EVERETT — Four seasons ago Carter Hart announced his arrival to the Everett-Seattle rivalry with a 26-save shutout in his first game against the Thunderbirds.
Perhaps there was something poetic about Hart recording another shutout in his final game against Seattle. Hart did just that Saturday as Everett eliminated the Thunderbirds from the WHL Western Conference playoffs with a 4-0 win in Game 5 of Round 1 before 6,179 fans at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“Any time you get a shutout it’s always fun,” Hart said. “What’s really cool is that we beat these guys on home ice, and they’ve had our number three of the last four years, so to come in and beat them at home, it’s pretty cool.”
Top-seeded Everett moves on to the second round for the fourth straight season. The Tips will play either Portland or Spokane in the second round. The Chiefs beat the Winterhawks 5-4 in overtime Saturday to remain alive, but Portland has a 3-2 series lead.
Eighth-seeded Seattle, the defending WHL champion, saw its two-year reign as conference champion come to an end.
“They’ve knocked us out multiple times in the five years I’ve been here,” Everett forward Patrick Bajkov said. “It’s an exciting feeling. We’ve got to take it in and hopefully get some rest tomorrow and focus on our next opponent coming up.”
Hart, who will turn professional after this season, recorded his third career postseason shutout and second against the T-birds. He kept Everett’s 1-0 advantage with a stellar save at 11:13 in the second. Hart initially saved Matthew Wedman’s shot, but it rebounded back into the slot. Blake Bargar followed the rebound, but Hart snatched the point-blank shot out of the air.
“That (save) was key,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said. “Every game he gives you a chance to win. It’s up to us to capitalize on the other end. I thought (Seattle goalie Liam) Hughes played well as well. Both goalies had really good games, but Carter definitely was calm, cool and collected in net.”
Perhaps inspired by the highlight reel save, the Tips scored on the ensuing shift as Ondrej Vala’s one-timer from the point beat a screened Hughes for a 2-0 lead at 11:42. It came off a feed from Garrett Pilon and was Vala’s first goal as a Silvertip since he and Pilon were acquired from Kamloops in January.
Everett then drew the game’s only power play, and Bajkov capitalized when he tapped in a loose puck at the left post for a 3-0 lead at 16:10.
Connor Dewar’s empty-netter at 17:29 in the third was the game’s final goal.
“They came out and pushed us pretty hard in the first periods down there (in Kent),” Bajkov said. “That was a big focal point for us making sure we were on top of our game, on top of our details and having a lot of energy, and I think we did a good job.”
Everett never trailed as it struck first at 5:46 in the opening period. Dewar won a puck battle in the corner and turned in toward the net where he found Riley Sutter, who redirected the puck past Hughes at the top of the crease for a 1-0 lead.
“It’s always important to get that first goal of the game, and after that I think we just played hard the rest of the game,” Hart said. “We played to our strengths, kept the puck in their zone and played the pucks to the circles, and just tried to wear down their (defense).”
Everett had chances to add to the lead. Bajkov hit the post on a breakaway attempt at 11:40 and Pilon rang one off the crossbar at 12:50 as the Tips ended the opening period with the 1-0 lead.
That goal was all Everett needed.
“It’s tough coming off what (Seattle) was able to accomplish last year and I thought (Seattle coach Matt O’Dette) has done a remarkable job this year,” Williams said. “It’s not easy to have a target on their back all year as the defending champs. Their team played hard, and competed right to the end, and it was what I would expect in the last game — a really good, hard-fought 60 minutes of hockey.”
Dewar finished with a goal and two assists while Pilon added two helpers.
Hughes finished with 42 saves for Seattle.
The Tips open second-round play with home games Friday and next Saturday.
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Silvertips 4, Thunderbirds 0
Seattle 0 0 0 — 0
Everett 1 2 1 — 4
1st Period—1, Everett, Sutter 2 (Dewar, Pilon), 5:46. Penalties—Ottenbreit Sea (roughing), 20:00; Richards Evt (roughing), 20:00.
2nd Period—2, Everett, Vala 1 (Pilon, Davis), 11:42. 3, Everett, Bajkov 4 (Dewar, Fonteyne), 16:10 (PP). Penalties—Wedman Sea (roughing), 15:53.
3rd Period—4, Everett, Dewar 2 17:29 (EN). Penalties—No Penalties.
Shots on Goal—Seattle 11-14-11-36. Everett 14-17-15-46.
Power Play Opportunities—Seattle 0 / 0; Everett 1 / 1.
Goalies—Seattle, Hughes (45 shots-42 saves). Everett, Hart (36 shots-36 saves).