EVERETT — On Oct. 27, the Everett Silvertips traveled to Kamloops saddled with a 4-9-1 record and mired in last place in the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference.
On Sunday, they entered the annual holiday break atop the Western Conference as the Tips routed Portland 8-3 before 3,817 fans at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“We obviously struggled a bit (early in the season), but I knew we had the group to do it,” Everett forward Bryce Kindopp said. “It’s a great feeling right now to be going into the break like this.”
The one-sided victory propelled Everett (21-13-1-1, 44 points) past the Winterhawks (21-11-0-1, 43 points) into first place in the U.S. Division. Idle Kelowna and Victoria each have 43 points to lead the B.C. Division. Both Kelowna and Portland hold games in hand of Everett.
Everett has won 11 of its past 12 games and improved to 4-2 against the Winterhawks on the season.
“I got here at a perfect time, when guys were getting it figured out, and if you look at our run since then, that’s the team we are and that’s the team we’re going to be and I think that’s going to scare a lot of people,” said Everett forward Luke Ormsby, who was acquired from the Seattle Thunderbirds in a November trade.
“I think coming into the season they weren’t really looking at us, but now people are starting to turn heads and think, ‘Wow, Everett,’” Ormsby continued. “So I think definitely in the second half we’re going to start (doing) some special things.”
There were heroes aplenty on Sunday. Kindopp scored twice. Ormsby, Martin Fasko-Rudas, Akash Bains and Riley Sutter each had a goal and an assist. Connor Dewar, Reece Vitelli and Montana Onyebuchi each had a pair of helpers.
Rookie goaltender Dustin Wolf saved 26 of the 29 shots he faced for his fifth WHL victory.
“What I was more impressed with was the balance we were getting from all four lines,” Tips coach Dennis Williams said. “That secondary scoring — we had all lines contribute tonight, which is a nice factor and when you do have that, you probably do end up on top.”
The goal and assist from Ormsby were his first two points with Everett.
“Just to get it out of the way feels good, and to get another assist there was nice too, it was a nice little bonus,” the Monroe-born Ormsby said. “They just come over time, right? I’ve battled a lot of adversity (from) the start of the season to now… I’m not too upset, but that’s not really the end goal. The end goal is to get wins and that’s what happened tonight.”
The Silvertips erupted for five goals in the second period to open a 7-2 lead.
Kindopp broke the 2-2 tie when he redirected a Jake Christiansen shot at 5:22, and Fasko-Rudas tallied his first WHL goal when he tipped in a Onyebuchi point shot to make it 4-2 at 8:40.
But the Tips were just getting started. On the next shift, Bains circled into the slot and fired a wrister past Shane Farkas at 9:15.
That was all for Farkas as he was replaced by Cole Kehler. Bajkov then tapped one in at the right post at 13:03, and Sutter did the same at the left post at 16:52 as Everett stretched its lead to five.
“It breeds a lot of confidence going into the break for a lot of guys,” Williams said. “If we were to play that team 10 times, I doubt there would be another 8-3 game in it. It just happened that second period that the stars aligned and everything went in for us.”
Jake Gricius got one back for Portland at 4:51 in the third, but Brandson Hein answered at 5:10 on the ensuing shift to make it 8-3.
It didn’t appear to be heading that way early. Portland struck first just 1:09 into the game when Skyler McKenzie redirected a point shot from Ryan Hughes through Wolf’s legs.
Everett answered at 9:53 when Kindopp crashed the left post and potted a rebound of a Onyebuchi shot to make it 1-1.
The Tips took the lead at 16:52 when Ormsby won a race to the puck over Conor MacEachern, took the puck to the net and stashed it between Farkas’s legs.
But Portland answered on the ensuing shift when McKenzie won the puck along the boards, turned and fired a quick wrister past Wolf from a sharp angle to tie the game 2-2.
From that juncture it was all Everett.
“We obviously didn’t start the way we wanted,” Williams said. “The second, the only difference I thought we had from the first is that we came out skating and putting pucks on net and did a good job of making (Portland) come 200 feet.”
The Tips return to action Dec. 27 at Vancouver.
Silvertips 8, Winterhawks 3
Portland 2 0 1 — 3
Everett 2 5 1 — 8
1st Period—1, Portland, McKenzie 22 (Hughes, Glass), 1:09. 2, Everett, Kindopp 10 (Onyebuchi), 9:53. 3, Everett, Ormsby 1 (Bains, Vitelli), 16:52. 4, Portland, McKenzie 23 17:26. Penalties—Hughes Por (roughing), 14:06.
2nd Period—5, Everett, Kindopp 11 (Christiansen, Sutter), 5:20. 6, Everett, Fasko-Rudas 1 (Onyebuchi), 8:40. 7, Everett, Bains 2 (Vitelli, Ormsby), 9:15. 8, Everett, Bajkov 20 (Dewar, Walker), 13:03. 9, Everett, Sutter 13 (Wylie, Dewar), 16:52. Penalties-No Penalties
3rd Period-10, Portland, Gricius 5 (Colina), 4:51. 11, Everett, Hein 2 (Fasko-Rudas), 5:10. Penalties-Ludvig Por (boarding), 8:00; Ludvig Por (cross checking), 12:45.
Shots on Goal—Portland 12-10-7-29. Everett 14-13-12-39.
Power Play Opportunities-Portland 0/0; Everett 0/3.
Goalies—Portland, Farkas 3-4-0-0 (24 shots-19 saves); Kehler 18-7-0-1 (15 shots-12 saves). Everett, Wolf 5-2-0-0 (29 shots-26 saves).