EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks were almost as even as could be during the regular season with each team winning five times.
So perhaps it is not surprising that the teams’ WHL Western Conference semifinal series remains tied at one game apiece when the puck drops for Game 3 tonight at Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland.
“In Game 1 they did a good job coming into our building and really set the pace against us,” Everett forward Patrick Bajkov said. “I think we’re looking to do the same thing down there and show that we’re ready to work. It’s hard going into someone else’s building, but with the group we have in the locker room we’re more than capable.”
Portland took the series lead after a convincing 5-2 win in Game 1 Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. One night later the Tips returned the favor in equaling convincing fashion with a 6-0 victory. Games 3 and 4 are tonight and Thursday in the Rose City with Game 5 slated for Angel of the Winds Arena Friday.
But here is the interesting thing: both teams arguably played better on the road during the 10-game regular-season series. The Winterhawks took three of five at Angel of the Winds Arena during the regular season while Everett won three of five in Portland — one of which came in a shootout.
All three of Everett’s regular-season wins came at Veterans Coliseum, the site of Game 3. Everett lost in its only game at Moda Center, the site of Game 4.
Portland’s struggles at home were not limited to Everett visits. In fact, the Winterhawks were just 19-13-0-4 at home while they went 25-9-1-1 on the road during the regular season.
Not that the Tips are looking at that as an edge.
“We know they’re going to feed off their home-crowd energy,” Everett goalie Carter Hart said. “We’ve played there many times before and we know what to expect and we’ll be ready.”
Once again the Tips will look to create traffic in front of Winterhawks goaltender Cole Kehler while attempting to minimize the traffic in front of Hart.
The Winterhawks crashed the net effectively during Game 1 and capitalized on several second-chance opportunities while building what proved an insurmountable lead. The Tips did the same in Game 2 en route to evening the series.
“Your net-front presence is very important on both ends of the ice,” Williams said. “We want to be good 5-to-10 feet outside of the paint. I thought our (defense) did a really good job.
“Obviously any pucks Carter can see he stops, and our (defensemen) and centermen did a good job of blocking guys out,” Williams continued. “And offensively we did the same thing. We caused some havoc for Kehler, getting out in front of his eyes and scoring some second and third opportunities.”
Hart noted the Tips defenders did a better job of clearing rebounds from the slot in the Game 2 win.
“It’s definitely huge to track down and keep rebounds to the side and try to swallow up as much as I can,” Hart said, “but I think our (defensemen) do a good job of keeping things to the outside, and when there are chances in the net, they do a good job of collapsing and limiting second or third opportunities.”
The Silvertips have also dominated the special teams battle in the series. Everett scored twice on the power play in its Game 2 win and is 2-for-4 in the series. Everett had the league’s ninth-best power-play unit during the regular season at 23.5 percent while Portland’s penalty kill was fifth at 79.2 percent.
The Tips penalty kill led the WHL regular season at 84.5 percent and has kept Portland’s vaunted power-play unit scoreless in four chances. The Winterhawks at times feature four NHL first-round draft picks on their power play in Cody Glass, Kieffer Bellows, Henri Jokiharju and Dennis Cholowski. Portland converted at a rate of 25.7 percent in the regular season, which was fourth in the WHL.
Silvertips overage forward Matt Fonteyne signed a one-year AHL deal with the San Jose Barracuda, it was announced Monday. The Barracuda are the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s San Jose Sharks.
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