EVERETT — In a game between the top two teams in the WHL’s Western Conference, the Everett Silvertips blew a three-goal lead and lost 5-4 in a shootout Saturday night at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Everett seemed in complete control after scoring midway through the second period to take a 3-0 lead. However, a power-play goal late in the second period by Frasen Minten kept Kamloops in the game. Then it all fell apart for the Tips in the third. Goals 21 seconds apart early in the period by Caeden Bankier and and Luke Toporowski tied it at 3-3. After that the Blazers won every puck battle, and Logan Stankoven scored the go-ahead goal midway through the third.
However, Everett was gifted a power play in the waning minutes because of a Kamloops roughing after the whistle, and Jackson Berezowski jammed home the tying goal with 1 minute, 38 seconds remaining to force overtime and rescue a point. Overtime resulted in no goals, meaning the game went to a shootout.
Everett missed on all four of its shootout tries, and Minten converted to give the Blazers the victory.
“We played a good first two periods,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “That team is too good to not be ready in the third. We got on our heels early in the third, made some mental mistakes in giving up breakaways by puck watching and giving up those goals. I was glad to see our fight back, we didn’t quit and got a good power-play goal.”
Niko Huuhtanen, Hunter Campbell and Ronan Seeley scored the other goals while Koen MacInnes made 29 saves in net for Everett (33-7-2-4), which lost in a shootout for the second straight night.
Dylan Garand made 37 saves in net for Kamloops (33-10-1-0), which pulled within five points of Everett for first place in the conference.
“We’re more concerned about how we play,” Williams said, emphasizing that he’s not thinking about the standings. “As coaches we don’t worry about first place, second place. It’s all about getting better, it’s a growth mindset. We come in after every period like it’s a 0-0 game, we don’t get too high or too low. I think what happened is we put ourselves in a position that everyone thinks we’re supposed to win every game. (The Blazers) are a good hockey club, and any fan that was at the game would probably say it was an entertaining game.”
Everett struck first at 11:56 into the first period. Following a clean faceoff win in the offensive zone, the Tips worked the puck to Seeley at the left point. Seeley fired a low slap shot toward goal that Huuhtanen redirected under Garand to stake Everett to a 1-0 lead.
The Tips then used special teams to push their lead to three in the second period. First, while short-handed, Alex Swetlikoff fended off three Blazers behind the Kamloops net, and although his wraparound attempt was saved, the puck squirted into the slot for Campbell to snap a shot into the corner to make it 2-0 at 5:54. Then on a five-on-three power play, Seeley’s wrister from the center point beat Garand glove side to give the Tips a 3-0 lead at 12:34.
The Blazers gave themselves a lifeline with a power-play goal of their own at 14:51, Matthew Seminoff finding Minten wide open at the post for the easy putaway, and it was 3-1 heading into the third.
Then in a flash of an eye early in the third period Everett’s lead was gone. Kamloops had a bit of fortune as Kaden Hammell’s dump-in caught Everett defenseman Aidan Sutter in the face, taking Sutter out of the play, and the puck fell nicely for Bankier, who fired past MacInness to make it 3-2 at 2:32. Then just 21 seconds later Ethan Brandwood found Toporowski behind the Everett defense for a breakaway, and Toporowski scored five-hole to knot it at 3-3.
“They got momentum from (the goal that made it 3-1),” Williams said. “It would have been a lot nicer going into our locker room up 3-0. The two-goal lead is the worst lead in hockey, and they scored the two goals on the first five shots (of the third period). You saw the ice tilt. But that’s a really good hockey team. They have some really high-end players, so you also have to tip your hat to a good opponent.”
After that the Blazers controlled play, and Stankoven inevitably tied it when Toporowski’s centering pass got past two Everett defenders for Stankoven to fire past MacInnes at 10:10. The Tips needed the late power play to create any offense, and Berezowski managed to force a shot past Garand from a tight angle to send it to overtime.