Struggling Silvertips drop second straight to Vancouver

EVERETT — The Vancouver Giants’ logo features a strongman bearing a bulging biceps.

Saturday night the Giants flexed those muscles against the Everett Silvertips.

Vancouver physically overpowered Everett as the Giants knocked off the Tips for the second straight night, winning 6-3 at Comcast Arena.

The Giants outmuscled the Tips throughout, dominating the puck battles along the boards and winning races. That physical edge helped Vancouver score four goals in the third period to break the game open.

“Give a little bit of credit to Vancouver,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “Look at their record over the last 15 games. They have seven 19-year-old forwards who aren’t real flashy, but they’re strong and tough and make it hard to get the puck off their stick. So they’re a pretty good team right now, they’re the Vancouver I remember playing against back in the day. We’re not completely satisfied with losing to them, but other than the first period we played pretty hard.

“They play, in many ways, how we’re trying to play without the puck, which is get on people quick and make it hard to play against,” Constantine added. “Right now they’re one of the top teams in the league with the way they’re playing.”

Jackson Houck had two goals and an assist to lead Vancouver, which has reversed its fate against Everett this season. The Giants prevailed 3-0 Friday in Vancouver to sweep the home-and-home set, this after the Tips won the first three meetings of the season.

Brett Kulak, Carter Popoff, Trent Lofthouse and Tim Traber also scored for the Giants (17-12-5-2), who have completely turned their season around. Vancouver, which lost nine of its first 10 games, has won four straight, and the Giants have lost just once in regulation since Nov. 5.

“I thought we had a good effort, we played the right way and we stuck with it for a full 60 minutes,” Vancouver coach Don Hay said. “Everett’s a really good hockey club, you have to compete hard when you play against them. I thought the last two days we had good efforts.

“It’s a process you go through to form a team,” Hay added about the Giants’ turnaround. “The first month of the season we had a lot of changes and a lot of injuries. Now we’re healthier and we have more of an identity. I don’t think the first month of the year we had identity. Now we have an identity and we enjoy being a hard team to play against.”

Jared Rathjen earned the win in goal for the second straight night, making 21 saves.

Joshua Winquist, Jujhar Khaira and Kohl Bauml scored for Everett (21-9-4-0), which continues to be in a funk. The Tips have lost three straight and five of their past six. Austin Lotz, making his 13th straight start in goal for Everett, made 24 saves.

Despite Vancouver’s muscle, the score was tied 2-2 going into the third period. But Popoff’s power-play goal just 53 seconds into the period — and just four second into the power play — sent the Giants on their way. Popoff intercepted the puck off the faceoff and managed to force it over Lotz’s shoulder to give Vancouver a lead it wouldn’t relinquish.

The power play was the only one Everett surrendered Saturday, and penalty killing has become a worrisome trend for the Tips. Everett has been extremely disciplined of late, and the Tips have accumulated the fewest penalty minutes in the league. However, the Tips have allowed goals four of the past nine times they’ve been short-handed.

“We’re pretty disciplined, but our percent of killing isn’t what it should be,” Constantine said.

Vancouver stretched its lead to 4-2 at 7:04 when Cain Franson’s inch-perfect pass in transition was redirected in by Houck, who was driving full speed to the net. Everett got one back on the power play at 8:22 as Winquist set up Bauml for the easy tap-in. But Lotfhouse, a former Silvertip, scored the all-important insurance goal just 1:38 later as he just squeezed the puck under Lotz from in close. Three of Lofthouse’s eight goals this season came against Everett.

Traber added an empty-net goal with 33.8 seconds remaining to add icing to the cake.

The game got off to an explosive start, with three goals in the first 2:24. Vancouver scored on the game’s first shift as Kulak put a shot from the point past a scrambling Lotz just 19 seconds into the contest. Everett then scored on the game’s second shift as Winquist got around the defense and scored around Rathjen, despite being hooked. The Tips then took the lead shortly after as Ben Betker’s shot from the point deflected off Khaira and into the far corner, giving Everett a 2-1 lead on its first two shots on goal.

But Vancouver took control of the game physically, and although the Giants couldn’t find the tying goal in the first, they did 5:46 into the second as Travis McEvoy’s quick pass from behind the net found Houck in front, and it remained 2-2 going into the third.

Slap shots

Everett was playing without two key players as defenseman Mirco Mueller (with Switzerland for the World Junior Hockey Championships) and center Manraj Hayer (concussion) are out for the remainder of the first half. Rookie winger Patrick Bajkov (upper body) is also out the remainder of the first half. … Vancouver was without defenseman Mason Geertsen. Geertsen was serving the second game of a three-game suspension handed down by the league for a checking-from-behind major penalty taken Tuesday against Victoria. … Former Everett goaltender Kent Simpson made his NHL debut with the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. Simpson became the 10th Tips alum to appear in the NHL.

Giants 6, Silvertips 3

Vancouver 1 1 4 — 6

Everett 2 0 1 — 3

First Period—1, Vancouver, Kulak 13 (Sward, Hamilton), 0:19. 2, Everett, winquist 24 (Sandhu, Juulsen), 0:44. 3, Everett, Khaira 7 (Betker, Leedahl), 2:24. Penalties—Thrower, Vancouver (goaltender interference), 19:54; MacDonald, Everett (slashing), 19:54.

Second Period—4, Vancouver, Houck 16 (McEvoy, Baer), 5:46. Penalties—Kulak, Vancouver (hooking), 14:38.

Third Period—5, Vancouver, Popoff 9, 0:53 (pp). 6, Vancouver, Houck 17 (Franson, Baer), 7:04. 7, Everett, Bauml 8 (Winquist, Nikolishin), 8:22 (pp). 8, Vancouver, Lofthouse 8 (Popoff), 9:50. 9, Vancouver, Traber 7 (Houck), 19:26 (en). Penalties—Sandhu, Everett (hooking), 0:49; Houck, Vancouver (roughing), 1:32; Osipov, Vancouver (roughing), 1:32; DeRoose, Everett (slashing), 1:32; Aasman, Everett (roughing), 1:32; Kulak, Vancouver (holding), 7:27; Traber, Vancouver (charging), 12:03.

Shots on goal—Vancouver 12-10-8—30. Everett 4-11-9—24. Power-play opportunities—Vancouver 1 of 1. Everett 1 of 3.

Goalies—Vancouver, Rathjen 7-3-2-1 (24 shots, 21 saves). Everett, Lotz 16-8-1-0 (29 shots, 24 saves).

A—6, 856.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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