By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — When a team is out of gas, the last thing it wants to see is a visit from the Portland Winterhawks on the schedule.
The understrength and laboring Everett Silvertips were no match for the defending league champions Sunday, falling 6-2 to the Winterhawks at Comcast Arena.
Everett, finishing off a brutal four-games-in-five-nights stretch with a barebones lineup, was able to put up little resistance against the Oliver Bjorkstrand-inspired Winterhawks. Bjorkstrand scored a hat trick as Portland’s vaunted offense ran the Tips ragged.
“We were playing our third game in three nights without six really good players, and our organization isn’t deep enough at this point to withstand that,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “More than any other game in this recent stretch I thought the game was controlled by them, and I think that’s the reason.”
Brendan Leipsic, Chase De Leo and Keegan Iverson also scored for Portland (32-12-2-3), which won its seventh straight. Brendan Burke made 27 saves to earn the win in goal for the Winterhawks, who came into the game rested after having Saturday night off.
“Everett was short-handed and was playing its fourth in five nights,” Portland coach Mike Johnston acknowledged. “The schedule has been tough for everybody, the last three weeks. We had two stretches of four in five nights, so we know what they’re going through — plus they’re short-handed with some injures. So we really wanted to try and push the pace of the game a little bit and put them under a little bit of forechecking pressure.”
Joshua Winquist and Kohl Bauml scored for Everett (25-17-7-1), which came away with just one point from a four-in-five that included trips to league-leading Kelowna, U.S. Division-leading Portland and high-flying Seattle. Austin Lotz finished with 33 saves in net for the Tips.
Everett has been far more competitive against Portland this season than in recent campaigns. The Winterhawks went 26-4 against the Tips the previous three seasons en route to three consecutive Western Conference championships. This season has been a different story, with Everett playing right with Portland and winning two of the first five meetings between the teams.
But Sunday’s game bore a closer resemblance to the one-sided contests that characterized the past three seasons. The Winterhawks just had too much speed and too much skill for the Tips to handle.
“I thought our puck control was good for the most part,” Johnston said. “We did turn the puck over a couple times and gave them some good chances. But generally we’ve had a hard-fought series with them throughout the year.”
A big part of Everett’s problems stemmed from an injury list that’s becoming long and illustrious, as the grueling four-games-in-five-days stretch took its toll on the Tips. Workhorse defenseman Ben Betker went down after blocking a shot Friday in Portland and missed the final two games of the weekend, then forwards Manraj Hayer (lower body) and Tyler Sandhu (upper body) picked up knocks in Saturday’s game at Seattle and sat out Sunday. They joined defenseman Matt Pufahl (ribs) and wingers Zane Jones (upper body) and Logan Aasman (finger) in the stands.
Everett called up defenseman Jordan Wharrie to help fill out the lineup Sunday, but the Tips still were forced to play one skater short. Everett was also facing the league’s highest-scoring offense with three of its six defensemen just 16 years old.
“They can come at you,” Constantine said. “We’re putting a tired D — last night we played with five D and that’s a lot of wear and tear — and a little bit of inexperience back there, and you’ve got a team that can come at you with a very good set of forwards. They’re hard enough to contain when you’re fresh, but if you’re a little young or tired they can do that.”
The score was tied 1-1 after one period, but the scoreboard wasn’t indicative of the way the game was going as the Winterhawks controlled the first, and it was just a matter of time before the dam broke. It cracked in the second.
Portland needed just 1 minute, 6 seconds to claim the lead. A Portland power play had just expired when Bjorkstrand was the first to a loose puck in the slot and fired it past Lotz. The Winterhawks lead was increased to two at 9:51 when Paul Bittner found a rebound and set up Leipsic at the side of the net. Then Bjorkstrand completed his hat trick at 11:18 as, on a two-on-one, he kept the puck himself and made a move around Lotz, making it 4-1. the rest of the game was academic.
Everett’s struggles on the power play continued Sunday as the Tips finished 0-for-6 and struggled to even get set up in the offensive zone. Over its last 11 games Everett is just 6-for-48 (12.5 percent) with the advantage. … Everett bid adieu to call-up defenseman Carter Cochrane. The 17-year-old, who was a last-second call-up for Saturday’s game and impressed during his WHL debut, had to return to his junior A team, the Chilliwack Chiefs of the British Columbia Hockey League, who had a game Sunday.
Winterhawks 6, Silvertips 2
Portland 1 3 2 — 6
Everett 1 0 1 — 2
First Period—1, Everett, Winquist 31, 10:11. 2, Portland, Bjorkstrand 31, 10:40. Penalties—Scheonborn, Portland (roughing), 0:44; Cederholm, Portland (fighting), 6:13; Low, Everett (fighting), 6:13; Pouliot, Portland (cross checking), 7:05; Mueller, Everett (cross checking), 13:32; DeRoose, Everett (high sticking), 19:00.
Second Period—3, Portland, Bjorkstrand 32 (Petan), 1:06. 4, Portland, Leipsic 29 (Bittner, Pouliot), 9:51. 5, Portland, Bjorkstrand 33 (Leier, Dumba), 11:18. Penalties—Iverson, Portland (roughing), 2:57; Texeira, Portland (tripping), 13:40; Leipsic, Portland (hooking-unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:51.
Third Period—6, Portland, De Leo 28 (Leier, Bjorkstrand), 3:09. 7, Portland, Iverson 13 (Bittner, Haar), 12:08 (pp). 8, Everett, Bauml 11 (Nikolishin, DeRoose), 15:03. Penalties—Leipsic, Portland (instigator-fighting-10-minute misconduct), 5:23; Juulsen, Everett (boarding-fighting), 5:23; Lotz, Everett (slashing), 6:09; Mueller, Everett (delay of game), 11:20; Price, Portland (fighting), 19:05; Adam, Everett (instigator-fighting-10-minute misconduct), 19:05.
Shots on goal—Portland 10-14-11—38. Everett 5-17-7—29. Power-play opportunities—Portland 1 of 5. Everett 0 of 6.
Goalies—Portland, Burke 27-10-2-2 (29 shots, 27 saves). Everett, Lotz 18-15-3-1 (38 shots, 33 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.