EVERETT — If this was round one of a 10-round prizefight, then the Everett Silvertips delivered an early knockout.
In the first meeting of the season between the I-5 rival Silvertips and Seattle Thunderbirds, Everett threw a roundhouse in a dominating 5-0 victory before a sold-out crowd at Comcast Arena.
After years of Western Hockey League irrelevance, Everett and Seattle are both much improved this season and looking to establish themselves as legitimate threats in the U.S. Division. But only one team looked like much of a contender Saturday as Everett dominated the puck, the number of shots taken and the scoreboard.
“We were both toward the bottom last year, and this was a huge game,” Everett defenseman Ben Betker said about the first meeting in the 10-game season series. The other nine of which take place in the second half.
“The rivalry is just going to heat up this year, it’s going to be a lot of fun after Christmas.”
Joshua Winquist continued his offensive tear Saturday, scoring two more goals to lead the Tips (11-3-2-0). Everett’s leading scorer now has 15 points in his past five games.
Betker, Ivan Nikolishin and Carson Stadnyk each added a goal and an assist for the Tips, who barely allowed Seattle a sniff at goal. Everett outshot the T-birds 35-16, and the Tips held Seattle without a legitimate shot on goal until nearly the game’s midpoint.
Betker’s score came just 53 seconds into the game to get the Tips off to a dream start. It was a stark contrast from the previous night, when the Tips found themselves down 3-0 within five minutes en route to a 6-3 loss to the Brandon Wheat Kings.
“Scoring first is such a big thing emotionally in hockey,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “Last night, we got down so quick it just changed the whole mood of the building and the bench. Getting that first goal I thought was important, especially after last night. We did some good things, played a solid game. It’s nice to rebound from last night.”
Everett’s defensive performance was particularly welcome, considering the Tips allowed 17 goals in their previous three games. Daniel Cotton barely broke a sweat to earn the shutout in goal as he was required to make just 16 saves.
“We’ve been working in practice on taking away the blue line, making it almost impossible for teams to enter the zone, and making it hard for them to get the red,” Betker explained about Everett’s smothering defensive performance. “That was evident tonight.
“We’ve also been fronting and blocking shots all year and it really showed tonight, so hats off to our guys. And you know what, Cotton made saves when we needed him to. It’s not easy for a goalie to be in the net like that with only (16) shots, so he deserved it.”
Danny Mumaugh finished with 30 saves in net for Seattle (11-5-0-2), which suffered its second straight rough defeat of the weekend. Seattle lost 5-2 to Portland at home on Friday, a game in which the T-birds were outshot 41-22.
“Obviously, it was a disappointing game,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “We don’t have the whole team competing right now. Division games are tougher games. They’re tighter-checking games, and some of our guys didn’t compete hard enough.”
Everett had the worst possible start Friday in its loss to Brandon, with a major penalty in the opening minute eventually resulting in a a quick 3-0 deficit. But the Tips had the best possible start Saturday, scoring in the game’s first minute. Betker’s wrister from the point found its way under Mumaugh as Everett took a 1-0 lead just 53 seconds in.
The Tips then doubled their lead at 13:02. Noah Juulsen’s shot from the point was blocked right to Nikolishin in front. Nikolishin spun and slapped a shot into the corner to make it 2-0.
Everett continued to control play in the second period, and Winquist made it 3-0 at 3:57 when he intercepted Mirco Mueller’s goal-bound shot and scored around Mumaugh.
The Tips were expecting a big push by Seattle in the third, but instead it was Everett that created all the early scoring chances. The Tips had several good opportunities before Winquist got his second of the game at 5:34, putting the puck into a gaping net after the rebound from Kohl Bauml’s shot kicked into the slot.
Stadnyk finished it off at 13:55 when he scored from the slot after his first attempt was blocked.
Everett added winger Darcy DeRoose to its roster Saturday. DeRoose, an 18-year-old from Ceylon, Saskatchewan, had been playing with the Estevan Bruins of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, where he had eight goals, four assists and 27 penalty minutes in 14 games. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder has prior WHL experience, appearing in three games with the Moose Jaw Warriors over the previous two seasons. His addition gives Everett a roster of 24 players — 13 forwards, eight defensemen and three goaltenders. … Both teams were down a player because of league suspensions. Everett winger Dawson Leedahl was suspended for his checking-from-behind major Friday against Brandon, while Seattle defenseman Evan Wardley was suspended for his charging major Friday against Portland. The length of both are to be determined. … Seattle was also without its leading goal scorer, Roberts Lipsbergs, because of an upper-body injury.
Silvertips 5, Thunderbirds 0
Seattle 0 0 0 — 0
Everett 2 1 2 — 5
First Period—1, Everett, Betker 2 (Sandhu), 0:53. 2, Everett, Nikolishin 3 (Juulsen, Stadnyk), 13:02. Penalties—Kolesar, Seattle (checking from behind), 5:57; Hayer, Everett (charging), 7:54; McKechnie, Seattle (hooking), 14:30; Delnov, Seattle (slashing), 19:54.
Second Period—3, Everett, Winquist 12 (Mueller, Hayer), 3:57. Penalties—Theodore, Seattle (hooking), 4:32; Elliot, Seattle (high sticking), 8:04; Nikolishin, Everett (interference), 9:56; Yakubowski, Seattle (fighting), 18:09; Low, Everett (fighting), 18:09.
Third Period—4, Everett, Winquist 13 (Bauml, Hayer), 5:34 (pp). 5, Everett, Stadnyk 4 (Nikolishin, Betker), 13:55. Penalties—Theodore, Seattle (high sticking), 4:42; Troock, Seattle (charging), 7:42; Bajkov, Everett (interference), 9:48; Mueller, Everett (checking from behind), 14:21; Yakubowski, Seattle (fighting), 19:04; Betker, Everett (cross checking-fighting), 19:04.
Shots on goal—Seattle 2-5-9—16. Everett 12-11-12—35. Power-play opportunities—Seattle 0 of 5. Everett 1 of 7.
Goalies—Seattle, Mumaugh 5-2-0-2 (35 shots, 30 saves). Everett, Cotton 2-1-1-0 (16 shots, 16 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.