Playoff matchup set as Silvertips enter final week of regular season

Everett’s final week of action is academic with the team already locked into a first-round series against Portland.

Aidan Sutter

Aidan Sutter

The 2022-23 WHL regular season may have one more week remaining, but the Everett Silvertips already know their postseason fate.

The past weekend’s results, when Everett went 1-2 during its three-in-three, locked the Tips into sixth place in the Western Conference. Therefore, Everett will face No. 3 Portland in the first round of the playoffs, with the best-of-seven series beginning on March 31 in Portland.

Everett, which continues to play severely short-handed, opened the weekend by falling 3-0 at Vancouver. The Tips earned revenge the following night, knocking off the Giants 4-1 at home. However, the weekend ended with a 3-2 defeat at Spokane on Sunday.

Everett doesn’t play again until Friday, and the Tips can use the rest. The past weekend was Everett’s third straight three-in-three, and the Tips have had to navigate the heavy schedule while undergoing the worst injury crisis in coach Dennis Williams’ coaching history. By the end of the weekend Everett was playing two forwards short of a full lineup, and two of the forwards who drew in were call-ups.

“I’m happy with the way the players are working, we’re battling and doing what we can with the limited number of bodies we have,” Williams said. “But the players are pretty tired. We’re going to have to manage their workload this week as we get ready for the weekend’s games.”

Among those sidelined by injuries were forwards Austin Roest and Ben Hemmerling, who are Everett’s leading and third-leading scorers, respectively. Williams had no update on either player, both of whom were listed as week-to-week with upper-body injuries in last week’s injury report. It’s unknown whether the important duo will be available when the playoffs begin.

Because of the weekend’s results, Everett fell five points behind fifth-place Tri-City with just two games remaining, meaning the Tips ended up third in the three-way race for fourth place and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, behind Prince George and Tri-City. That forced the Tips into a difficult first-round matchup with Portland, which was keeping pace with Western Conference heavyweights Seattle and Kamloops before fading toward the end of the season.

”I think they’re a team that’s been up and down a little bit over the last 10-12 games,” Williams said about the prospect of facing Portland in the playoffs. “But you’d rather go through a stretch like that in the regular season than in the playoffs. They’re probably the quietest 85-point team out there, all you hear about is Seattle and Kamloops and no one is talking about them. But they have a lot of skill, a lot of speed and are well coached. It will be a really good challenge for us.”

Three stars of the week

Third Star: Raphael Pelletier. The overage center had a goal and two assists across the three games, and he was also part of numerous other good scoring chances.

Second star: Jackson Berezowski. The overage winger also had a goal and two assists the past weekend. The team’s captain is doing everything within his power to keep the Tips afloat with so many players out injured.

First star: Aidan Sutter. The overage defenseman was the star of the show in Saturday’s victory over Vancouver with a goal and two assists. His goal, which was a blast from the high slot during a four-on-three power play late in the first period, gave Everett a 2-0 lead and stood up as the game winner.

The week ahead

Everett finishes off the regular season with an academic home-and-home against the Victoria Royals, with Friday’s game in Everett and Saturday’s in Victoria. The games are strictly for pride for both teams, as not only are the Tips already locked into their playoff series, the Royals have long been eliminated from playoff contention.

Victoria (16-43-6-1) is tied with Spokane for the worst record in the Western Conference. The Royals are also limping to the finish line, as they’ve won just once in their past 13 games. That win, however, came in their last outing, a 7-6 shootout victory at Prince George on Saturday.

The Royals, who are short on top-end talent, also have injury issues as their top players, overage forward Jake Poole (29 goals, 28 assists in 49 games) and 19-year-old defenseman Gannon Laroque (two goals, three assists in four games), are both dealing with ailments. Victoria’s No. 1 goaltender is 19-year-old Braden Holt (21-25-4-1, 4.04 goals against average, .882 save percentage), who spent four years with the Tips before being traded in December.

Playoff schedule

Here’s the schedule of the Everett Silvertips’ first-round best-of-seven WHL playoff series against the Portland Winterhawks:

March 31: Everett at Portland, 7 p.m.

April 1: Everett at Portland, 6 p.m.

April 3: Portland at Everett, 7:05 p.m.

April 7: Portland at Everett, 7:05 p.m.

April 8: Everett at Portland, 6 p.m. (if necessary)

April 10: Portland at Everett, 7:05 p.m. (if necessary)

April 11: Everett at Portland, 7 p.m. (if necessary)

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