Here’s three observations from the Everett Silvertips 6-3 victory over the Swift Current Broncos in Game 5 of the WHL championship series Friday night at Angel of the Winds Arena. The victory kept Everett’s season alive, and the best-of-seven series now moves back to Swift Current for Sunday’s Game 6 with the Broncos leading 3-2:
1) The Tips were determined not to have their season end on home ice.
There was some extra juice in Everett in this one. This game was either win or go home for the Tips, and they played like it. No, Everett didn’t necessarily play with perfect execution, but the Tips played with perfect effort.
This was manifested on the forecheck, as Everett’s forwards did an excellent job of getting in quick on Swift Current’s defense and causing troubles. This directly led to two Tips goals. Late in the first period Martin Fasko-Rudas forechecked aggressively, causing the Broncos to turn the puck over inside their own blue line. That allowed Matt Fonteyne to sweep in with speed, dip around another Bronco and score under Swift Current goaltender Stuart Skinner to give Everett a 2-0 lead.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) May 12, 2018
Then Everett was back at it early in the third period. This time it was Connor Dewar who pressured on the forecheck, harassing Artyom Minulin behind the Swift Current goal to where Minulin coughed the puck straight up the middle to Riley Sutter, who snapped a shot past Skinner to make it 4-2 with what stood up as the game-winning goal.
— The WHL (@TheWHL) May 12, 2018
That extra juice also gave Everett the lift it needed to maintain its energy until the end of the game. The first four games saw Everett jump out early in games, but Swift Current got stronger as the games progressed and the Tips began to tire — in the first four games Everett outscored Swift Current 6-1 in the first period, but the Broncos outscored the Tips 8-1 in the final two plus overtime. However, Everett won the third period 4-1 Friday, with the aid of a pair of empty netters.
2) Everett coach Dennis Williams’ personnel changes helped.
Having dropped three straight games, Williams mixed things up with his units Friday, and it made a difference.
First, Williams juggled his power-play units. That made sense, since the Tips scored on their first power play of the series, then were 0-for-their-next-13 coming into Game 5. So Williams broke up the first power-play unit that was getting about 90 seconds of each advantage, spreading out Everett’s top skill guys among two units. It worked as, on the Tips’ first power play of the game, the rejiggered second unit got some extended time and converted, with former first-unit forward Dewar feeding a pass from behind the net to crashing second-unit defenseman Wyatt Wylie, who put a shot into the top corner and stake Everett to a 1-0 lead.
Williams also mixed his lines, with Fasko-Rudas moving into a top-six spot alongside Fonteyne and Patrick Bajkov in place of Sean Richards. Fasko-Rudas brought good energy to that line, which led to the goal that made it 2-0.
The changes also had the effect of evening out Everett’s ice time a little. This has largely been a two-line series. That has been dictated by Swift Current, which is used to relying heavily on its top six forwards. Everett, which used four lines throughout the regular season and much of the preceding three playoff series, has been reluctant to risk having its bottom-six forwards trapped on the ice with the Broncos’ top six, and therefore has shortened its bench, thus resulting in more fatigue. By switching Fasko-Rudas and Richards the Tips got a veteran onto the third line, meaning Everett was a little more willing to roll its third line on a regular basis.
3) A fond farewell for Everett’s overagers.
In a nice touch, the Tips honored their three overagers, Fonteyne, Bajkov and defenseman Kevin Davis, after the game. The three took a victory lap by themselves as they saluted the crowd, which stuck around to give them the send off they deserve, and it’s great that those three got to experience a special victory in their final game at Angel of the Winds Arena.
This really has been a special group. All three came in as 16 year olds, all three have played five durable seasons in the WHL, and all three are lifelong Silvertips. Between them they’ll finish with more than 1,200 games in Everett jerseys between the regular season and playoffs — is that some sort of record for a team’s three overagers? They have been a part of more wins than any other players in franchise history, they’ve won more banners than any other players in franchise history, and now they’ve gone farther into the playoffs than any other players in franchise history. Maybe none of the three are destined to be future NHL superstars, but they have been fantastic servants to this franchise.
Appreciate this group. I can’t imagine we’ll see anything quite like this trio ever again.