Now or never for Tips

  • By Nick Patterson / Herald Writer
  • Sunday, April 15, 2007 9:00pm
  • Sports

EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips have accomplished much this season.

But now we’ll find out what they’re really made of.

Everett finds itself in a do-or-die situation for the first time this season in tonight’s Game 6 of its second-round WHL playoff series against Prince George.

The circumstances are simple. Everett is down 3-2 in the best-of-seven series. Win tonight in Prince George and the Tips survive to Wednesday’s Game 7 back in Everett. Lose and the top-ranked team in the Canadian Hockey League begins an early vacation.

“We’ve never really been in a mode of desperation,” Everett right wing Moises Gutierrez said. “Fifty-some wins, first all year, what’s desperation when you’re No. 1 all the time? We’ll see what desperation we play with now.”

Everett finds itself in its current predicament thanks to Saturday’s monumental collapse in Game 5, when the Tips coughed up a 3-0 third-period lead to fall 4-3.

And now the Tips stand on the edge of the abyss. The team that won the Scotty Munro Trophy for the WHL’s best record during the regular season, the team that was ranked No. 1 in the CHL poll most of the year, now must win two straight against a team playing inspired hockey. Or else go down as a team that squandered a golden opportunity for a run at the Memorial Cup.

“We’ve been a good team – to do everything we’ve accomplished we’re a good team – but we haven’s done anything great,” Gutierrez said. “We won the first round, but there are four rounds to play just to get to the Memorial Cup. I’ve been on losing teams the last four years (in Kamloops) and this is a chance to do something special. We’re not out, but (Saturday) was a tough loss.”

So is Everett up for a comeback? Following Saturday’s devastating result, do the Tips have the mindset needed to battle themselves out of their current hole?

“We speak daily about a couple things that relate to where we’re at now,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “If you go into our locker room the saying you look at as you walk out is, ‘What’s important next?’

“We also speak about process versus outcome,” Constantine continued. “The outcome everybody wants – a win, a pro contract, a Memorial Cup – that’s all outcome-related stuff. We don’t talk about that very often. We talk about process all the time, about what to do and what needs to be done. That’ll be our focus.”

While it may be uncertain how the Tips will react tonight, one thing that appears certain is they won’t be running into an overconfident group in Prince George. While the Cougars were happy with their comeback Saturday, their rhetoric following the game was anything but that of a team that thinks the series is already wrapped up.

“We put ourselves in a good position, but nothing’s won yet,” said Prince George center Chris Durand, who scored both the tying and game-winning goals Saturday. “Game 6 is going to be the hardest one to win. Self-preservation is a funny thing, those guys are going to come with everything they have Monday night. So we’ve got to pick up our game and elevate it from where it was (in Game 5).”

The Cougars are cognizant that just about every game in the series has been up for grabs. Take out Prince George’s 5-1 victory in Game 3 and every contest has been decided by a single goal.

“Any time you’re up 3-2 you’re feeling OK,” Prince George coach Drew Schoneck said. “But it’s not over by any stretch. That’s a very good hockey club over there and they’re coming up to win a hockey game. It’s going to be like the whole series has been, two good hockey teams going toe-to-toe. The margin for error in these games has been so little that I fully expect a great hockey game up there (tonight).”

So it sounds as if the Cougars will be prepared for the Tips tonight. How difficult, given the circumstances, will it be for the Tips to be equally prepared?

“It’ll be as hard as (the players) are mentally strong,” Constantine said. “If you choose your mind can say, ‘Oh jeez, we blew leads.’ That has nothing to do with how you play your next game unless you let it.”

Tonight we’ll find out just how well the Tips are able to forget.

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