By Nick Patterson Herald writer
KENT — In the end the Everett Silvertips had no answers for the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Everett’s season came to an end Saturday night as they were eliminated from the playoffs by a 5-0 loss to Seattle in Game 5 at ShoWare Center.
Seattle blew open a close game in the third period to close out the series, which the T-birds won 4-1.
“I thought it could have gone either way, but all the credit to Seattle,” Everett captain Matt Pufahl said. “They played one hell of series. They were physical all series, they pounded our D all series, and they found the back of the net. That’s what won them the series, and good for them.”
Everett was attempting to become just the third team in WHL history to overcome a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series, and Friday night’s 6-1 victory in Game 4 in Everett gave the Tips a glimmer of hope.
But the T-birds didn’t give the Tips a glimmer of anything Saturday as they shut Everett’s offense down completely. Nevertheless, the game was still in the balance at the start of the third period as Seattle’s lead was just 1-0. However, Branden Troock’s goal just 1 minute, 15 seconds into the third was the killer and the floodgates opened after that.
“They played well tonight,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said about the T-birds. “In terms of shots and scoring chances, this was the least we were able to generate in a game. I’m sure with us beating them (Friday) night, they clamped down and fixed a couple things.
“They’re a big, strong team and in the end that took it’s toll,” Constantine added. “That was one of the effective things they did in the series, playing physical. That’s hockey, it starts to have its wear and tear over the course of a series.”
Troock finished with two goals, while Scott Eansor, Alexander Delnov and Mitch Elliot also scored for the T-birds, who advanced to face Kelowna, the top seed in the Western Conference, in the second round.
“It’s nice, because it wasn’t over,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said about closing out the series. “They’re a really good hockey team. Sometimes it’s unfortunate that two teams get matched up like that. I’m really proud of our guys.”
Seattle also received another quality performance from goaltender Taran Kozun, who posted a 24-save shutout. Kozun finished the series with a 2.27 goals against average and .927 save percentage.
“They got excellent goaltending in all but one game,” Constantine said. “We actually generated slightly more shots and slightly more scoring chances in the playoffs, so in terms of territory we did slightly better than the regular season. But the goaltending at the other end was tougher than we saw during the regular season. Kozun was a big factor, he played well and he made a difference in the series.”
Austin Lotz finished with 26 saves in goal for Everett, which was eliminated from the first round of the playoffs for the seventh straight year.
The game was tight, tense and nervous throughout the first two periods. The only goal came at 12:59 of the second, when Eansor was able to put in the second rebound after the Tips were unable to control a faceoff in their own end.
But it was Seattle that found the all-important early goal in the third period. Troock was first to a loose puck in the slot and he managed to shovel a backhander that squeezed under Lotz to give the T-birds a two-goal lead.
From there the floodgates opened. Delnov made it 3-0 at 4:51 when he fired a shot from the top of the right circle that got through both Tips defenseman Mirco Mueller and Lotz. Then at 7:02 Troock scored again, finishing off a two-on-one feed from Russell Maxwell after Everett defenseman Austin Adam fumbled the puck in the offensive zone. From that point on the teams just played out the string, with Elliot driving the net to score with 2:03 remaining to complete the scoring.
“If we could have kept the game a one-goal game, then in the last 10 minutes the other team starts to get a little nervous and you might get a break,” Constantine said. “But them getting two quick goals to start the third made the game a lot easier for them.”
Saturday’s game was the only game in the series in which Seattle outshot the Tips. … Everett played Saturday without defenseman Cole MacDonald. MacDonald left Friday’s Game 4 in the second period with an undisclosed injury and did not return. Everett was also without defenseman Noah Juulsen. Juulsen took the warm-up, but ended up being scratched for the second straight game because of an undisclosed injury. With MacDonald and Juulsen out, call-up defenseman Carter Cochrane made his playoff debut. … Seattle had winger Jaimen Yakubowski back in the lineup. Yakubowski sat out Game 4 because of a one-game suspension handed down by the league for his checking-from-behind double-minor in Game 3. … Everett lost winger Logan Aasman during the game, as he did not come out with the team to start the second period.
Thunderbirds 5, Silvertips 0
Everett 0 0 0—0
Seattle 0 1 4—5
First Period—no goals. Penalties—none.
Second Period—1, Seattle, Eansor 3 (McKechnie, Yakubowski), 12:59. Penalties—Hauf, Seattle (high sticking), 18:00.
Third Period—2, Seattle, Troock 3 (Lipsbergs), 1:15. 3, Seattle, Delnov 1 (Kolesar, Elliot), 4:51. 4, Seattle, Troock 4 (Maxwell), 7:02. 5, Seattle, Elliot 1 (Bear), 17:57. Penalties—Pufahl, Everett (cross checking), 9:51; Leedahl, Everett (cross checking), 13:54.
Shots on goal—Everett 11-5-8—24. Seattle 10-9-12—31. Power-play opportunities—Everett 0 of 1. Seattle 0 of 2.
Goalies—Everett, Lotz 1-4 (31 shots, 26 saves). Seattle, Kozun 4-1 (24 shots, 24 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.