By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips cannot clinch a playoff spot tonight.
However, the Tips can make it all but academic.
The Silvertips travel to Kelowna to take on the Rockets tonight as they begin the final week of the regular season. And if the Tips win they’ll be on the cusp of the franchise’s ninth playoff berth in its nine-season history.
Everett is 11-8-1-0 in its past 19 games, which pulled the Tips into seventh place in the WHL’s Western Conference going into the final week of the season. Everett entered the week with 52 points, one more than eighth-place Victoria and four ahead of ninth-place Seattle.
Prince George, four points back of the Tips after beating Tri-City 5-4 Tuesday, is still mathematically alive for a playoff spot, although a longshot. To catch Everett, the Cougars have to win both their remaining games — a home-and-home set on the weekend against B.C. Division-leading Kamloops — then have the Silvertips lose all three of their remaining games in regulation.
Therefore, Everett likely only has to finish ahead of either Victoria or Seattle in order to make the playoffs.
A win tonight would likely do the trick. Victoria has just two games remaining, a daunting pair of home contests this weekend against Portland, a team still in the hunt for the Scotty Munro Trophy for the league’s best record. Should Everett beat Kelowna, the Tips would gain a three-point edge on the Royals, meaning Victoria would have the difficult task of needing to take at least three points from its two games against Portland to catch Everett.
Seattle is just two points back of Everett and has a better chance of catching the Silvertips. The T-birds, a 3-1 winner over Spokane on Tuesday, have three games remaining with which to make up ground. That includes Saturday’s home game against the Tips in Everett’s season finale. But if Everett beats Kelowna, the T-birds would need to win two of their final three to catch the Tips.
In Kelowna, the Tips face the only team in the Western Conference with nothing to play for. The Rockets already are locked into the sixth seed, and Kelowna has essentially been set in that position for a month.
Everett has taken points from all three of its previous meetings against Kelowna this season, winning once and losing twice in shootouts. In the last meeting between the two teams, Everett won 3-2 at Kelowna on Jan. 18.
The Rockets have actually helped out Everett’s competition in recent days. Kelowna dropped home games against both Victoria and Prince George last weekend.
The Tips are hoping the Rockets have another home loss left in them. And if so, Everett can all but book its place in the postseason.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.