EVERETT — Seth Jones was in the crosshairs Saturday night at Comcast Arena.
However, it was his Portland Winterhawk teammates who hit the target when presented with the opportunity.
Portland took advantage of defensive mistakes committed by the Everett Silvertips, and the Winterhawks prevailed 4-1 in Jones’ first visit to Everett.
Saturday’s game was highly anticipated for multiple reasons. First off, it was Portland’s first road game since the WHL levied crippling sanctions on the Winterhawks during the week for improper player benefits.
However, the fans in attendance were more interested in Jones. The 18-year-old defenseman, the son of former NBA basketball player Popeye Jones who’s considered one of the two top players for the 2013 NHL draft, was originally an Everett prospect. Selected in the first round of the 2009 bantam draft, Jones was courted by the Tips for three years, only to spurn Everett’s advances during the offseason, prompting the Tips to trade his rights to Portland.
Everett’s fans made sure Jones knew they didn’t approve as the 4,957 in attendance booed him vociferously every time he touched the puck.
“It was exciting,” Jones said of his first game in Everett. “The fans were really into it, obviously. Every time I got the puck it was always an exciting atmosphere. It was good. You just have to laugh about it, really.”
The negative attention didn’t seem to bother Jones and the Winterhawks. Derrick Pouliot, Tyler Wotherspoon, Brendan Leipsic and Ty Rattie scored for Portland (22-4-1-0), which won its sixth straight and 18th in its last 19. Brendan Burke made 29 saves and also turned aside a late penalty shot to earn the win in goal.
“I thought we played really well,” said Jones, who finished with an assist and a plus-two rating. “The first couple periods I thought we were pretty slow out there and it took us a while to get our feet under us. But a couple went in there, and we just tried to stay solid defensively.”
Cole MacDonald scored the lone goal for Everett (11-18-0-2). The goal was the first of his WHL career. Daniel Cotton made 30 saves in net for the Tips.
For the most part Everett hung with the team with the best record in the WHL. The Tips limited Portland’s high-powered offense and had scoring chances of their own. But Everett couldn’t overcome some glaring defensive errors that led to Portland goals.
“I thought we played hard, I really did,” Everett coach Mark Ferner said. “Personally, I don’t think the score was an indication of the way the game was played. If you look at their four goals, probably all of them could have been prevented by us.
“I’m happy with the effort,” Ferner added. “Certainly we’re disappointed — our guys are still sitting in (the locker room) with their gear on. It shows me that they care, and that’s a good step. We just need more urgency every shift.”
Everett’s efforts were also somewhat overshadowed by the Jones spectacle.
“That’s why people pay their money, that’s all part of the game,” was Ferner’s reaction. “Everybody knows the history and he’s a hell of a player, no question about it. But our kids were focused on the game.”
Everett stayed with the Winterhawks in the first period, but a pair of mishaps gave Portland a 2-0 lead. Pouliot opened the scoring 2 minutes, 17 seconds into the game, capitalizing when Tips defenseman Ben Betker fell down and scoring past Cotton. Then at 9:48 Wotherspoon was just slamming the puck deep from the neutral zone when it deflected off his marker’s stick and past a wrong-footed Cotton.
The Tips continued to play fairly even with the Winterhawks in the second period, but again defensive mistakes led to Portland goals. A misplay by Austin Adam at the blue line allowed Rattie to sprint away free, and although Cotton denied Rattie, Leipsic slammed home the rebound to make it 3-0 at 1:35. Then with time winding down, Oliver Bjorkstrand got around the defense, and Rattie cleaned things up with 18.4 seconds remaining.
Everett prevented the shutout with 6:31 remaining. Kohl Bauml spied MacDonald pinching in from the left point, fed him a diagonal pass from the left corner, and MacDonald fired a wrister past Burke for his first career tally.
Everett played without defenseman Nick Walters as a result of damage sustained during a fight in Friday’s 4-0 victory over Vancouver. With Walters out, overager Landon Oslanski, who has been playing right wing the past few weeks, returned to his natural spot on defense. … Portland played without overage center Taylor Peters for undisclosed reasons.
Winterhawks 4, Silvertips 1
First Period—1, Portland, Pouliot 6 (Rutkowski, Bittner), 2:17 (pp). 2, Portland, Wotherspoon 3 (Petan), 9:48. Penalties—Hayer, Everett (holding), 1:46; Mappin, Everett (tripping), 12:05; Petan, Portland (tripping), 15:18.
Second Period—3, Portland, Leipsic 16 (Rattie), 1:35. 4, Portland, Rattie 17 (Bjorkstrand, Jones), 19:41. Penalties—Schoenborn, Portland (roughing-fighting), 3:52; Soumelidis, Everett (fighting), 3:53; Baker, Portland (holding), 11:17; Stadnyk, Everett (cross checking), 14:01.
Third Period—5, Everett, MacDonald 1 (Bauml, Petryk), 13:29. Penalties—Petryk, Everett (cross checking), 1:43; Pouliot, Portland (tripping), 7:11; Bauml, Everett (charging), 16:13.
Shots on goal—Portland 11-13-10—34. Everett 9-12-9—30. Power-play opportunities—Portland 1 of 5. Everett 0 of 4.
Goalies—Portland, Burke 7-3-1-0 (30 shots, 29 saves). Everett, Cotton 8-7-0-0 (34 shots, 30 saves).