Wow! I still can’t believe what I witnessed tonight.
There are a lot of people in the hockey world who detest the shootout, and I have to admit I find the arguments against using it as a tiebreaker compelling, as the game ends up being decided by something that’s not really hockey. But I’m not sure there were many fans in the WHL tonight who were holding their breaths at the end more than those at Xfinity Arena.
Fifteen rounds! I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I can say with some confidence that was the longest shootout in Silvertips franchise history. And not only did it go 15 rounds, the first 24 shooters were all denied as Everett’s Austin Lotz and Kamloops’ Connor Ingram put on a clinic, matching one another save for save. It took a tremendous deke by Kamloops’ Michael Fora to finally beat Lotz in the 13th round, only for Everett’s Carter Cochrane to put a shot into the top corner to extend the shootout.
Then in the 15th round Lotz denied Patrik Maier, bringing Kevin Davis to the ice. Davis came in and beat Ingram with a shot to the glove side to end the game, but when the Tips piled off the bench they understandably headed the other direction to mob Lotz. It was rather fitting that Everett’s scorers in the shootout, Cochrane and Davis, both hail from Kamloops.
The dramatic nature of the victory, however, painted over the cracks in what was a troublesome performance by Everett. The Tips controlled the first period to take a 2-0 lead. But then they sat on the lead the rest of the way, completely surrendering the initiative to the Blazers. They survived for 30 minutes, but it was never going to last. The entire third period consisted of the Tips playing defense, chipping the puck out of the defensive zone only for Kamloops to load back up and send it right back in. The 17-3 Kamloops shot advantage in the third was completely representative of the play.
Yet the Tips seemed like they were going to survive until the very last second of regulation. The Tips iced the puck with 22.3 seconds remaining, and Everett coach Kevin Constantine used his timeout to get the right personnel on the ice. But Kamloops won the faceoff, and although the Tips blocked a couple efforts, the puck wound up on Josh Connolly’s stick with space at the right point. He fired a shot that was saved, but the puck went off traffic and wound up being swept in by the tide at the far post to tie the score and force overtime.
Kamloops then put the puck into the net in OT, only for it to be immediately waived off by the referee as it appeared Cole Ully kicked it in. A lengthy video review ensued and the original call was upheld, letting the Tips off the hook.
But hey, that’s four points already this weekend for the Tips. Everett’s in tough tomorrow in Portland. The Tips are finishing off a three-in-three on short rest (Sunday’s game is at 5 p.m.) where the first two games both required expending additional energy by going all the way to a shootout, and Portland had Saturday off to prepare for revenge for Friday’s defeat at the hands of Everett. But I suspect the Tips will be completely satisfied should they end up with a four-point weekend.
This game had a definite arc. It was strongly in Everett’s favor in the first period, gradually turned Kamloops’ way in the second, then was all Blazers in the third.
First star: Carson Stadnyk, Everett. One goal and one assist, but he wasn’t on my ballot.
Second star: Deven Sideroff, Kamloops. One goal and one assist, was credited with the goal that tied it in the final second.
Third star: Nikita Scherbak, Everett. Two assists, his playmaking was sublime.
The Herald’s honorable mention #1: Lotz and Ingram. 27 combined saves in the shootout deserves recognition.
The Herald’s honorable mention #2: Connolly. One assist, also made a number of important defensive plays and was dangerous rushing the puck out of his own zone.