Silvertips continue incredible postseason streak

Everett has made the playoffs in every year of its existence — 18 consecutive eligible seasons overall.

Ben Hemmerling.

Ben Hemmerling.

The Everett Silvertips are headed back to the playoffs, just like clockwork. And despite being trade-deadline sellers they remain right in the thick of the race for home-ice advantage in the first round.

Everett continued its streak of making the playoffs in every season of franchise existence when the Tips clinched their berth via Saturday’s 3-1 road victory against the Vancouver Giants.

The Tips, who are in their 20th season, will be making their 18th consecutive playoff appearance. The two missing seasons are because the coronavirus pandemic caused the WHL to cancel the postseason in 2020 and have no playoffs in the shortened 2020-21 campaign.

“I think it’s a testament to our organization as a whole,” said Everett coach Dennis Williams, who’s been a part of the streak since joining the organization in 2017. “It shows how great the organization did in being consistent, and it’s a tribute to all the great players, support staff and coaches going back 20 years. At the start of every year making the playoffs is the No. 2 benchmark, and any time you can put that X next to the team’s name in the standings you can punch off one of your goals, so it’s really good for the guys.”

Not only will Everett be playing in the postseason, the Tips remain in the hunt to finish fourth in the Western Conference and earn home-ice advantage in the first round, which would be an incredible achievement considering Everett was a major seller at the trade deadline when dealing star defenseman Olen Zellweger and star center Ryan Hofer to Kamloops.

Indeed, the Tips actually made up ground last week, despite starting the week with a rough loss to one of their main rivals. Everett had a shaky performance in Wednesday’s 6-2 loss at Tri-City, a result that could have put a major dent in the Tips’ drive for fourth. But victories at Vancouver and Victoria (5-2 on Sunday) over the weekend, combined with a pair of Tri-City regulation losses, meant Everett (29-24-2-1) moved into a tie for fourth with the Americans, with the Tips having a game in hand.

Meanwhile, Prince George has been on a roll, and the Cougars have moved within one point of Everett and Tri-City while having played one fewer game than the Tips. Therefore, with just four weeks remaining in the regular season, it’s a virtual three-way tie for fourth.

Everett, Tri-City and Prince George are done playing games against one another. Therefore, it’s down to how the teams perform against the rest of the conference. Based on the schedule, the Cougars have the advantage as they have just two games remaining against the top three teams in the conference (Seattle, Portland, Kamloops), while Tri-City has five and Everett has six.

“There are a lot of games left, and you have to take care of the games you’re playing in,” Williams said. “If you do that you put yourself into position, but we also know the other teams have the same opportunities. Normally when you’re tied like this you hope you play one another two or three times. But since the trade deadline we said our goal was to finish fourth, and I think we’ve played some good hockey since then, which I don’t think a lot of people expected after the moves we made.”

Three stars of the week

Third star: Aidan Sutter. The 20-year-old defenseman had a goal and two assists over the course of the three games. He also led a strong defensive performance in the weekend’s two victories as Everett kept the number of premium scoring chances against at a minimum.

Second star: Jesse Heslop. The 16-year-old winger had the decisive contributions in Saturday’s victory over Vancouver, setting up the game’s opening goal and scoring the winner with less than three minutes remaining. With 31 points he’s just the fourth 16-year-old in franchise history to top the 30-point barrier.

First star: Ben Hemmerling. The 18-year-old winger was a scoring-chance machine in both of the weekend’s victories, creating for both himself and his teammates. For the week as a whole he finished with two goals and four assists.

The week ahead

This weekend begins Everett’s toughest stretch of games of the season. The Tips play seven games in 10 days, with the first six of those coming against the Western Conference’s top three.

Everett faces Portland twice this weekend, at home on Friday and in Portland on Sunday. The Winterhawks (36-16-2-3) are solidly in third place in the conference and have won five of the six meetings with the Tips this season. However, Portland has hit a rough patch, losing seven straight. The Winterhawks are led by 18-year-old defenseman Luca Cagnoni (14 goals, 40 assists).

In between the Tips host Seattle on Saturday. The Thunderbirds (45-9-1-1), who loaded up like no other team in WHL history, have won 10 straight and pulled away in first place in the conference. Seattle is 7-1 against Everett this season, though that lone loss came the last time the teams met, a 1-0 decision on Feb. 4 in Everett. The T-birds have received big production out of two of their new 19-year-old forwards, Brad Lambert (12 goals, 11 assists in 15 games) and Dylan Guenther (four goals, nine assists in nine games).

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