Backup goalie Metzger shines in big moment for Silvertips

The 17-year-old makes 32 saves and stops all three shootout attempts in the back end of a home-and-home sweep over Spokane.

Tim Metzger.

Opportunities have been few and far between for Tim Metzger this season. But when called upon last Saturday, the Everett Silvertips’ back-up goaltender came through in a big way.

The big netminder from Switzerland was the star of the show as the Tips defeated the Spokane Chiefs 2-1 in a shootout at Angel of the Winds Arena, extending Everett’s winning streak to four games.

Metzger, a 17-year-old who was a second-round pick in last year’s CHL import draft, has been sparsely used this season. Going into Saturday’s game he had appeared in just eight of Everett’s 50 games, starting a mere four of those. His workload has been even less in the second half of the season, as Tyler Palmer was acquired via trade and has been a workhorse. Metzger’s last appearance prior to Saturday was one period in relief on Jan. 21 at Seattle, and his previous start was back on Dec. 27 at Tri-City.

But Metzger was called upon in the back end of Everett’s home-and-home set against Spokane, and the 6-foot-6 goalie stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced during regulation and overtime, before turning aside all three shootout attempts as the Tips won the shootout 1-0.

“I thought he played well,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “I thought he competed well, I thought he tracked the puck well. The first goal came in on him on the short side, and that was a tough one because we had a bit of a four-on-two breakdown. But he settled in well and did a good job of giving our team confidence. One of the most important things a goalie can do is give the guys in front of him confidence.”

The victory was a popular one among Metzger’s teammates, who mobbed him furiously after the game was over.

“He’s very well liked,” Williams said. “He’s the first one giving everyone fist bumps and getting excited for his teammates. He truly is a team-first player, I think he gets just as excited when big things happen for his teammates.”

Overall Metzger is now 4-2-0-0 with a 2.81 goals against average and .892 save percentage. And Williams said Metzger has handled the situation of sparse playing time well.

“For Tim there’s been a lot of learning coming over from Switzerland,” Williams said. “It’s probably been the hardest four months of hockey he’s head, the practices and the travel are a lot different from the league he was playing in in Switzerland. It’s a big learning curve and a lot of people think guys can just step in, but it usually requires an adjustment period. Tim’s done a good job, especially in the second half, of competing harder in practice and off the ice. One thing we discussed with him is that we needed to see that level of intensity ramp up, and I’ve been happy with it the last month or so.”

The sweep of the home-and-home against Spokane improved the Tips to 27-22-2-0, and Everett has moved back into a tie with Tri-City for fourth place in the WHL’s Western Conference, with the Americans having one game in hand. Prince George is four points back, having also played one fewer game than Everett, as the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs has turned into a three-horse race.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Ben Hemmerling. The 18-year-old winger was the offensive star of the show in Friday’s 2-1 victory at Spokane, scoring the game’s first goal on a nice toe-drag move, then setting up what proved to be the game winner.

Second star: Tyler Palmer. The 19-year-old goaltender had an excellent night between the pipes on Friday, turning away 34 of the 35 shots he faced. Several of his best moments came in the third period when the Tips were clinging to their one-goal lead.

First star: Metzger. He probably deserves this spot based solely on his enormous stick flip at the conclusion of Saturday’s victory.

The week ahead

Everett has its second straight light week as the Tips play just twice this week, including a rare weekend with just one contest.

The week begins Wednesday when Everett travels to face Kelowna. The Rockets (17-30-3-0) are in a bit of a slide as they’ve lost four straight and now have Victoria nipping at their heels for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth. Kelowna has also been without its leading scorer, 17-year-old forward Andrew Cristall (26 goals, 36 assists) for more than a month because of a lower-body injury, though he’s now considered day-to-day. Nineteen-year-old forward Gabriel Szturc (17 goals, 37 assists) is the Rockets’ other top scoring threat.

Then on Friday the Tips return home for another game against Spokane. The Chiefs (9-35-2-4) are in last place in the Western Conference by 12 points, and Everett won each of the teams’ six meetings so far this season. Nineteen-year-old forward Chase Bertholet (22 goals, 28 assists) is Spokane’s top offensive player, while 19-year-old forward Ty Cheveldayoff (17 goals, 21 assists) has scored four goals against the Tips this season.

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