A four-point night from Joachim Blichfield powered Portland to a 4-1 victory over Everett on Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena in the second of 10 meetings between the U.S. Division foes. Read the game story.
Here are three takeaways from the Silvertips’ 4-1 loss to Portland:
1. Offensive struggles continue: Portland entered Saturday on a tear, scoring 12 games in its last two games. The Winterhawks also boasted the second best power play in the WHL, netting a goal in 33.3 percent of opportunities. Everett on the other hand allowed just four goals in three games and brought the third best penalty kill at 87.5 percent.
Neither side pushed over too much. But Portland’s two first period goals ended up being just enough.
Eventually, Everett needs to generate more offense to take pressure of goaltender Dustin Wolf and its strong backend. But even an experienced defensive corp and a promising goaltender can’t be expected to limit opponents to two-or-less goals every game.
“We have to continue to work to find our offense,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said. “We can’t stress about it, but we have to continue to work at it.”
2. Riding the Wolf: The 17-year-old goaltender has been in net for each of Everett’s six games this season, which includes playing in a three-and-three series and a back-to-back. He continues to look spry, even with a substantial workload.
“So far I’m feeling pretty good,” Wolf said. “I came down with a cold after Tri-City … but you try not to worry about it too much, block it out and play your game.”
Playing Wolf in every game hasn’t been an accident or mistake. He’s the clear No. 1 goaltender and boasts a 1.69 goals allowed average, the second best in the WHL among netminders with five or more games played.
“If you look at all the teams that have a clear No. 1 goalie, they’ve all played every game. It’s early in the year,” Williams said. “I thought the first couple of games, I think looking back at Vancouver he let in one goal each game that he probably wanted back. Other than that he’s done a good job. We haven’t given up a whole lot when you look at our team defense, and when we have he’s made the saves for us. It’s a good recipe. Our forwards do a good job tracking, our (defensemen) do a good job and when we do have lapses, Dustin has been there to bail us out. He’s been playing well.”
3. Seeley’s role undefined: Rookie defenseman Ronan Seeley didn’t play many minutes at even strength, but was implemented plenty on the power play, teaming up with Gianni Fairbrother as defenseman with the man advantage.
His offensive skill is too significant to scratch him each game, but his two-way ability is a still a work in progress, leaving his current role up in the air.
“I’m not sure yet,” Williams said. “Right now, I just think he’s got the poise and confidence to make plays. It’s going to take some time for him with his strength. There was a couple of times Saturday that shots weren’t getting to the net, and that’s not from a lack of try or effort, it’s just going to take a little time for him.
“What he’s got up there is the deception, the head fakes. He can walk the line. What he’s learning is on the job. Sometimes in the 5-on-5, he thinks he can skate one way or the other, but these guys are so much faster and stronger. Those are good learning plays for him and he’s only going to get better.”
One figures that when it clicks, that the Silvertips first-round pick in the 2017 Bantam Draft will see plenty of minutes in myriad situations — whether that comes this season or in future years is unknown. Seeley doesn’t have a point in four games played.
Also of note
Line dance: Everett’s forward lines looked a little differently on Saturday without overager Sean Richards (suspended), with Connor Dewar and Bryce Kindopp joining Riley Sutter on Everett’s top line. Reece Vitelli centered Akash Bains and Martin Fask0-Rudas on the second line. Richards and Fasko-Rudas were with Sutter and Vitelli centered Dewar and Kindopp in a 2-1 overtime win against Seattle, a more balanced distribution, but Richards’ absence forced Williams to shake it up. The Silvertips No. 1 line on Saturday was designed to matchup with Portland’s top line of Cody Glass, Joachim Blichfield and Reece Newkirk, according to Williams.
Depending on how long Richards is suspended — he was a repeat offender last year, so it could be long — Williams might need to get creative once again his how he constructs his forward lines for the upcoming weekend homestand.
Ormsby fine after injury scare: Forward Luke Ormsby skated off gingerly after a hard fall behind Portland’s net in the second period. He was never banished to the training room and took shifts in the third period, according to Williams.
The 19-year-old forward has already been listed on the injury report this season with an lower body injury suffered during pregame skate in the team’s home opener against Vancouver on Sept. 22.
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General thoughts from Wolf: “Obviously we didn’t get the job done. We had a couple players where we played pretty solid, but they just took over with their top three guys. They’re so skilled, so we just have to crack down on them.
Wolf continued: “Going into the weekend and only getting two out of four points, you’re not satisfied with it. This upcoming week we’ll get some review in and some solid practices in and we’ll come back strong.”
General comments from Williams: “I thought our guys had a decent effort. I thought there were times where we looked a little tired and a bit out of sorts,” Williams said. “That’s a good hockey club over there. Something we can learn from.”
Williams on offense: “We have to continue to work to find our offense,” Williams said. “We can’t stress about it, but we have to continue to work at it.”
“We lose Sean Richards (to suspension) and that’s another guy that plays a lot of minutes for us, and on the power play and on the penalty kill, so another guy steps into that, which is fine,” Williams said. “I’m sure the guys are disappointed. We’ve talked to them a lot. It’s no secret. The only way we can get over that is to buckle up and continue to build confidence being in the tough areas to score goals and get shots off. It’s going to come. It’s going to break out, and when it does it usually comes in waves, I told them, and we just have to not panic.”