EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips knew the beginning of the second half of the WHL season presented opportunity.
The Tips seized it, and as a result their I-5 rivals are back within sight.
Joshua Winquist scored both Everett goals, including the overtime winner, and Austin Lotz played a strong game in goal as the Silvertips defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds 2-1 Saturday night at Comcast Arena.
After a rough first half, Everett returned from the holiday break tied with Prince George for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, and the Tips were six points adrift of archrival Seattle.
But following back-to-back victories over Seattle to start the second half, both by identical 2-1 scores, Everett pulled within three points of the T-birds. Everett also ended its string of bad results against Seattle that saw the T-birds win the first four meetings between the teams.
“It feels good to get four points right off the bat,” Winquist said.
“I thought we worked hard and created a lot of chances,” Winquist added. “I thought we deserved to win.”
Everett (15-22-0-2) took the lead through Winquist midway through the second period, then held the lead until the final five minutes of regulation, when Seth Swenson tied it for Seattle.
But in overtime Everett defenseman Nick Walters sprung Winquist free on a breakaway. Winquist made a move to his backhand, then tucked the puck under Seattle goaltender Brandon Glover to give the Tips the victory.
“To be quite honest, it was a little bit of a miscue on our part as far as coverage is concerned,” Everett coach Mark Ferner said about the play that set up the winning goal. “But Wally knocks one down, Winny takes off, and good for him and good for our group. The kids found a way.”
Everett also received a second straight stellar effort from Lotz. The 17-year-old netminder had a bumpy first half as he adjusted to taking over as Everett’s No. 1 goalie. But Lotz was rock solid Saturday, stopping 34 of the 35 shots he faced and allowing the T-birds few second opportunities. That came one night after he made some spectacular saves among his 38 in beating the T-birds in Kent.
“The thing is he’s been good for us, we just haven’t been real good in front of him,” Ferner said of Lotz. “That’s what the break does sometimes, it gets guys refocused. We’re going to need both goalies down the stretch, but good for Lotzy. I know he’s been squeezing his stick a little bit tight, with all these different things that are popping in his head. But he came back and had two real good games for us.”
Glover finished with 28 saves in goal for Seattle (16-18-2-1), which dropped its seventh straight.
“Their guy (Lotz) was good again, but we have to find a way to score more goals,” Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said. “There are a lot of things we liked about tonight’s game, other than we didn’t get the win. We did stick with it and get the goal at the end. We’re just disappointed we didn’t get the win.”
Everett spent much of the second period on the penalty kill, but between those penalties the Tips opened the scoring. Winquist gave Everett a 1-0 lead at 9 minutes, 26 seconds, snapping a shot in off the underside of the crossbar after a feed from behind the net by Manraj Hayer.
Seattle then took penalties late in the second, but the Tips weren’t able to take advantage of a five-on-three as it remained 1-0 going into the third.
Everett maintained the lead until Seattle finally beat Lotz with 4:33 remaining. A dangerous cross-ice pass by Trent Lofthouse was picked off by Seattle’s Connor Sanvido, starting a break the other direction. Sanvido’s shot was blocked by a defender, but the puck went right to Swenson, who scored past a wrong-footed Lotz to make it 1-1.
The T-birds had the better chances the remainder of regulation, but it was Everett that found the winner 1:56 into OT.
Everett played without its co-leading scorer, winger Reid Petryk, who was out because of illness. … The Tips continued to be without defenseman Mirco Mueller, who is playing for Switzerland at the World Junior Hockey Championships, as well as forwards Tyler Sandhu and Ty Mappin, who are representing Team Pacific at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. … Seattle was without its leading goal scorer, winger Roberts Lipsbergs, who is playing for Latvia at World Juniors. … T-birds leading scorer Connor Honey left the game injured in the second period and did not return.
Silvertips 2, Thunderbirds 1 (OT)
First Period—no goals. Penalties—Elliot, Seattle (fighting-10-minute misconduct), 7:10; Grayson, Everett (fighting), 7:10; Sanvido, Seattle (slashing), 13:40; Harrison, Everett (interference), 19:21.
Second Period—1, Everett, Winquist 13 (Hayer), 9:26. Penalties—Winquist, Everett (slashing), 4:53; Cox, Everett (tripping), 9:53; Bauml, Everett (hooking), 13:36; Swenson, Seattle (roughing), 14:37; Adam, Everett (roughing), 14:37; Theodore, Seattle (hooking), 16:21; Wardley, Seattle (roughing), 17:48.
Third Period—2, Seattle, Swenson 12 (Sanvido), 15:27. Penalties—Walters, Everett (interference), 9:31.
Overtime—3, Everett, Winquist 14 (Walters), 1:56. Penalties—none.
Shots on goal—Seattle 12-13-8-2—35. Everett 11-13-4-2—30. Power-play opportunities—Seattle 0 of 5. Everett 0 of 3.
Goalies—Seattle, Glover 15-15-1-1 (30 shots, 28 saves). Everett, Lotz 7-12-0-1 (35 shots, 34 saves).
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.