enough of the puck to keep it out as the game remained scoreless into the second.
However, the Tips were drawing penalties because of their puck possession, and Everett cashed in big in the second. The Tips began the period on the power play, and Nikolishin opened the scoring at 1 minute, 1 second as he had an easy put-away following Winquist’s weighted cross-slot feed.
Nikolishin then drew two penalties on the same play, giving the Tips a full two minutes of five-on-three, and Everett converted at 8:26, Pufahl picking out the top corner with a wrister from the point.
Everett got its third power-play goal of the period at 11:08, Bauml banging in a rebound following Pufahl’s drive from the point.
Saskatoon’s top line of Scherbak, Valcourt and Nathan Burns was dangerous throughout, and it got the Blades on the board at 13:33. Lotz made two good saves, but Scherbak was there to put in the third chance and make it 3-1 going into the third.
But the power play clinched the game for Everett in the third. Pufahl got his second of the game at 9:29 when his one-timer from the point got through Trombley. Then in the final minute Nikolishin’s shot from the point deflected off Fonteyne and trickled past Trombley to complete the scoring.
Saturday marked the return of two players to Comcast Arena, though neither spent long in a Silvertips jersey. Trombley played in three preseason games with Everett in 2012, but did not make the final roster. He was eventually dropped from Everett’s protected list, was picked up by Tri-City, then traded to Saskatoon. Defenseman Ayrton Nikkel appeared in seven regular season games and three playoff games with the Tips last season after arriving from Brandon at the trade deadline. He was subsequently dealt to Saskatoon in the offseason in the deal that brought Pufahl to Everett.
Silvertips 5, Blades 1
Saskatoon 0 1 0—1
Everett 0 3 2—5
First Period—no goals. Penalties—Gomerich, Saskatoon (tripping), 7:05; Low, Everett (interference), 16:27; Burns, Saskatoon (hooking), 19:21.
Second Period—1, Everett, Nikolishin 7 (Winquist, Khaira), 1:01 (pp). 2, Everett, Pufahl 10 (Nikolishin), 8:26 (pp). 3, Everett, Bauml 7 (Pufahl, Winquist), 11:08 (pp). 4, Saskatoon, Scherbak 17 (Valcourt, Burns), 13:33. Penalties—Hayer, Everett (hooking), 5:23; Burns, Saskatoon (hooking), 8:08; Millette, Saskatoon (tripping), 8:08; Nikkel, Saskatoon (cross checking), 10:23.
Third Period—5, Everett, Pufahl 11 (Winquist, Khaira), 9:29 (pp). 6, Everett, Fonteyne 2 (Nikolishin, Low), 19:33 (pp). Penalties—Clayton, Saskatoon (roughing), 8:56; Aasman, Everett (tripping), 10:33; Nogier, Saskatoon (holding), 18:59.
Shots on goal—Saskatoon 4-11-5—16. Everett 16-12-11—39. Power-play opportunities—Saskatoon 0 of 3. Everett 5 of 7.
Goalies—Saskatoon, Trombley 3-6-0-1 (39 shots, 34 saves). Everett, Lotz 15-3-1-0 (16 shots, 15 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.