Kootenay may have swept Everett, but Tips made them earn every bit

  • By John Sleeper / Herald columnist
  • Tuesday, April 12, 2005 9:00pm
  • Sports

EVERETT – The record books will show that the Kootenay Ice swept the Everett Silvertips in the WHL Western Conference semifinals, but that’s akin to saying that Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” is about Russia.

It won’t show that Everett, a decided underdog against the most skilled team in the league, narrowly lost Games 3 and 4 on its home ice in two awe-inspiring overtime games.

Game 3 was a crusher.

Game 4 was a killer.

They were identical only in their final result – a winning overtime goal that followed a stunner late in regulation that gave the Ice life.

Unlike Monday night’s 3-2 overtime loss, there were times when Everett dominated play. At the very least, the teams were each others’ equals, thanks to Everett’s astonishing resolve, which we’re used to, and the Silvertips’ renewed offensive zip, which we’re not.

On Tuesday night, it was Ice center Dale Mahovsky who sent Game 4 into an extra session with a slapshot that Tips goalie Mike Wall missed with his glove by millimeters.

Kootenay’s Nigel Dawes ended Everett’s season with the game-winner, 4-3.

Holy deja vu, Batman.

The Ice’s affinity for the mind-blowing comeback ruined Everett’s best effort of the playoffs. All the Silvertips have to show for their gutty effort is a vacation.

Everett played the part of a desperate team, and down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series is about as desperate as it gets. On the other side, Kootenay played the part of a team that seemed almost smug in the thought that it could close it out in Game 5, at the very latest, on its home ice Friday.

That wasn’t the case, however, in the first 31/2 minutes of the game, when the Ice scored two goals on their first two shots.

Did Monday night’s 3-2 overtime loss take that much vigor out of the Silvertips? Was Wall, so brilliant throughout the playoffs, finally wearing down?

Was Game 4 over before it really started?

Adding to Everett’s challenge was the absence of second-leading scorer Torrie Wheat. Mitch Love, the heart of Everett’s first two seasons in the WHL, tested his deeply bruised knee before the game, but couldn’t go.

Yet, as sudden as Kootenay’s first two goals, Everett somehow came to life.

For the first time all series, the Silvertips carried the play to the Ice. It was Everett that created chances and beat the opponent to the puck.

The Tips also went after bodies in black sweaters as they hadn’t before. Curtis Billsten placed Derek Price on the business end of a fearsome blast that shook the boards, along with Price’s fillings. Shaun Heshka did the same to Ryan Russell.

The crowd of 5,571, of course, roared with every collision.

Suddenly, confidence wasn’t a problem for Everett, which tied the game at 2 on goals by Karel Hromas and Kyle Annesley.

Desperation replaced uncertainty. In contrast to much of the series, it was the Silvertips flying around, buzzing among the startled Ice for 19 first-period shots on goal, which equaled the same number the Tips had in three periods plus overtime Monday night.

The major change in offensive strategy was one in which Everett would attack from either side, along the side boards, creating acreage of space. The tactic allowed Silvertip skaters increased room to move. And because they were largely successful in whipping the puck from side to side, Ice defenders frequently were caught out of position.

Kootenay woke up in the second period, allowing Everett just five shots between the first period and five minutes into the third. Yes, Alex Leavitt gave Everett the lead with 8:02 remaining, but 8:02 is more than enough time for the Ice.

As they did in Game 3, the Ice peppered Wall with shots and allowed the Silvertips precious few chances in the overtime. And as they did in Game 3, they played the part of extremely confident champions.

Hand it to Kootenay. The Ice took Everett’s best shot two straight games and won.

But it was one breathtaking sweep.

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