On Friday, Everett and Tri-City open a best-of-seven first-round Western Hockey League playoff series with a 7:35 p.m. puck drop for Game 1 at Angel of the Winds Arena.
It’s a rematch of last season’s Western Conference finals — which Everett won in six games — though many of the key members on both sides have since departed.
The Silvertips won five of eight regular-season matchups against the Americans this season.
Here’s a closer look at the Americans and how the two teams stack up:
Meet the Americans
The Americans have stumbled into the playoffs, losing five straight and 10 of their last 11 regular-season games.
Forward to watch – Parker Aucoin
The overage forward is Tri-City’s go-to goal scoring option, with a team-high 42 goals this season — the next closest on the Americans is Nolan Yaremko with 28.
Defenseman to watch — Aaron Hyman
The 6-foot-5, 221-pound defenseman is an imposing presence on Tri-City’s backend who will make you pay if you don’t pay attention to him. Hyman, who leads Tri-City’s defenseman with 50 points, was traded to Tri-City Nov. 26 and was a longtime teammate of Everett’s Robbie Holmes in Regina. He’s also seen plenty of Everett’s Swift Current trio — Max Patterson, Sahvan Khaira and Artyom Minulin — after playing them frequently in the East Division.
Who’s in net?
Beck Warm, much like Everett’s Dustin Wolf, has been a workhorse for the Americans this season. He shares the distinction for most games played by a goalie this season with Wolf at 61 — although Wolf has played one more minute. Warm owns a 2.94 goals against average and .916 save percentage.
Draft prospect to watch — Sasha Mutala
Mutala is a sturdy power forward who’s aggressive along the walls with a burgeoning offensive skill set. The 2001-born winger is seventh on the Americans with 41 points (20 goals and 21 assists) and is the 81st ranked skater by NHL Central Scouting for the 2019 draft.
Rookie to watch — Krystof Hrabik
He’s not your traditional rookie at 19 years old, but the import forward is in his first season in the WHL and is fifth on the Americans with 51 points (21 goals and 30 assists).
Goals scored: Everett 223 (12th in WHL); Tri-City 214 (15th)
Power play: Everett 21.7 percent (11th); Tri-City 19.4 percent (16th)
Tri-City relies heavily on its top-six group of Aucoin, Nolan Yaremko, Kyle Olson, Riley Sawchuk, Mutala and Hrabik, who account for 71 percent of the team’s goals. The Silvertips are also reliant on their top guys, specifically Bryce Kindopp (39 goals), Zack Andrusiak (38 total) and Connor Dewar (36), but have recieved more healthy contributions from up and down the lineup and their backend this season than the Americans.
Tri-City, despite possessing a productive top-six group, has scuffled on the power play all season long, with a 19.4 percent clip with the man advantage. Everett’s power play isn’t a dynamo, but is over two percentage points better.
Entering Saturday’s 5-1 win over Victoria — a game in which both teams rested key players — the Silvertips were averaging just 1.85 goals over their previous seven games. But with a healthier lineup, the Silvertips are in better shape than they were down the stretch.
Goals allowed: Everett 130 (first); Tri-City 230 (14th)
Penalty Kill: Everett 84.7 percent (third); Tri-City 81.0 percent (sixth)
This is a category Everett won’t be at a disadvantage throughout the playoffs, as their 130 goals allowed is the least in the entire Canadian Hockey League. The Americans boast some capable blue-liners, but Everett is deep and experienced in the back.
In net, Wolf and Warm offer an intriguing matchup, as both have been workhorses and productive goaltenders. While Warm turned in some dazzling performances against Everett this season — including his two highest save outputs of the season with 60 in a 2-1 loss on March 1, and 53 in a 4-2 win on Nov. 2 — Wolf has been a model of consistency this season and leads the CHL in almost every goaltender statistical category.
The Silvertips have been the more consistent team all season, and their stingy defense and high-end goaltending should be a major asset in the early round of the playoffs. Although Riley Sutter is still out with a lower-body injury, the Silvertips are mostly healthy up front after dealing with a slew of injuries in the latter part of the season.
The Americans are a physical, heavy-checking, opportunistic team, but can provide their opponents ample chances on the other end of the ice. If the Silvertips pounce on those chances, they’ll have little trouble with the Americans, who’ve struggled mightily in March.
“We’ve played (Tri-City) tight all year long,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “Obviously managing pucks and mistakes is going to be crucial.”
Prediction: Everett in six games.