EVERETT — Has a new era in Everett Silvertips hockey arrived?
If one game is any indication, it has.
The new and improved Everett Silvertips opened the season in flying fashion, routing the Prince George Cougars 8-3 Saturday night at Comcast Arena.
Everett has been mired in a three-year slump, as the Tips were the lowest-scoring team in the Western Hockey League the past three seasons.
But Everett, with Kevin Constantine back behind the bench, showed signs during preseason of an imminent offensive breakout, and for at least one game that firepower carried over into the regular season in grand fashion.
So is it a new era in Everett?
“Let’s hope so,” said fifth-year Tips winger Joshua Winquist, who scored a hat trick to lead the way for Everett. “If the goals are going in keep shooting, and hopefully the streak continues.
“You couldn’t really start off in a better way. You can’t have a better first game, in my opinion.”
Dawson Leedahl and Manraj Hayer each added two goals for Everett, with Tyler Sandhu also finding the net. Austin Lotz earned the win in goal with 29 saves.
Klarc Wilson scored twice and David Soltes also scored for Prince George (0-2-0-0), which has had a rough start to the season. The Cougars, who finished undefeated in the preseason, lost their first two games by a combined score of 17-5.
Brett Zarowny took the loss in goal for Prince George, stopping 16 of 20 shots before being hooked in the second period. Ty Edmonds stopped 18 of 22 in relief.
Everett, like Prince George, had an impressive preseason. The Tips finished 7-0 and scored the most goals of any team in exhibition play. The question was whether the preseason was a fluke or a precursor of great things to come.
Saturday night Everett’s goals just kept flowing. In the first period, the Silvertips showed promise, but also a little nervousness as the period finished tied 2-2. But they dominated from the beginning of the second, scoring four goals in 11 minutes to take control of the game.
“It was kind of tough for some of the young guys and new guys, because they haven’t played in this building (in front of a large, raucous crowd),” Winquist said about the jittery start. “Us older guys are used to it, so we took charge and we started dominating.
“The boys are shooting the puck and the bounces went in. We scored some greasy ones. We were working and it just worked out for us.”
The Tips tacked on two more in the third, thus finishing with the most goals the team has scored since Everett put 10 on the board on Oct. 11, 2009.
After a first period that showed both promise and rust finished 2-2, the Tips exploded in the second, scoring four times in the first 11 minutes to turn the game into a rout.
It began just 41 seconds in. Moments after a Prince George power play expired, Carson Stadnyk slipped a pass through traffic to Hayer all alone in front. Hayer made a move to his backhand to give Everett the lead. Then 1:18 later it was 4-2 as Ivan Nikolishin’s pass allowed Winquist to split the defense and score under Zarowny. The goal sent Zarowny to the bench in favor of Edmonds.
The goalie change didn’t do the Cougars any good. Leedahl got his second at 8:52 with his second bank-shot goal of the game, this one deflecting in off the defense. Then Winquist completed the exhilarating stretch at 10:20, scoring on a short-handed breakaway to make it 6-2 and send the hats flying.
“I can’t describe it, it’s unreal,” Winquist said of the opening-day hat trick. “The boys helped me out with two good breakaway passes. I just worked hard and they hit me with open nets. It was good plays by the team.”
Everett can only dress three of its four overagers, so winger Reid Petryk was the odd-man out Saturday. ? The Tips remain without defenseman Mirco Mueller (San Jose) and forward Jujhar Khaira (Edmonton), who are still attending NHL training camps. ? Prince George played without key forward Zach Pochiro, who was held out because of an impending suspension as a result of his charging major penalty taken during Friday’s 9-2 loss at Portland.
Silvertips 8, Cougars 3
Prince George 2 0 1 — 3
Everett 2 4 2 — 8
First Period—1, Everett, Leedahl 1 (Bauml), 4:00 (pp). 2, Prince George, Wilson 2 (Witala), 6:06. 3, Prince George, Soltes 1 (McNulty, Bourke), 6:53. 4, Everett, Winquist 1 (Pufahl, Nikolishin), 15:25 (pp). Penalties—Bolduc, Prince George (boarding), 3:26; Kosterman, Prince George (interference), 11:47; Hopponen, Everett (embellishment), 11:47; Soltes, Prince George (roughing), 13:41; Kosterman, Prince George (delay of game), 15:03; Low, Everett (kneeing), 18:20.
Second Period—5, Everett, Hayer 1 (Stadnyk, Low), 0:41. 6, Everett, Winquist 2 (Nikolishin, Bajkov), 1:59. 7, Everett, Leedahl 2, 8:52. 8, Everett, Winquist 3, 10:20 (sh). Penalties—Bourke, Prince George (cross checking), 6:59; Winquist, Everett (slashing), 8:01; Low, Everett (delay of game), 9:32; Erricson, Prince George (roughing), 18:50; Penner, Everett (cross checking), 19:24; Bourke, Prince George (slashing), 19:38; McNulty, Prince George (roughing), 20:00; Leedahl, Everett (cross checking), 20:00.
Third Period—9, Everett, Hayer 2 (Winquist, Low), 0:34 (pp). 10, Everett, Sandhu 1 (Leedahl, Pufahl), 9:51 (pp). 11, Prince George, Wilson 3 (Tkatch, McNulty), 11:14. Penalties—Soltes, Prince George (roughing), 3:05; Bauml, Everett (roughing), 3:05; Stadnyk, Everett (embellishment), 4:22; Bourke, Prince George (kneeing), 7:51; Bobos, Prince George (roughing-roughing-10-minute misconduct), 9:11; Penner, Everett (interference), 10:23; Kosterman, Prince George (delay of game), 14:22; Hayer, Everett (boarding), 16:30; McNulty, Prince George (fighting), 19:56; Ruopp, Prince George (roughing-10-minute misconduct), 19:56; Adam, Everett (fighting), 19:56; Sandhu, Everett (roughing-10-minute misconduct), 19:56.
Shots on goal—Prince George 11-7-14—32. Everett 16-19-7—42. Power-play opportunities—Prince George 0 of 5. Everett 4 of 10.
Goalies—Prince George, Zarowny 0-2-0-0 (20 shots, 16 saves), Edmonds (22 shots, 18 saves). Everett, Lotz 1-0-0-0 (32 shots, 29 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.