EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips came mightily close to handing the defending WHL champion Prince Albert Raiders their first regulation loss of the season, and they settled for an overtime win, as Michal Gut’s goal in the extra period propelled Everett to a 2-1 win on Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“It was good for our guys, and they battled hard and competed,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams. “That’s a good hockey club over there, you know. Big, strong, heavy, can skate well and I thought our guys did a pretty good job of matching speed and intensity.”
After starting the rush up the ice and carrying the puck into the Raiders’ zone, Gianni Fairbrother dished the puck to Gut, who snapped a shot past Prince Albert netminder Boston Bilous for the game-winner at 1:38 in overtime. It was Gut’s third career WHL goal.
Everett led 1-0 up until the final seconds of the game after Gage Goncalves’ rebound goal at 3:45 in the third period, but Ozzy Wiesblatt knotted the score with 13.9 seconds left in regulation with the extra skater, clapping a one-timer on Aliaksei Protas’ pass for the equalizer.
“That can easily defeat a team, but I think it really showed our resilience coming back out and playing 60-plus minutes and it was going to take a bit more,” Williams said. “On the bench it was, ‘OK, we got our one point. Now we go find the second one.”
Everett picked up two points and extended their winning streak to four games.
Shots were even at 7-7 after a scoreless first period, in which scoring chances were at a premium. The game opened up more in the second, but neither team could solve the other side’s netminder after 40 minutes.
Dustin Wolf made 30 saves for Everett.
“I thought Dustin did a really nice job for us all weekend,” Williams said.
Prince Albert goaltender Bilous turned away 24-of-26 shots in the loss.
The Silvertips remain three points ahead of Portland in the U.S. Division standings, with the Winterhawks possessing a game in hand, after both team’s won on Saturday.
GUT ANSWERS CALL
A few weeks ago, Everett’s coaching staff challenged Gut to step his game up after a percieved dip.
The succeeding Sunday, Gut got in touch with Williams, acknowledging his shortcomings and vowing to elevate his play.
During the Silvertips’ four-game winning streak, Gut has done just that, especially the past two games with a pair of goals.
“I think he’s getting better and better,” Williams said. “… I think since that time he’s been really hard on pucks, competing, getting around the net.”
Gut, a 17-year-old import from the Czech Republic, has centered Everett’s third line the last three games with great success. With his ability to play up the middle and contribute skill, he’s been one of the catalysts for Everett’s young lineup.
“He’s got to get a little better on draws, he’s losing quite a bit of them and you’ll notice we’ve taken him off quite a bit on defensive-zone faceoffs,” Williams said. “What I’ve liked the last four games with him is he’s just competing and getting to the tough areas. The first four or five games he was playing a little bit too much on the perimeter. Now he’s getting to the blue paint, he’s getting cross-checked, he’s getting pushed and punched in the face, and I think he’s starting to realize that you’re not going to get hurt if you go there. You’ll probably get rewarded, and I think he’s building and gaining a lot of confidence with his play.”
With that confidence, there was no trepidation sending Gut to the ice during three-on-three overtime with the game on the line.
“He’s been skating and making plays, so when you open up the ice like that, it plays to his advantage,” Williams said.
Coming off a 10-point campaign as a 17-year-old rookie, Goncalves is on pace to crush to total in 2018-2019.
For the fourth consecutive game, the Mission, British Columbia native tallied a goal. His five goals in four games since an upper-body injury that sidelined him for three contests has factored heavily into Everett’s four-game winning streak.
“He doesn’t get way up high, he knows how to stay even-keeled,” Williams said. “But he also has a lot of confidence in his abilities and capabilities, for that matter, right now. He’s playing hard, he takes coaching on the bench, he always wants more and expects more from himself and I think that’s what drives him to be a better hockey player.”
FONSTAD MATCHES UP WITH FORMER TEAM
Cole Fonstad had an almost incredulous look on his face after Saturday’s win.
It was a highly-anticipated matchup for the 19-year-old Canadiens prospect after a significant trade sent him away from Prince Albert to Everett last Sunday.
“(It was) unreal,” Fonstad said. “I mean, I played three years with those guys. It’s good to get some bragging rights.”
Fonstad was credited with an assist, possibly his least impressive one since joining the Silvertips. He couldn’t connect on a slap shot that he attempted to one-time in the slot, but Wylie pinched down and re-shot the puck, leading to Goncalves’ goal.
“I just missed it,” Fonstad said. “Just went off my heal and luckily Wyatte was in a good spot there and it popped to him. It was awesome to see that go in the net.”
No matter, Saturday will be a memorable night for Fonstad for year’s to come.
“It was weird looking over in warmups and seeing the boys and coaches in warmups and stuff,” Fonstad said. “I’m happy to be here, I’m happy to be on this team and I’m excited for the rest of the year.”
WRIGHT LEAVES EARLY
Jacob Wright left Saturday’s game early with an apparent injury, leaving Everett down a skater. There was no update post game.
The Silvertips travel to Langley, British Columbia for the first of four regular-season tilts with the defending Western Conference champion Vancouver Giants next Friday. Puck drop is at 7:30 p.m.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @joshhortonEDH