EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips were moments away from having Saturday’s results go exactly the way they needed.
However, both games turned in the dying minutes, and as a result the Tips have the Western Hockey League’s most difficult task in the first round of the playoffs.
Everett locked itself into the Western Conference’s eighth seed by falling 4-3 in overtime to the Victoria Royals at Comcast Arena.
With two games remaining in the regular season, Everett still had a chance to pass the Seattle for seventh place. The Tips needed to get results from both its games, and a little help, for that to happen.
It looked like Everett would get both a result and help Saturday. The Tips opened a 2-0 lead and led 3-2 late in the third period against the Royals, while Seattle trailed Portland 5-4 late in the third of its game. Had those results held, Everett would have had its fate in its own hands, needing just a single point from tonight’s season finale at home against Tri-City to snatch seventh.
But Everett allowed the tying goal to Logan Nelson with less than three minutes remaining in regulation, then Joe Hicketts scored the winner in overtime, meaning the Tips earned just one point. When Seattle tied its score with Portland with just more than a minute remaining and earned a point for getting to overtime, tonight’s game was rendered irrelevant as the Tips had to settle for eighth. Seattle ended up losing to Portland in a shootout.
“It sucks,” Everett leading scorer Joshua Winquist said. “We have to play the full 60 minutes. We played 40, but we didn’t close the game at the end.
“They just outworked us in the third period, to be honest,” Winquist added. “They outcompeted us for most of the period, and we can’t let that happen.”
Everett’s reward for finishing eighth? A first-round playoff series against Portland, which won the Scotty Munro Trophy for the league’s best record.
“It’s frustrating,” Tips alternate captain Manraj Hayer said. “The guys are a little down. We had it in our hands and had control of the game, but let it slip right through. It’s frustrating, but we’re the eighth seed now and we’ve got Portland coming up, so we have to be ready for them.”
Steven Hodges and Jack Walker also scored for Victoria (35-30-2-5), which already was locked into the conference’s sixth seed and was missing several key players because of injury, including No. 1 goaltender Patrik Polivka and top scorer Alex Gogolev.
Michael Herringer, a 16-year-old call-up who was making his first career WHL start, performed well beyond his years in goal for the Royals, finishing with 36 saves.
Hayer, Stathis Soumelidis and Brayden Low scored for Everett (24-40-3-4). Austin Lotz made 34 saves in net for the Tips.
For two periods Everett looked like a team ready to claw itself up into seventh. The Tips generated 30 shots on goal through two periods — more than the team usually manages in a full game — and led 3-2 going into the third.
But Victoria picked up the pace in the third, and Everett found itself holding on for dear life as Lotz was required to make some big saves.
With just over three minutes remaining, Everett had an opening as the puck found its way onto Winquist’s stick on the doorstep with Herringer out of position. However, Winquist couldn’t gather it cleanly, was forced to rush an attempt and the puck stayed out.
Less than a minute later Victoria equalized. Strong Royals forechecking resulted in the puck pinballing to Nelson all alone in front. Nelson waited out Lotz and put the puck into the top of the net, making it 3-3 with 2:23 remaining.
The game went to overtime, and Everett still had a chance to get the full two points. The Tips gambled, using three forwards in the four-on-four play. But the gambit backfired as Victoria controlled the puck and scored 1:57 into the extra period. Nelson fed the puck out front from behind the net. Hicketts, pinching in from his defensive position, snapped a shot into the top corner to end the game.
“It was a tough game,” Hayer said. “I thought we had a good first period and even a pretty good second. But in the third we kind of let off the gas pedal, let them take it to us, and eventually they put one in there in the end and scored in overtime. It’s tough to lose that way.”
And now the Tips must deal with the Winterhawks in the first round.
“It’s going to be a battle, that’s for sure,” Hayer said. “They’re a very good team and we have to give them respect for what they’ve done this year. But we’re going to play them hard and see what happens.”
Everett defenseman Austin Adam’s injury-plagued season continued as he was scratched Saturday after being boarded in Friday night’s game in Victoria. Adam returned to Friday’s game following the hit, but was not able to go Saturday. … The Tips handed a WHL debut to 15-year-old center Matt Fonteyne. Fonteyne, a third-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft out of Wetaskiwin, Alberta, signed an education contract with Everett earlier this week, and he had an assist on Everett’s third goal. … Fonteyne wasn’t the only Everett player to notch his first WHL point as defenseman Micheal Zipp earned his with an assist on Everett’s first goal.
Royals 4, Silvertips 3 (OT)
First Period—1, Everett, Hayer 15 (MacDonald, Zipp), 6:20. Penalties—Hodges, Victoria (tripping), 14:50.
Second Period—2, Everett, Soumelidis 4 (Low, MacDonald), 3:55. 3, Victoria, Hodges 20 (Crunk), 6:44. 4, Everett, Low 2 (Soumelidis, Fonteyne), 7:15. 5, Victoria, J. Walker 9 (Traber, Soy), 8:13. Penalties—Traber, Victoria (checking from behind), 8:36; Everett bench (too many men, served by Low), 11:28; Kanzig, Victoria (roughing), 14:32.
Third Period—6, Victoria, Nelson 14 (B. Walker, Kanzig), 17:37. Penalties—Schacher, victoria (boarding), 2:05; Oslanski, Everett (cross checking), 6:19; J. Walker, Victoria (tripping), 9:45; Stadnyk, Everett (hooking), 13:25.
Shots on goal—Victoria 7-14-14-4—38. Everett 15-15-9-0—39. Power-play opportunities—Victoria 0 of 3. Everett 0 of 5.
Goalies—Victoria, Herringer 1-0-0-0 (39 shots, 36 saves). Everett, Lotz 15-19-3-1 (38 shots, 34 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.