Silvertips drawing confidence from historical comebacks

Everett is down 3-0 to Spokane, but is staying positive knowing that big series rallies have happened.

SPOKANE — It’s been done before.

Those are words the Everett Silvertips are keeping in mind as they face elimination from the Western Hockey League playoffs Friday night at the Spokane Arena. They are down 3-0 to the Spokane Chiefs in their Western Conference semifinal.

Even entering Wednesday’s game, Silvertips captain Connor Dewar said the players were drawing confidence from the fact that series comebacks happen in sports.

“Through all sports, there’s a lot of comebacks throughout playoffs,” Dewar said Tuesday. “We’ve kind of looked back at some sports history and teams coming back, and also drawing experience from the past year. We’ve had weekends where we’ve been swept back-to-back and had a good response.

“That’s kind of where we’re drawing our confidence from right now.”

Just two teams have overcome a 3-0 deficit in WHL playoff history. The first to accomplish that feat was Spokane in 1996 in the first round. The second was Kelowna, which ousted Seattle after falling behind 3-0 in 2013.

In the professional ranks, there’s been some notable examples of teams rallying from 3-0 holes. The 2004 Boston Red Sox famously erased a 3-0 deficit to knock off the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series en route to the franchise’s first World Series title in 76 years. In the NHL, the Philadelphia Flyers upended the Boston Bruins in seven games after falling behind 3-0 in the 2010 conference semifinals, and the Los Angeles Kings rallied from a 3-0 deficit to knock off San Jose in the first round in 2014, the same year Los Angeles won the Stanley Cup.

This isn’t the first time the Silvertips were counted out, Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said.

“We’ve had a good team all year. I’ve said that since the start of the season,” Williams said. “We started (the regular season) 0-2 and everyone wrote us off, and this group kept proving everyone wrong. It’s an opportunity to keep proving people wrong. We’re not a team that’s going to sit here and roll over. Our job is focus on Friday night and get a win and try and get a win after that.”

Raw shot totals suggest the Silvertips were a couple bounces or a couple juicy rebounds away from this being a series. Everett has out-shot the Chiefs in each of the three games and 93-60 overall. That was a good recipe for success for the Silvertips during the regular season, with Everett compiling a 27-8-1-4 record when out-shooting its opponents.

“I give a lot of credit to our forwards and defensemen,” Williams said. “We’ve held this team to about 20 shots per game. That’s a hard thing to do against a club like that. It’s just about burying some of (our) chances. That comes and goes at times. When it’s going in, it feels like we’re shooting at a soccer net, and when it’s not, it feels like it’s a mini-hockey net.

“We had some really good looks tonight. Maybe if we get a couple of those the gates open a little bit, but it’s kind of been a little bit of a battle all year finishing those opportunities.”

The Silvertips better hope the floodgates open soon. If not, their season will end with nothing but wonder about what could have been.

Sutter adds to lineup

Riley Sutter logged plenty of shifts in the Everett Silvertips’ 3-1 loss to Spokane on Wednesday, a remarkable feat for a player who hadn’t played for three-plus months because of a significant lower-body injury.

“I thought he played really well,” Williams said. “(He was) heavy on pucks, played a lot of minutes. I could see he was a little tired at the end there, but I think that was a given, since he’s been out for about 100 days. But he gives another dynamic that we’ve missed since Christmas. He’s the top centerman on our team and one of the best in the league.

“The effort he showed tonight showed a lot of character and how he’s taken care of himself with the off-ice training to step in and play that many minutes.”

Sutter went down in the third period of a 6-1 win over Prince George on Dec. 29, and the Silvertips were without their No. 1 center until his return Wednesday.

He started skating a few weeks ago and returned to full-contact practice last week.

Sutter said it took a little time to adjust to the pace and energy of game action, but he was thrilled to be on the ice.

“It felt great to be back again,” he said. “Obviously not the outcome we wanted, but it takes four games to win a series, so we’ll be back Friday.”

Sutter returned quickly to a significant role, taking faceoffs during key moments of the Game 3 loss.

After dropping the first two game of the best-of-seven series at home, the Silvertips found it difficult to ease Sutter back into the lineup.

“We don’t have time to figure out where he fits. He just has to go out and play,” Williams said. “I wasn’t really sure what to expect. … but for over 100 days off, he did really well.”

Defensive shuffle

Once again, the Silvertips mixed seven defensemen into their blueline rotation Wednesday, mirroring the approach they employed in Game 2.

Ronan Seeley, who entered the postseason as the seventh defenseman on the depth chart, played significant minutes and even logged a shift toward the end of the game with goaltender Dustin Wolf pulled. That could be a sign of growth from the rookie defenseman.

“He’s a playmaking ‘D’ and has his head up and gets his shot through that first layer a lot of the times,” Williams said. “He gets rewarded for that.

“You’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg of his future. He’s going to be a big piece of the puzzle for us in Everett and he’s going to anchor our power play and do a lot of good things for us. … I’ve been really happy with his progress and how he’s developed in the second half of the season and into the playoffs.”

Before Seeley started to earn regular shifts, Everett’s defensive pairings were fairly consistent, with Wyatte Wylie and Artyom Minulin forming one pairing, Sahvan Khaira and Jake Christiansen another, and Gianni Fairbrother and Ian Walker the third.

Wolf picks up academic honor

Silvertips goaltender Dustin Wolf was named the Western Conference Scholastic Player of the Year on Thursday by the WHL.

Wolf achieved perfect grades in English 12, statistics, economics, and American government — all senior-level classes.

“Dustin is very dedicated and driven to graduate with a 4.0 GPA,” Darren Parsons, the education coordinator for the Silvertips, said in a press release. “He is very mature, reliable, and very organized. He has done an excellent job with combining the rigors of hockey to his high educational demands.”

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