Don’t count out the Everett Silvertips to win their fourth consecutive U.S. Division title just yet.
The Silvertips trimmed Portland’s lead in the division standings to seven points on Saturday night by defeating the Winterhawks, 4-1. It was Everett’s second consecutive victory over Portland.
Portland extended its lead back out to nine with its 11-2 win over Moose Jaw on Sunday, but Everett picked up a game in hand in the process.
With three of the Silvertips’ remaining 16 regular-season games against the Winterhawks — and with two games in hand on Portland — Everett has plenty of opportunity to capture the division title.
It’s still a tall task, but not unreachable.
“Portland has been (in) the upper echelon all season,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said after Saturday’s win. “They’re playing some great hockey and they’re a great hockey team. Lots of skill, lots of speed, great goaltending and strong special teams. Tonight was a good challenge for our group. Right now in the WHL, we’re playing the No. 1 seed team. It allows us to sit back tomorrow and re-evaluate and see what tweaks we have to make.”
The Silvertips have the third-most points in the Western Hockey League (76), which is important for determining home ice in a playoff series. Portland is first with 85 points, Edmonton is second with 81 and Kamloops is fourth with 72.
Butt returns, makes impact
Silvertips forward Dawson Butt was reinstated to Everett’s lineup earlier than expected after the WHL reduced his suspension from 12 games to 10. After a sluggish performance Friday in a 2-1 win over Seattle, Butt chipped in with a goal and an assist against the Winterhawks on Saturday.
“He’s a heart-and-soul guy,” Williams said Saturday. “Every team has got those guys. He’s a great young man. For the last month, he’s worked extremely hard and put in a lot of work during his time out. I think he definitely elevated our group tonight. He scored the big goal and set up the one to Justyn Gurney. … I thought he struggled (Friday) a little a bit. He was out for a month, so that’s going to happen, but he’s more comfortable and back to how Dawson has been playing.”
The Silvertips killed all five penalties assessed to them in the two games over the weekend, a bounce-back performance after allowing two power-play goals in four chances in their previous game Feb. 9 against Spokane.
“(Assistant coach) Louis (Mass) did a really good job of making adjustments this week and real credit goes to Lou and our guys, especially our forwards that did a really good job of understanding of where they need to be and how to slow down that entry and on retrievals,” Williams said after Friday’s matchup.
Hunchak makes debut
Sixteen-year-old affiliate player Brendan Hunchak made his WHL debut Saturday against the Winterhawks. The 2003-born forward from Kamloops, who signed with the Silvertips just two weeks ago, recorded a minus-1 rating against the Winterhawks.
Berezowski leaves early
The Silvertips got two players back from suspension over the weekend (Butt and Gurney) and there’s strong chance Michal Gut will return from an upper-body injury Wednesday against Moose Jaw. But it’s possible the Silvertips will lose another top-nine forward. Jackson Berezowski left in the second period Saturday night with an apparent injury. The severity of Berezowski’s injury was not immediately known.
In case you missed it
The Silvertips clinched a playoff spot Friday after knocking off the Seattle Thunderbirds. Everett, which joined the WHL in the 2003-04 season, has never missed the playoffs.
Forward Cole Fonstad ended a six-game point streak when he failed to score against Portland Saturday night. He has recorded at least one point in 36 of the 40 games he’s played with Everett this season.
After a two-assist night Saturday, Jake Christiansen boasts multi-point performances in five of his past seven games.
1. Dustin Wolf, G — The Silvertips star goaltender was a rock in the wins over Seattle and Portland, stopping 55 of 57 shots, good for a .965 save percentage.
2. Jackson Berezowski, F — Assisted on a goal Friday and scored a power-play goal Saturday.
3. Kasper Puutio, D — Played a steady and smooth game on Friday against Seattle and recorded a power-play assist on Saturday.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH