Silvertips seek better outcome vs. Seattle

EVERETT — Nearly six months ago ShoWare Center in Kent was the site of a moment the Everett Silvertips would just assume forget.

The Tips sat gloomily in the visiting locker room following a 5-0 loss to the Seattle Thunderbirds that eliminated Everett from the first round of the Western Hockey League playoff, pondering all that went wrong as their 2013-14 season came to an end.

Now, as the 2014-15 season gets underway for the Tips, fate finds them returning to the scene of their despair.

Everett’s season begins Saturday night with the Tips traveling back to Kent to take on Seattle in a rematch of last season’s first-round playoff series. And although the Tips can’t undo last season’s unfavorable playoff results, beating the Thunderbirds in the opener might just ease a bit of the sting.

“Last year left a pretty sour taste in our mouth,” said winger Dawson Leedahl, who returned from rookie training camp with the NHL’s Boston Bruins in time for the opener. “We always want to beat those guys, they’re our rivals. This game is no different, we want to win again.

“It would be huge if we could get some redemption for the boys. We need that.”

Everett and Seattle seemed destined for an epic first-round playoff series. It was the first postseason meeting between the I-5 rivals, coming after the teams split their regular season series 5-5 and finished tied in the standings with 88 points each.

The T-birds needed Portland’s season-finale shootout victory over Everett to retain home-ice advantage in the No.4 versus No. 5 Western Conference playoff series. If anything, Everett had the momentum going into the playoffs, having won the previous three meetings with Seattle and having not lost in regulation in more than a month.

But it wasn’t to be. Seattle won the first three postseason games in close fashion to take command of the series. Everett fought off one elimination game, but a third-period collapse in Game 5 gave the T-birds a 4-1 win in the best-of-seven series.

For the Tips who played in that series, the anguish remains despite the time that’s passed.

“It wasn’t a good feeling, I hate talking about it,” Tips winger Carson Stadnyk answered when asked to recall Game 5. “It’s just never a good feeling when it gets brought up, especially losing to Seattle in Seattle with all the fans there.

“That’s always a tough pill to swallow, especially losing to those guys in the playoffs and them ending our season,” Stadnyk added. “(Saturday) is a big game, we’re going to give it our all and show them how much better we are this year than last year.”

Everett coach Kevin Constantine was less interested in dwelling upon the past than he was in getting this season started in earnest.

“I’d rather start on the road, so I’m glad we’re starting on the road so we’re not wasting a home game to get the first-game jitters out,” Constantine said. “The fact it’s Seattle adds maybe a little intensity to the game. But it may or may not be an indicator of how the season series goes.”

Regardless of the opponent, the Tips feel ready for the start of the season.

“I can’t wait to get started,” Stadnyk said. “We’re a very close group of guys this year, we’re connecting really well, and it should be a fun year. We’ve been going hard all week and we should be flying this weekend.”

Said Constantine: “It’s always hard in hockey to have a whole week off between games. For us it’s Saturday (Everett’s final preseason game was a 4-1 win at Seattle last weekend) to Saturday, which is unusually long, I don’t know how many other times this year we’ll have a break this long. No one is really used to this. I find that three practices is the most you should ever have between games because everyone just wants to play after a while, so I think everyone is ready to play for real instead of the practices. It’s good to have the practices, there’s a lot to work on this time of of year, but you need game reps, too, so it’s time to start playing.”

Slap shots

Saturday’s game is not the season opener for Seattle. The T-birds had their first game Friday night in Portland. … Both teams will be missing a few key players. Everett will be without No. 1 goaltender Austin Lotz (Vancouver) and overage defenseman Ben Betker (Edmonton), who are still attending NHL training camps. Seattle is missing defensemen Shea Theodore (Anaheim) and Evan Wardley (Montreal) because of NHL training camps, and the T-birds are also likely to be without overage winger Justin Hickman because of an upper-body injury. … With Lotz unavailable, Everett will have a rookie starting between the pipes in its opener, either 17-year-old Nik Amundrud or 16-year-old Carter Hart. Constantine said following Friday’s practice he had not yet decided on Saturday’s starter.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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