SWIFT CURRENT, Saskatchewan — The Everett Silvertips had control of the WHL championship series firmly in their grasp. However, they let it slip through their fingers, and now the series is headed back to Everett tied.
Giorgio Estephan had the game-winning goal in overtime as the Swift Current Broncos scored the game’s final four goals to defeat the Tips 4-3 in Game 2 Saturday night at Credit Union iPlex.
Everett built a 3-0 lead in the first period to put itself in position to come back home leading the best-of-seven series 2-0. But Swift Current battled back, tying it 3-3 on Tyler Steenbergen’s goal with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker with 1 minute, 37 seconds remaining in regulation.
Then in overtime Swift Current’s Beck Malenstyn fired a shot that Everett goaltender Carter Hart couldn’t handle, and Estephan put away the second rebound to complete the Broncos’ comeback.
“Any time you get up 3-0 after one you’re hoping to stay on it and keep the lead,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said via cell phone from Swift Current. “We had a lot of good looks. Really big credit to (Stuart) Skinner, their goalie. He made some real big-time saves in the second and third periods. We had plenty of opportunities, we just didn’t bury our chances on him.”
Matteo Gennaro had a goal and two assists and Colby Sissons also scored for Swift Current. Skinner made 40 saves in goal for the Broncos, including an incredible double stop on Riley Sutter and Connor Dewar early in the third period that prevented the Tips from going ahead 4-1.
Sutter, Matt Fonteyne and Martin Fasko-Rudas scored for Everett, which lost for the first time on the road in the playoffs in nine outings. Hart finished with 34 saves.
The series now switches back to Everett for the next three games, with Game 3 Tuesday night at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“It’s still just one hockey game,” Williams said. “It’s a situation where we were one shot away from sweeping on the road, but now we’re going home with a split. We’ve started every playoff series 1-1, and while this one may sting a little more, we have to learn from it and come back Tuesday.”
Everett couldn’t have asked for a better start as the Tips built a 3-0 lead inside the first 15 minutes of the game. First Sean Richards, while taking a hit, chipped a pass into the path of Fonteyne, who beat Skinner high glove side with a shot from the left circle, making it 1-0 just 3:14 into the contest.
Everett doubled its lead at 10:11. There seemed little danger when Fasko-Rudas, in transition, took a tame shot from the left circle. However, the puck deflected off Skinner’s glove and trickled into the goal, making it 2-0.
It was 3-0 three minutes later. Garrett Pilon took the puck into the zone on the left, put on the brakes, then sent a great feed out front to a crashing Sutter, who tipped it past Skinner at 14:26. All three goals came in transition as Swift Current’s big defensemen had trouble sticking with Everett’s speedy forwards.
The Broncos got on the board midway through the second period. The Tips failed to clear the defensive zone, and on a goal-mouth scramble Gennaro was able to put away a rebound to cut Everett’s lead to 3-1 at 8:17.
Everett seemed certain to restore its three-goal lead early in the fourth when Sutter skated his way around Skinner, but Skinner made an unbelievable diving stop with his glove, then somehow managed to keep the puck out on Dewar’s follow attempt.
That proved to be the turning point. Swift Current had the initiative the rest of the period, using its size and strength to control the puck in the offensive zone, and the Broncos pulled within one at 6:22 off another scramble play, Sissons firing a one-timer from the high slot past Hart to make it 3-2.
Then with Skinner pulled for an extra attacker, Swift Current tied it with 1:37 remaining. Gennaro got to a loose puck behind the net and fed it out front, where Steenbergen fired it in to make it 3-3 and force overtime.
Broncos 4 Silvertips 3 (OT)
Everett 3 0 0 0—3
Swift Current 0 1 2 1—4
First Period—1, Everett, Fonteyne 7 (Richards, Vala), 3:14. 2, Everett, Fasko-Rudas 5 (I. Walker), 10:11. 3, Everett, Sutter 7 (Pilon, Vala), 14:26. Penalties—Dewar, Everett (roughing), 5:21; Nagel, Swift Current (roughing), 5:21; Heopniemi, Swift Current (interference), 7:14; Stutter, Everett (slashing), 19:20.
Second Period— 4, Swift Current, Gennaro 9 (Heponiemi, Elder), 8:17. Penalties—Malenstyn, Swift Current (tripping), 1:55; Khaira, Swift Current (checking from behind), 13:23; Fairbrother, Everett (cross checking), 19:33.
Third Period— 5, Swift Current, Sissons 4 (Malenstyn, Steenbergen), 6:22. 6, Swift Current, Steenbergen 12 (Gennaro, Estephan), 18:23. Penalties—none.
Overtime— 7, Swift Current, Estephan 12 (Gennaro, Malenstyn), 9:27. Penalties—none.
Shots on goal—Everett 17-12-7-7—43. Swift Current 10-9-13-5—38. Power-play opportunities—Everett 0 of 3. Swift Current 0 of 2.
Goalies—Everett, Hart 13-5 (38 shots, 34 saves). Swift Current, Skinner 13-9 (43 shots, 40 saves).