By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The circumstances may be different, but once again the final meeting of the season between the Everett Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds could end up determining both teams’ playoff fates.
Everett and Seattle play the last of their 10 games Saturday in Kent, and for the second straight year that game could decide both teams’ destination for the postseason.
“It’s going to be a big two points, maybe decide who finishes seventh or eighth or who makes the playoffs,” Tips co-leading scorer Joshua Winquist said. “So it’s a big game, probably the biggest of the year.”
Said Everett general manager Garry Davidson: “It’s definitely a big one, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. The next game (tonight at Spokane) is really critical, too. We need to try and get in there and get two points. We have to be very careful we don’t start looking ahead and giving up points prior to that because we’re not focused on the task at hand.”
But it’s hard to ignore the looming matchup with Seattle as the Tips try to extend their streak of making the playoffs in every season of franchise history to 10. Ten days remain in the regular season, and once again Everett and Seattle find themselves going head-to-head, both on the ice and in the standings.
One year ago the stakes couldn’t have been any higher in the final meeting between the Tips and T-birds. Everett came into its final game of the season needing to win at Seattle to earn the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff berth. The Tips came from behind four times before finally prevailing 6-4. Everett then had to sweat an extra day as the Tips didn’t clinch their playoff spot until the T-birds fell 8-2 at Portland the following day.
“It was very exciting because both teams were fighting for their lives,” Winquist said. “It probably was one of the most intense game of the year, and this one is probably going to be the most intense game of the year, too. Both teams will be going for it and going all out, so it will be a good game.”
The circumstances are a little different this year. This time the last of the teams’ 10 meetings comes on the penultimate weekend of the season instead of the final one. Also, the stakes may be changed. Although neither team has clinched a playoff berth, both are at least six points clear of ninth-place Prince George, meaning the result may do more to determine playoff seeding between seventh and eighth, rather than deciding who’s in and who’s out.
But that doesn’t change the importance of the game as far as the players are concerned.
“I don’t see this year being any different,” Tips winger Ryan Harrison said. “Both of us want seventh place. That means as much to us as securing a playoff spot meant last year. Everyone’s going to put all their cards on the table and it’s going to be a hell of a game.”
Heading into the weekend, Seattle has a slight advantage. The T-birds currently occupy seventh place with 54 points. Everett is two points back in eighth, while Prince George has 46 points. Everett and Seattle both have five games remaining, Prince George has seven.
While Everett plays at Spokane tonight, Seattle and Prince George play one another in Kent in another contest that has major playoff-race implications.
Seattle and Prince George both scored important wins earlier this week. Seattle won 4-2 at Spokane on Wednesday and Prince George prevailed 3-0 against Tri-City at home on Tuesday. Therefore, there’s a little added impetus on the Tips to keep pace.
“When you see those teams winning, it makes you realize that everyone wants it right now,” Harrison said. “So we have to want it, too, and we have to get results.
“Last year (against Seattle) was real intense,” Harrison added. “Everyone was ready to go, the crowd was really into it, so it was a lot of fun to play in. This year It depends on how the goalies play, but I’m sure there’s going to be lots of chances, lots of hits, just a classic Everett-Seattle game.”
Everett could be without center Manraj Hayer this weekend. Hayer, tied for third on the team in scoring with 37 points in 57 games, sat out Tuesday’s 6-3 loss at Portland because of illness and remains questionable for this weekend’s games. Tonight’s game at Spokane is being televised live by ROOT. The game begins at 7:05 p.m. It is Everett’s second televised game this season.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.