By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips proved the naysayers wrong over the weekend.
But the Tips aren’t satisfied with a mere moral victory.
Everett defied predictions in splitting the first two games of its best-of-seven first-round playoff series against the heavily-favored Portland Winterhawks. But the Tips aren’t content with just earning one victory no one expected them to get.
“You’re always happy to get a split when the first two games are on the road,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “But when you win the first one, you want to win the second one, too. But for the most part we’re happy to be tied 1-1. I’m sure we surprised them, as well as a lot of other people.”
Portland, the top seed in the Western Conference, was largely expected to sweep right past eighth-seeded Everett. The Winterhawks earned more than twice as many points as the Tips during the regular season and won the season series 9-1. Everett also doesn’t have much of a track record as a No. 8 seed, getting swept in the first round as the No. 8 each of the past two years.
But Everett wasted no time reducing those predictions to ashes, upsetting the Winterhawks 4-3 in Friday’s Game 1. Portland responded by winning 4-1 in Game 2, but Everett still managed to reverse home-ice advantage, at least for now.
“A lot of people were writing us off,” said Tips center Kohl Bauml, who scored twice in Everett’s Game 1 victory. “We wanted to show everyone that we deserved to be there, and we wanted to prove to ourselves that we can compete with them.
“Our first goal was to get at least one at Portland, and we accomplished that,” Bauml added. “We would have liked to have gotten two, but we got the split and now it’s going to be huge for us coming home.”
In Friday’s Game 1 Everett weathered an early Portland storm and trailed just 1-0 going into the second period, despite being outshot 22-9. Then the Tips turned the game on its head, scoring the game’s next three goals. Portland got back within one midway through the third period, but the Tips responded, with Bauml scoring what proved to be the game-winning goal just 3 minutes, 9 seconds later.
“We did what we talked about needing to do,” Davidson said. “We got solid goaltending, we did a good job competing and taking away their game while playing five-on-five, and we managed the puck well.”
That goaltending was particularly crucial to Everett’s victory. Austin Lotz made 55 saves, including some spectacular game-changing stops that both kept the Tips in the game, and then preserved Everett’s lead.
“He had an outstanding game,” Davidson said of Lotz. “But in saying that, I think a lot of their shots came from the outside. He was seeing everything and controlling his rebounds well. The guys in front of him helped out as well.”
Game 2 was a different story. Portland picked up the intensity on defense and limited Everett to just 11 shots on goal. That included just four pucks on net through two periods as the Winterhawks built a secure 3-0 lead.
“They came out a little more focused,” Davidson said of the Winterhawks in Game 2. “The first period didn’t go our way, we were short-handed four times and we were never really able to get back to where we wanted to be.
“They didn’t give us much, but I think it was more about us,” Davidson added. “I just didn’t like what we did offensively. We didn’t get pucks to the net. In the first game we did a good job of putting pucks in positions where we could do something with it, but (Saturday) night we were just giving it back to them.”
Game 2 also saw the series get contentious. The game featured several melees after the whistle, with tempers getting more and more heated as the game progressed. The teams ended up combining for 130 penalty minutes, with the Tips being dinged for more than half of those.
“I think both teams’ emotions really kicked in,” Bauml said. “There were a couple of late hits after the whistle that set the tone. But I think it’s good. We know we’re in a war now. We don’t want to shy away from the physical play, we want to match them.”
The series now shifts to Everett for Games 3 and 4, which take place Wednesday and Friday. The Tips are hoping home ice will help them continue to defy the odds.
“The ball’s in our court now,” Bauml said. “If we can win our games at home we’ll win the series.”
That’s a statement few believed the Tips would be able to make after the first two games.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.