EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips have been comfortable on the road of late as they have won five of their last six games away from Xfinity Arena.
Friday afternoon the Silvertips showed how formidable they can be at home as they defeated the Kelowna Rockets 3-1 before 5,324 fans for their first home victory since Dec. 5. Everett also moved back into first place in the U.S. Division standings.
Friday’s victory made it two straight over the defending WHL champion and Western Conference-leading Kelowna (27-10-2-0, 56 points). The Silvertips (21-12-0-2, 44 points) moved one point ahead of idle Seattle for the division lead.
“We had a rough one against Vancouver (Sunday) so we were looking to bounce back, and we had a good 60-minute showing in Kelowna (on Wednesday),” Everett defenseman Brycen Martin said. “Then we knew they were going to come hungry tonight so we put another gear on and we were successful.”
With the Tips nursing a 1-0 lead Martin doubled the advantage when he fired a wrister from the high slot past Kelowna goaltender Michael Herringer’s left pad off a centering pass from Carson Stadnyk for a power-play goal at 18:37 in the opening period.
The goal, Martin’s first since being acquired in a trade from Saskatoon at the beginning of December, held up as the game-winner.
“It feels good, but I’m a D-man so I’m not worried about scoring too many goals,” Martin said. “(I’m) just trying to do my job and it worked out tonight.”
The Silvertips pushed their lead to 3-0 on their second power-play opportunity at 4:13 in the second period. A Rocket defenseman whiffed on a clearing attempt in front of the net and Graham Millar was there to clean up the miss for his ninth goal of the season.
At that juncture, however, the momentum seemed to shift in favor of the high-scoring Rockets. Kelowna got on the board with Joe Gatenby’s wrist shot from the right circle past a screened Carter Hart at 15:43 in the second and the Tips’ lead was cut to 3-1 through two periods.
“We stopped doing all the little things that had got us to that point,” Everett head coach Kevin Constantine said. “It allowed them to get a lot of chances at the end of the period and get them back at the end of the game.”
The Silvertips entered the game averaging 75.8 percent on the penalty kill, fourth-worst in the WHL. Nevertheless, the Tips managed to preserve the victory in part by killing all four Kelowna power plays — including two taken by captain Dawson Leedahl in the final 3:48 of the game. That followed a 3-for-3 penalty kill effort during Wednesday’s 2-1 overtime win at Kelowna.
The Tips aren’t doing anything different on the penalty kill — just “getting it done,” Constantine said.
The Silvertips opened strong as they fired a 13-shot barrage at Herringer in the opening period.
Remi Laurencelle crashed the net and buried a rebound of Lucas Skrumeda’s shot for a 1-0 Everett lead at 2:56 in the opening period. Martin’s goal gave Everett the 2-0 lead through the first period.
It became hang-on time following Millar’s goal.
“I thought (Wednesday) we got a touch better every period,” Constantine said. “Tonight our best period was our first and we got a touch worse every period. It was a different game, but it just shows you that sports is momentum and it shifts in how you’re approaching the game mentally. The secret is to stay on task all the time no matter what’s going on around you.”
Laurencelle added an assist to his team-leading 20th goal of the season. Hart turned aside 15 of Kelowna’s 16 shots to earn his WHL-best 21st victory.
Everett wraps up a four-game week Saturday as it travels to Kamloops for its first matchup with the Blazers.
Silvertips 3, Rockets 1
Kelowna 0 1 0 — 1
Everett 2 1 0 — 3
1st Period—1, Everett, Laurencelle 20 (Skrumeda, Leedahl), 2:56. 2, Everett, Martin 4 (Stadnyk, Laurencelle), 18:37 (PP). Penalties—Dewar Evt (inter. on goaltender), 6:50; Linaker Kel (high sticking), 17:18.
2nd Period—3, Everett, Millar 9 4:13 (PP). 4, Kelowna, Gatenby 2 (Merkley, Linaker), 15:43. Penalties—Wishnowski Kel (roughing), 2:24; Johansen Kel (high sticking, high sticking), 4:33; Baillie Kel (slashing), 10:00; Stadnyk Evt (delay of game), 18:07.
3rd Period—No Scoring.Penalties—Laurencelle Evt (inter. on goaltender), 12:08; Leedahl Evt (inter. on goaltender), 16:12; Lind Kel (roughing), 18:33; Leedahl Evt (roughing), 18:33.
Shots on Goal—Kelowna 2-6-8-16. Everett 13-12-6-31.
Power Play Opportunities—Kelowna 0 / 4; Everett 2 / 5.
Goalies—Kelowna, Herringer 8-4-0-0 (31 shots-28 saves). Everett, Hart 21-11-0-2 (16 shots-15 saves).
For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter @jessegeleynse.