EVERETT — The Seattle Thunderbirds came out and punched the Everett Silvertips in the mouth Tuesday at ShoWare Center in Kent.
But goaltender Carter Hart kept the Tips in it, and Everett punched back to earn a 3-1 win and take a 2-1 lead in their best-of-seven WHL Western Conference quarterfinal series.
“They got going right away,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams. “They scored that early goal and got the crowd going and got the momentum going. We were a little bit hesitant, probably gripping the stick a little bit after that. But we found our way as it went on I thought. In the second and third we started skating much better and making their (defensemen) turn, putting the puck behind them and playing more in the offensive zone and better job with our puck possession and puck management.”
Indeed, the Thunderbirds fired off 24 shots in the first period, but Hart saved 23 of them. The Tips then regrouped and held Seattle to just 10 shots over the final 40 minutes.
“They played a phenomenal first period,” said Kevin Davis, Everett’s co-captain and top defenseman. “I thought Hartsy did a great job just stopping every puck pretty much. So we just had to weather that storm and then just get our game going in the second period.”
The Tips expect a similar effort from the T-birds Friday as Seattle plays host to Game 4 at 7:35 p.m. A Tips win would push Seattle to the brink of elimination and give Everett a chance to clinch in Game 5 on Saturday back home at Angel of the Winds Arena.
“We just gotta reset,” Davis said. “It’s nice to lead the series 2-1, but they’re a good team. They’re gonna come out hard in their own building as well so we’re just getting ready for Friday.”
Everett will welcome center Riley Sutter back to the lineup after he served a one-game suspension for a knee-on-knee hit on Seattle’s Jake Lee in Game 2.
Sutter, projected to be taken in this year’s NHL draft, has yet to record a point in the series, but scored 25 goals with 28 assists in 68 regular-season contests.
“He plays a lot of minutes,” Williams said. “It was a bit of a juggling act especially (at Kent) with not getting the last (line) change. But I thought our guys did a good job up front of managing and playing in different positions. Some guys had to play center, some guys had to play off wing. But what’s great about this group is they don’t complain. They just go out there and accept the challenge.”
Garrett Pilon, who has played wing since he was traded from Kamloops to Everett, centered the Tips’ second line Tuesday. Pilon figures to return to the wing Friday.
Tips forward Matt Fonteyne has five points while Pilon and Patrick Bajkov each have four to lead the Everett offense in the series. Sixteen-year-old center Reece Vitelli has three points including Everett’s game-tying, first-period goal on Tuesday.
“(Vitelli) gets his nose in there and does a really good job,” Williams said. “You can see his confidence growing from Game 1 to Game 75 now. He had to play a lot of minutes (Tuesday) night and he did a really good job.”
Hart’s numbers in net are more respectable following Tuesday’s 33-save effort as he upped his save percentage to .925 and dropped his goals-against average to 2.28 by earning his second win of the series.
The T-birds are expected to be without forward Sami Moilanen after he left Tuesday’s game with an apparent upper-body injury following a hit from Fonteyne.
Talked to T-Birds head coach Matt O’Dette today and he says more than likely that we won’t see Moilanen tomorrow.
— Andy Eide (@AndyEide) March 29, 2018
The Tips announced Thursday that they have added forward Ty Westgard to the active roster from the BCHL’s Surrey Eagles. The 1998-born Westgard has a goal and three assists in 28 career WHL regular-season games with Victoria and Portland, and played in seven playoff games for the Royals. He scored 15 goals with 55 assists in 56 games for Surrey this season. He led the Eagles and tied for second in the league in assists.
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