EVERETT — You never want to say “never,” but it seems unlikely that any playoff game will last longer than Sunday’s 156-minute, 36-second Game 6 marathon between the Everett Silvertips and Victoria Royals.
The game, in which Everett prevailed 3-2 to advance to the Western Conference semifinals, broke an 18-year-old record set previously by Hull and Victoriaville in the 1999 QMJHL playoffs and captured attention across Canada on television and on social media.
“Regardless where this season goes for this group — and obviously we’re trying to chase down the Memorial Cup like any of the eight teams left in the Western League — but I think this group and these kids and this organization will look back on this game and it will be one of those (records) that will be very tough to break,” Everett assistant coach Mitch Love said Tuesday.
“I think the way the game has gone and the scoring in the game, you don’t see games like that at all. I think it will be something we all can look back on as something pretty special to be a part of — obviously a little more special when you win those type of games than lose.”
The game was draining for the coaches as well as the players. The benches shortened up, particularly on the Victoria side where the Royals essentially rolled three lines instead of the usual four during overtime. Everett rookie blueliner Wyatte Wylie didn’t play in the first overtime, but Love put him back on the ice as the game continued.
“As overtime wore on I more and more used six defensemen whether it was sticking with pairs or it was mixing and matching, and the same thing was up front too,” Love said. “I think as overtime wore on (head coach) Kevin (Constantine) began relying more on four lines where Victoria really stuck to their three lines and I think maybe that might have been a little bit of a difference. You don’t know, but I definitely thought our fourth line gave us some energy shifts to give those guys a breather as overtime wore on and I think that was a big help.”
And so it was Cal Babych, rather than one of Everett’s better-known offensive players, ended it on a breakaway at 11:36 in the fifth overtime after the teams played 110 combined minutes without a goal.
What was the key?
“Honestly just lots of water,” Babych said after the game. “You know you have to win and it’s a huge game. There’s really nothing else to it.”
Water, and about 10 gallons of Gatorade, according to trainer Rob Tagle, one of several key members of Everett’s behind-the-scenes support personnel.
At this time of the season virtually every player experiences a bit of fatigue and is somewhat banged up, so ice time during practice is limited and rest is emphasized. Tagle and the players work closely with Engineered Sports Therapy to keep players healthy and active during the course of the 72-game WHL regular season and however long the Tips remain in the playoffs.
“They really help us out in terms of getting these guys prepared with the whole nutrition and the proper habits too,” Tagle said. “Just in my short career as a trainer this stuff is becoming more and more prevalent in it. A lot of teams are buying into it now and I think we’re one of the teams that really have bought into it and really appreciate the nutrition and the whole recovery aspect.”
The Tips greatly emphasize their detail and work habits, and Constantine mentioned after the game that relying on those habits becomes crucial as fatigue and pressure set in.
There is also equipment manager James Stucky, who has been with the organization since Day 1. He helps keep the gloves and uniforms dry and provides food during periods to keep players going. Stucky also sharpens skates, tapes sticks and fills in wherever he needs to.
“Those are really, to be honest with you, the guys who keep those guys ticking through such a grind like that, eight periods of hockey,” Love said of Stucky and Tagle.
Tagle kept the coaching staff updated on the franchise, WHL and CHL records as they fell one-by-one, period-by-period. He said it reached an almost comedic level as the game continued to drag on thanks mostly to impressive goaltending displays from Carter Hart and Griffen Outhouse.
The whole organization was thankful Babych mustered enough energy for the breakaway that led to the game-winning goal.
“That was one of the only breakaways in overtime and if that wasn’t it, I honestly don’t know,” Tagle said. “That game would probably still be going on right now.”
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