The Tips had one helluva 2014-15 season, but it came to an end Sunday. Everett gave everything it had in this one, responding after falling behind 3-1 and putting on a tremendous push in the the third period. But Portland held on to claim the series 4-1.
Everett really could have folded after Oliver Bjorkstrand scored twice in the second period to put Portland ahead 3-1. But credit to the Tips, they stuck with it, got back within one late in the second on Cole MacDonald’s goal, and had good chances to tie it in the third. But Winterhawks goaltender Adin Hill played well in the third, including one stunning save (see below) as Portland held on.
Everett was on the back foot all series because of injuries to its defense, but in Game 5 injuries up front also hurt the Tips. Everett essentially played without a fourth line, meaning the Tips couldn’t deploy their platoon strategy against Portland’s top line, when they used their fourth line exclusively to play the second half of shifts against Bjorkstrand and Nicolas Petan. As a result, those two hurt Everett late in shifts during the second period. It was their most productive game of the series five-on-five. Unfortunately for the Tips the platoon defense couldn’t help when Bjorkstrand and Petan were on the power play.
Though the series finished 4-1, it really didn’t feel like a 4-1 series. Three of Everett’s losses came by one goal, with two of those coming in overtime. Given the Tips’ injury situation, it was a valiant performance in the series.
Portland advanced to face Kelowna in the Western Conference finals. The Winterhawks will be going for their fifth straight conference championship, which would be a remarkable achievement.
With six minutes remaining in the game the Tips had a golden opportunity to tie it. The Winterhawks turned the puck over deep in their own zone, giving Carson Stadnyk the chance to set up Ivan Nikolishin for what seemed like a certain tying goal. But Hill somehow was able to get over and make a diving pad save to keep it 3-2.
First star: Bjorkstrand. Two goals, they were the difference. He’s a special player.
Second star: Petan. One goal and two assists, the perfect set-up man for Bjorkstrand.
Third star: Nikita Scherbak, Everett. Two assists, great pass for MacDonald’s goal.
The Herald’s honorable mention, Portland: Hill. 31 saves, that one on Nikolishin was a stunner.
The Herald’s honorable mention, Everett: Jantzen Leslie, Everett. One assist, this was the first time the 15-year-old call-up played a substantial amount in the series and while he wasn’t perfect, he held up remarkably well.
Game 1: Everett 5, Portland 3
Game 2: Portland 4, Everett 2 (2OT)
Game 3: Portland 5, Everett 3
Game 4: Portland 3, Everett 1 (OT)
Game 5: Portland 3, Everett 2 (Portland wins series 4-1)