Silvertips prove they can contend with WHL’s best

Everett slugged it out with Eastern Conference contender Moose Jaw in an entertaining 8-7 shootout loss over the weekend.

The Everett Silvertips had one last chance this regular season to see how they stacked up against a WHL championship contender, and boy did they make sure the Angel of the Winds Arena crowd was entertained in the process.

Everett slugged it out with one of the Eastern Conference favorites Friday night when the Tips hosted the Moose Jaw Warriors, and while Everett ended up on the losing end, the Tips again demonstrated that they can compete with the league’s best — while keeping the crowd on the edge of its seats throughout a wild 8-7 shootout defeat.

Friday’s game pitted Everett, which is in third place in the Western Conference, against a Warriors team that surged into second place in the Eastern Conference and has been scoring goals in bunches since the Jan. 10 trade deadline (5.1 per game in the 19 games leading into Friday). The Tips had also been on an offensive roll — coincidentally scoring the exact same number of goals in the exact same number of games during that time frame — so a game dominated by the offenses always seemed to be in the cards, and that’s exactly what happened.

Moose Jaw used special teams to put itself on the front foot. The Warriors opened the scoring 5 minutes, 46 seconds into the game on Matthew Savoie’s short-handed goal. Moose Jaw then took a 4-3 lead with power-play goals just 25 seconds apart early in the second period as the Warriors converted both ends of a five-on-three. The Warriors did it again early in the third period, converting both ends of a five-on-three by scoring 34 seconds apart to take a 7-5 lead.

But Everett, which had already come from behind three times in the game to tie the score, did it one last time. Jesse Heslop put in a shot that rebounded off a defender at 5:42 of the third to get the Tips within one. Then Austin Roest tied it with a wrister from between the circles at 11:29. Everett, which outshot Moose Jaw 56-35, had a 7-1 shot advantage in overtime, but wasn’t able to find the net. The Warriors prevailed in the shootout as Jagger Firkus converted for Moose Jaw and the Tips missed all three of their attempts.

Everett rebounded the next night to beat visiting Regina 5-3. That means Everett is 39-18-2-3 with six games remaining. The Tips trail U.S. Division leader Portland by two points, but the Winterhawks have played three fewer games, so there remains a substantial gap in winning percentage (.720-.669). With a 17-point lead on fourth-place Wenatchee, which has eight games remaining, Everett can finish no lower than third in the conference.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Lukas Kaplan. The 16-year-old forward wasn’t even a full-time member of the team until December, when his work as an injury call-up was rewarded with a permanent roster spot. Kaplan scored in both games over the weekend, and he’s contributing at a solid rate for a 16-year-old rookie with nine points in 16 games since the holiday break.

Second star: Julius Miettinen. The big forward from Finland who’s in his 17-year-old season was a significant contributor in both contests, scoring two goals against Moose Jaw, then adding a goal and an assist against Regina.

Austin Roest

Austin Roest

First star: Roest. The week began well off the ice for the forward in his 19-year-old season, as Roest inked a three-year entry-level contract with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, who selected him in the sixth round of last year’s NHL draft. Roest celebrated by earning first-star honors in the game against Moose Jaw, registering a goal (which earned Everett a point) and three assists.

The week ahead

Everett has an uncomplicated week on tap as the Tips play a home-and-home set against the Victoria Royals, with Friday’s game in Everett and Saturday’s in Victoria.

The Royals (28-24-5-4) are currently in a four-team race for the Nos. 4-7 seeds in the Western Conference. Victoria is in fifth, but the Royals have struggled mightily since the turn of the new year, winning just five of their past 23 games.

Victoria is led by overage forward and former Portland Winterhawk Dawson Pasternak (24 goals, 42 assists), while fellow overage forward Tyson Laventure (27 goals, 33 assists) has had a big impact since arriving from Swift Current at the trade deadline, posting 24 points in 18 games. The Royals’ third overager Braden Holt (20-12-4-3, 3.36 goals against average, .899 save percentage), who’s a former Silvertip, is the Royals’ No. 1 goaltender.

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