EVERETT — Thomas Heemskerk could only hold the fort so long.
The Everett Silvertips goaltender held Tri-City’s swarming attack at bay for more than 50 minutes Friday night at Comcast Arena. But once the Americans found a crack, they came crashing through, winning 4-1 on the strength of three third-period goals.
Tyler Schmidt and Mitch Fadden scored 36 seconds apart midway through the third period — on Tri-City’s 49th and 50th shots of the night — to snap a 1-1 tie and give Tri-City a commanding 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven, first-round playoff series. The Americans can wrap up the series on home ice tonight.
“It’s always a tough road,” Everett coach John Becanic said about his team being on the brink, “but we’re one game at a time here. We didn’t start the series looking to win four, we started looking to win one. We have to go win one game. You can pull out every cliche, but we’re going to go out and compete tomorrow and play our hardest, as we have all series.”
Johnny Lazo and Jason Reese also scored for Tri-City, while Chet Pickard made 23 saves in goal for the Americans.
“I think the biggest thing was not letting frustration enter our game,” Tri-City coach Don Nachbaur said. “We were outshooting them 36-15 after two periods and it would have been easy to get frustrated and stop doing what we did. But we kept doing it and we got the result.”
Heemskerk finished with a whopping 51 saves, including several stunners, to keep the Tips in it. Daniel Bartek scored the lone goal for Everett.
Tri-City had a scare late in the game when forward Spencer Asuchak had to be taken off the ice on a stretcher after he went awkward into the boards. He was transported to the hospital for precautionary purposes.
Tri-City poured shot after shot at the Everett net all night long. Yet through 52 minutes, the only puck that got past Heemskerk was one that required instant replay — the first use of instant replay in Comcast Arena history — to be ruled a goal, and Everett was still in it at 1-1.
But one got the feeling it was just a matter of time before the Americans got a bounce, and that bounce arrived with 7:10 remaining. Schmidt took a shot from the left point that deflected off an Everett stick and past Heemskerk, giving Tri-City the lead.
Fadden clinched it a mere 36 seconds later. Reese fired a shot from the point that Fadden, all alone in front, controlled with his stick. Fadden then worked his way around Heemskerk to make it 3-1, and there was no way back for the Tips.
“That’s been the series,” Becanic said. “Thomas has given us a shot in this series and that’s what we needed. … But their top line (Fadden, Reese and Lazo) was too much for us tonight.
“Our guys left everything on the ice, it’s not for lack of effort, and that’s all we can ask of the players right now.”
Indeed, Everett came out hitting hard and although the Americans outshot the Tips 20-10 in the first period, the Tips had the better chances and took a 1-0 lead. On the power play at 10:29, Taylor Ellington took a one-timer from the right point and Bartek, camped out in front, tipped it past Pickard to give the Everett the lead.
Tri-City tied it up 3:52 into the second period with the assistance of the first use of instant replay in the series. Lazo, the puck and the Everett defense were all sliding toward the goal and the puck ended up in the net, though the goal light never came on and the officials didn’t initially give the goal. Lazo made a kicking motion toward the puck, but replay showed the puck went in off an Everett defender, knotting it at 1-1.
The Americans then took over the game and had several golden opportunities to take the lead, but Heemskerk made a string of stunning saves, making a huge glove save on Reese on the power play and a sprawling dive to deny Lazo on a two-on-one.
The Tips then began to wear down in the third period and it was just a matter of time before the Americans found the breakthrough.
“We knew we needed to be more physical than the first three games and we were, I loved the tempo of the game,” Becanic said. “But when you try to be physical you’re going to give up open ice and that’s why they had the chances they had tonight. They absorbed the hits and made plays.”
Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog