Max Patterson walked into the Everett Silvertips’ dressing room last week sporting a new hairdo: a Mohawk, which he said was a tribute to UFC mixed martial artist Chuck Liddell.
Not only does Patterson’s playoff haircut pay homage to “The Ice Man,” but so has his recent play.
Along with teammate Robbie Holmes, the two midseason acquisitions have injected a certain physicality and toughness to the Silvertips’ roster, which has come in handy in a hard-nosed and at times, testy, opening two games of Everett’s best-of-seven Western Hockey League series with Tri-City.
“We brought those guys to be contributors, not so much point wise, but with how you see them play,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said. “Hard, heavy, team-first mindset, tracking pucks, being physical on everything. Those types of guys, to me, (are) the difference in the playoffs.”
Both are large in stature — Patterson is listed at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds and Holmes at 6-2, 190 — and are imposing presences on the ice, not only with their size, but with the way they play and “stick up for their teammates.”
Holmes and Patterson are usually among the first to intervene when an altercation breaks out on the ice.
“You see they play with their emotions on their sleeves,” Williams said, “and they don’t back down from anybody.”
Their physical play has been a tremendous asset against the Americans, especially in matching up with Tri-City’s top line of Nolan Yaremko, Kyle Olson and Parker AuCoin. With Zack Andrusiak, another midseason acquisition, rounding out the line, the trio hasn’t allowed the Yaremko-Olson-AuCoin line to score a goal at even strength. (Yaremko scored an even-strength goal Friday in Game 1, but he was matched with a different Everett line.)
“I think they did a really good job with five-on-five hockey with limiting their (top lines’) chances,” Williams said of Patterson, Holmes and Andrusiak, “and I think that shows the confidence that we have in that line to be able to shut them down and lean on that line with trying to wear (Tri-City) down.”
“It’s been fun to play with those two guys,” Patterson said. “I think at the start of playoffs our line started to jell.”
They’ve also been steady offensive contributors through the first two games of the playoffs, with Patterson collecting four points (one goal, three assists) and Holmes adding three (one goal, two assists).
“I think they’ve elevated their games for sure,” Williams said. “Not that they were playing poor hockey in the regular season … but I’ve really seen a different side of them, a different switch turned on, I guess. They’re big, they’re strong and they’re physical. They’re good on the walls and good in the paint. They bring that physical side.”
Patterson was acquired in late November from Swift Current, where he posted 19 points in 27 games for the rebuilding and short-handed Broncos. His point production dipped to 20 points in 36 games with Everett, but he’s played a valuable role at center, despite playing mostly right wing in his career with the Broncos. He’s adjusted well to his new role, winning 56 percent of his faceoffs during the regular season.
He’s also showed flashes of being an above-average passer. His assist on Holmes’ goal Saturday night was a prime example of that ability, flinging a pass across the defense from the right point to the left post, allowing Holmes to simply tap in the puck over a sprawled out goaltender Beck Warm for his first of the postseason.
Acquired from Regina in the waning seconds of trade deadline day on Jan. 10, Holmes’ scoring output, like Patterson’s, dipped a bit since being traded, as he posted 16 points in 24 games with Regina compared to 10 points in 26 games with Everett.
His penalty minutes have risen from 26 to 56 since switching over to the Western Conference.
That physical style of play suits him best.