Silvertips extend franchise-long playoff streak

Everett clinched a WHL postseason berth during a 2-1-1 week, which included a split with top contender Portland.

It was a good week for the Everett Silvertips. Everett clinched a playoff spot, continuing its record of making the playoffs in every season of franchise history. The Tips had perhaps their most important victory of the season, bouncing back to beat Portland 4-0 Sunday at Angel of the Winds after being routed 10-2 by the Winterhawks last Tuesday in Portland.

But what Everett wasn’t able to do was give itself the boost it needed to challenge Portland for first place in the U.S. Division.

Everett went 2-1-1-0 in its last busy week of the WHL’s regular season, and while the split with Portland was important psychologically, it also meant the Tips weren’t able to make up ground on the Winterhawks in the winning-percentage standings.

Thanks to Sunday’s victory Everett is technically in first place in both the division and the Western Conference with 78 points. However, Portland has played five fewer games so the Winterhawks, who are just one point behind, have a comfortable advantage in winning percentage (.713-.661). The Tips have just nine games remaining, none of which are against Portland, meaning Everett likely needed to sweep the games against the Winterhawks to have a shot at the division title.

Everett hasn’t had much luck against Portland this season, and things looked dire following Tuesday’s drubbing, which gave the Winterhawks a 6-1 record against the Tips this season. The implications were ugly for any potential postseason meeting.

But Everett got the job done Sunday. Goaltender Tyler Palmer, who was hooked after allowing four goals on 11 shots against the Winterhawks last Tuesday, redeemed himself with a 34-save shutout Sunday. The Tips got a first-period goal from Julius Miettinen and a second-period marker from Ben Hemmerling, before both Cade Zaplitny and Kaden Hammell each added empty-net tallies.

Everett, which won 7-1 at Wenatchee on Friday and lost 4-3 in overtime at home against Seattle on Saturday, is now 37-18-2-2 and appears destined for the conference’s No. 3 seed to the playoffs.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Palmer. The 20-year-old netminder had to carry a heavy load with Ethan Chadwick unavailable for the weekend’s three-in-three because of injury. Although his week started slowly with the loss at Portland, he ended it on a high note as he was named the game’s first star for his shutout of the Winterhawks on Sunday.

Second star: Austin Roest. The center in his 19-year-old season continues to score goals in bunches, as he had his third hat trick of the season and second in three weeks in the victory against Wenatchee. He finished the week with four goals, and he’s now tied with Dominik Rymon for the team lead in goals with 31.

Ben Hemmerling

Ben Hemmerling

First star: Hemmerling. The 19-year-old winger led Everett in scoring during the week with two goals and three assists. He was particularly vital in Everett’s victory against Portland, as he set up Miettinen’s opening goal with a nifty blind feed from behind the net, then scored the second on a nice backhander.

The week ahead

Everett, which has played at least three more games than every other team in the WHL, finally gets a breather as the Tips only play once this week. That game is a rematch with Seattle on Saturday in Kent.

Seattle, the defending WHL champion, is experiencing a hangover this season as the Thunderbirds (19-31-2-0) are in 10th place in the Western Conference and are nine points out of a playoff spot. However, Seattle has fared well against Everett, winning three of the previous seven meetings, including the last two. The T-birds are indebted to 18-year-old goaltender Scott Ratzlaff (14-21-1-0, 3.43 goals against average, .904 save percentage) for those past two victories, as he stopped 100 of the 104 shots he faced in those two games as Everett dominated the shot clock.

Seattle still has some dangerous weapons in the likes of 20-year-old defenseman Jeremy Hanzel (11 goals, 36 assists) and 19-year-old forward Nico Myatovic (four goals, 11 assists in 18 games).

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