EVERETT— After almost every Everett Silvertips practice, the players try their hands at different shootout moves.
Gage Goncalves has a move he’s been workshopping lately and it worked only once in dozens of attempts against Everett goaltenders Dustin Wolf, Keegan Karki and Braden Holt.
But that didn’t stop Goncalves from trying it for real Sunday.
Goncalves scored in his first career shootout with a highlight-reel-worthy move and Karki turned away Spokane’s last shooter to propel the Silvertips to a 4-3 victory over the Chiefs in Western Hockey League play at Angel of the Winds Arena.
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) December 16, 2019
“I asked the boys on the bench if I should do it and they all had a ton of confidence in me so I just gave it a shot and it worked,” Goncalves said of his eventual shootout winner, in which the left-handed forward stick-handled the puck right, then left and then quickly back to his backhand on the right where he gently guided the puck into a wide-open net.
It’s a move that not only requires great skill but patience as well.
Goncalves, a 2001-born forward from Mission, British Columbia, said he drew his inspiration from Swedish hockey legend Peter Forsberg, who pulled off a nearly identical move in the final of the 1994 Olympics to propel the Swedes past Canada.
After Goncalves pulled his iteration off, Arnold was spun around as the puck slid gently into the back of the net. The Chiefs goaltender had no chance after Goncalves shifted the puck onto his backhand to finish off the sequence.
“I’d like to say I was working on that skill set with him, but I wasn’t,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “That’s a really good move. And it goes to show his confidence and his ability to make plays. To be able to pull off that move you have to be able to have self-confidence in your abilities. You can’t do a move like that and only be 70 or 80 percent invested. You have to be 110. And that was obviously a big-time goal.”
Karki turned away Spokane’s Eli Zummack in the ensuing round to send the Silvertips bench spilling onto the ice.
It was a rather sweet end to an arduous weekend from an opponent and schedule standpoint.
The Silvertips exited a three-games-in-three-days stretch with five of six points, the only missing point coming after an overtime loss at Portland on Friday. The three opponents, Portland, Vancouver and Spokane, are viable contenders in the WHL’s Western Conference.
What’s more, because of a lack of depth at forward, injuries and World Junior assignments, the Silvertips played two defensemen out of position at forward in all three games.
“It was a great weekend,” Williams said. “Real solid effort from our group. Real great game from Keegan in net today. He gave us a really good chance to win that hockey game. A lot of guys played different roles and situations.
“(With a) three-in-three and coming off that Central (Division) swing, it’s a tough weekend when you go Portland, Vancouver and Spoke (Spokane). I think the guys can be really proud of that.”
After Portland fell, 4-3, to Seattle in a shootout Sunday, the Silvertips and Winterhawks are once again tied atop the U.S. Division with 48 points. Everett possesses a game in hand on Portland.
Karki, who not only won the shootout but made 28 saves in his sixth win of the year, will be Everett’s go-to option in net moving forward with star goaltender Dustin Wolf away with Team USA for the upcoming World Juniors. Wolf is expected to miss at least the next seven games while on international duty.
Goncalves, who is third on the Silvertips with 29 points, put Everett up 3-2 with his power-play goal at 6:40 in the third period, tipping in a point shot from Jake Christiansen.
But the Chiefs responded with Luke Toporowski’s quick strike on a pass from Zummack below the goal line at 16:32 to knot the game 3-3.
There was no panic after that, according to Goncalves, who added that was emblematic of the team’s character.
“I thought we played a full 60 (minutes),” Goncalves said. “At the start, we were kind of in a track meet and giving up chances and then I thought we settled down after we got a couple goals there. In the third period, when we got scored on late, nobody really got down. We kind of just brushed it off and we kept moving forward and I think that was a really big turning point for us as a group.”
The Silvertips host the Tri-City Americans on Wednesday for the team’s final game before the WHL’s Christmas break. Puck drop is at 7:05 p.m.