Silvertips keep heads above water after challenging 3-in-3

Everett goes 1-2 against Western powers, but remains in contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Tyler Palmer. (Silvertips photo)

Tyler Palmer. (Silvertips photo)

The past weekend was the beginning of Everett’s journey through the gauntlet, and halfway through the Tips still have their heads above water.

Everett opened its stretch of six games in nine days against the Western Conference’s three heavyweights with a stunning 10-3 victory over the Portland Winterhawks on Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena. Although that was followed by a 5-0 home loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday and a 3-1 loss at Portland on Sunday, the Tips remain in contention for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

“It was a lot,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said about the high-degree-of-difficulty three-in-three weekend. “Overall it was tough, and it’s not getting any easier, it probably gets harder this week. We have to really manage practice time and make sure guys are rested.”

The stretch couldn’t have started any better for Everett, which notched an improbable blowout victory against the Winterhawks in a game in which the Tips led 10-1 before Portland scored two late consolation goals. The Winterhawks had lost seven in a row going into the game, but Portland was 16 points ahead of Everett in standings and 5-1 against the Tips this season.

“Obviously the stars aligned,” Williams said. “Goals were going in. I don’t think it was a 10-3 hockey game. We’ve been on the other side of it, we lost 11-3 to Seattle where they had 29 shots and scored 11 goals. It was nice to get that win, especially with it being parents weekend and all the families being in town.”

The two losses meant Everett lost ground in the battle for fourth place in the conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Tips are now 30-26-2-1 and have 63 points. They are two behind Prince George, with both teams having played 59 games, while Tri-City is tied with Everett having played one game more. The Tips’ goal will be maintaining contact at the end of this week, as Everett does not face any of the top three in its final six contests.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Matthew Paskiewicz. The 17-year-old rookie forward scored his first career WHL goal in Friday’s victory over Portland. Williams also said Paskiewicz did a good job as one of the forwards rotating onto the third line as Everett spent most of the weekend playing a forward short.

Second star: Austin Roest. The center in his 18-year-old season posted four points in the victory against Portland and finished the weekend with a goal and four assists. With 59 games he’s matched the number he played last season, and with 78 points he’s improved his total by 46.

First star: Tyler Palmer. The 19-year-old goaltender only won one of his three starts over the weekend. However, he was excellent in Friday’s victory and kept the Tips within reach both Saturday and Sunday as he stopped 100 of the 107 shots he faced for a .935 save percentage.

The week ahead

The second half of Everett’s toughest stretch of the season begins Wednesday, as Everett has three more games against the Western Conference’s top three, before finishing the week with a fourth game in five nights.

It starts when Everett hosts the B.C. Division-leading Kamloops Blazers on Wednesday, with a return match in Kamloops on Friday. Kamloops (40-11-4-2) is 18-3 since the trade deadline, when the Blazers acquired 19-year-old defenseman Olen Zellweger (14 goals, 24 assists in 21 games with Kamloops) and 20-year-old center Ryan Hofer (15 goals, 11 assists in 19 games with Kamloops) from the Tips.

On Saturday Everett has its final meeting of the season against Seattle when the teams play in Kent. The T-birds (48-9-1-1) are 8-1 against the Tips this season. Seattle has an abundance of offensive weapons, but the one who’s done the most damage against Everett is 20-year-old forward Kyle Crnkovic (28 goals, 34 assists), who has 14 points in nine games against the Tips.

Everett wraps up the week by hosting the Spokane Chiefs on Sunday. Spokane (14-38-3-4) remains in last place in the Western Conference, but the Chiefs have played much better of late, going 5-3-1-1 in their last 10. Spokane, which has just one shootout victory against Everett in seven meetings this season, is led by 19-year-old forward Chase Bertholet (25 goals, 34 assists).

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