EVERETT — When the final standings are compiled at the end of the WHL regular season, no single point in the standings will stand out above any other.
Yet, it has reached the time of the year where each point is magnified and despite a strong effort the Everett Silvertips missed a chance to secure a pair as the Kelowna Rockets prevailed 3-2 in a shootout before 4,811 fans Friday at Xfinity Arena.
“We played much better tonight than we had the last two games,” Everett head coach Kevin Constantine said, referring to losses to Seattle and Spokane that saw the Tips collectively outscored 10-2. “That’s our main way we judge ourselves. Have we done as good as we can do, have we put full effort into the game, and I thought we played real hard tonight.”
Kelowna’s Nolan Foote scored in the sixth round of the shootout and was the only player to find the net following a scoreless 3-on-3 overtime period. The Rockets improved to 39-21-5-0 (83 points) and leapfrogged the Kamloops Blazers into second place in the B.C. Division.
The Tips (38-14-8-3, 87 points) dropped to second in the U.S. Division by virtue of Seattle’s 3-2 win over the Tri-City Americans in Kent, though the Tips hold a game in hand. The Thunderbirds visit Everett Saturday at 7:05 p.m. for the final time this season.
Reid Gardiner scored twice as the Rockets never trailed, but the Tips managed to tie twice and ultimately pick up the one standings point.
“I think we were proud of our effort tonight,” Everett winger Patrick Bajkov said. “A lot better than our last two games. It’s always good to see us get back on track and we have a big one (Saturday).”
The Tips trailed 2-1 after the second period, but drew even when Bajkov scored on a rebound of Jake Christiansen’s shot from the left circle at 11:40.
It stayed 2-2 through the remainder of the third period and overtime though the Tips had several quality looks and killed off a Kelowna penalty late in regulation.
“This was a big character game for us going down early and to battle back at the end there to get another one to tie it and force overtime,” Bajkov said. “We liked the effort even though the outcome obviously wasn’t what we wanted.”
It was the second time the Tips erased a 1-goal deficit. They trailed 1-0 after one before controlling the second period thanks in large part to a pair of early Kelowna penalties. Everett came up empty on both and Devon Skoleski rang a shot off the post following the second power play.
The Tips tied it when Christiansen buried a wrister from the left circle off a feed from Bajkov at 7:50 in the second.
“It found its way into the net,” Constantine said. “I don’t think the goalie saw it completely and that’s the beauty of putting pucks on the net, making sure they hit the net. They just gotta get there. As long as they get to the net they’ve got a chance and that was kind of a seeing-eye goal, a nice goal and he had a very good game.”
It remained 1-1 until 19:11 in the second when a loose puck squirted away from the boards to Gardiner who buried a shot from the right side of the net for his second goal of the night and a 2-1 Kelowna lead.
The Rockets struck early. Carter Hart saved Lucas Johansen’s first shot, but the rebound went right to Gardiner who crashed from the left of the net and potted the goal into the open net. That gave Kelowna a 1-0 lead at 1:22 in the first.
The Silvertips appeared to tie the game at 7:18 when Bajkov screened Kelowna netminder Michael Herringer and turned around to score on the rebound, but the officials waved the goal off citing Bajkov for interference.
“I didn’t see much really,” Bajkov said. “I did feel his glove come up a little bit on my side so I guess that was enough to make the call. The ref had a better view than I did so I guess that’s what it was.”
Everett also had several good looks on its opening power play as Bajkov flung one off the post and Davis nearly converted a give-and-go, but Herringer made the save. Hart came up big at the end of the power play when he stoned Kole Lind on a shorthanded breakaway one-on-one opportunity.
Everett outshot Kelowna 36-26 including a 25-14 margin over the final two periods.
“(We) created enough shots and scoring chances throughout the game,” Constantine said. “It would have been helpful to maybe pocket one more of the chances we had in the second period. But it was a gutsy effort to come back and tie it and get a point.”
Christiansen and Bajkov each had a goal and an assist while Davis assisted both goals.
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Rockets 3, Silvertips 2 (SO)
Kelowna 1 1 0 0 — 3
Everett 0 1 1 0 — 2
1st Period—1, Kelowna, Gardiner 12 (Johansen, Merkley), 1:22. Penalties—Gardiner Kel (tripping), 8:47; Merkley Kel (roughing), 19:44.
2nd Period—2, Everett, Christiansen 6 (Bajkov, Davis), 7:50. 3, Kelowna, Gardiner 13 (Topping, Thurkauf), 19:11. Penalties—Ballhorn Kel (high sticking), 2:36; Irving Evt (interference), 9:27; Fonteyne Evt (tripping), 16:59.
3rd Period—4, Everett, Bajkov 26 (Christiansen, Davis), 11:40. Penalties—Tuulola Evt (inter. on goaltender), 14:49.
OT Period—No Scoring. Penalties—Merkley Kel (hooking), 4:48.
Shootout—Kelowna 1 (Gardiner NG, Merkley NG, Dube NG, Thurkauf NG, Lind NG, Foote G), Everett 0 (Sutter NG, Tuulola NG, Skoleski NG, Bajkov NG, Zwerger NG, Fonteyne NG).
Shots on Goal—Kelowna 11-9-4-1-1-26. Everett 11-12-11-2-0-36.
Power Play Opportunities—Kelowna 0 / 3; Everett 0 / 4.
Goalies—Kelowna, Herringer 28-14-3-0 (36 shots-34 saves). Everett, Hart 27-9-6-2 (25 shots-23 saves).