On Saturday night the Everett Silvertips got their first look at the team they need to beat if they want to defend their U.S. Division championship, and the first meeting this season between the Tips and Seattle Thunderbirds did not go well for Everett.
Everett bombed its first true test of the season as the Tips were walloped 11-3 by the T-birds on Saturday at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Seattle is the defending Western Conference champion, and the T-birds added some key pieces to a roster that returned mostly intact. Therefore, Seattle was the strong division favorite coming into the season. On Saturday the Tips found out why.
The game unraveled completely for the Tips in the second period. Everett trailed just 3-2 as the second period neared its midway point. However, six consecutive Seattle goals in a span of 9 minutes, 52 seconds turned the game into a laugher. Everett starting goaltender Braden Holt was removed during that stretch in favor of Tim Metzger, then was brought back in as the onslaught continued.
“I think they’re a really good team,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said about the T-birds. “This is what they been building for, they have lots of firepower and offensive skill, they have good balance and good depth, no doubt they’ll be a top team. They also learned to win last year, the experience of going to the WHL finals is valuable. They’re a very good team and they’re well coached, and we’ve got them nine more times.”
Making matters worse was the fact Everett was holding it’s annual Pink the Rink promotion in support of the fight against breast cancer, meaning an enthusiastic home crowd of 6,947 had little to get excited about during the game’s second half.
The good news for Everett is that the final score did not tell the full story. Everett finished with a 45-29 shot advantage despite being outscored by eight, meaning the 11-3 score was not necessarily indicative of the difference between the two teams.
“We actually played a good game,” Williams said. “We spent a good amount of time in the offensive zone, and our grade-A and grade-B scoring chances were strong. It was just one of those times when our goalies had an off night. It’s no different than when our power play has an off night, our penalty kill has an off night, our forwards or D. In this case our goalies didn’t perform to their capabilities, and (Seattle) is a team that doesn’t need a lot of opportunities in order to score. It’s not the way we scripted it, but I think it was good for us to have a little humble pie. You never want to lose a game 11-3, but whether you lose 11-3 or 3-2 it’s still a loss.”
The Tips recovered quickly from the defeat, beating the Spokane Chiefs 7-3 less than 24 hours later as Everett completed a grueling four-games-in-five-days stretch 3-1 to improve its overall record to 7-2-0-0. The Tips’ 14 points are tied for first in the division with Seattle and Portland, but both the T-birds and Winterhawks have played two fewer games and are a perfect 7-0-0-0.
“(The loss to Seattle) didn’t sit well with group,” Williams said about the teams response against Spokane. “I think it gave us a little extra motivation to cap off our four-in-five weekend right. To end with a game like that, as much as the previous night stung, will probably help in the long run.”
Three stars of the week
Third star: Jesse Heslop. The 16-year-old forward is off to an impressive start in his rookie season, and appearing in three of last week’s four games — he didn’t dress against Seattle — he piled up six assists as he’s settled into a top-six role next to Jackson Berezowski and Austin Roest.
Second star: Olen Zellweger. The 19-year-old defenseman piled up four goals, four assists and 22 shots from the blue line. That included the rare hat trick from a defenseman when he scored three times in Wednesday’s 6-2 victory over Edmonton.
First star: Berezowski. The 20-year-old winger racked up four goals and six assists across the four games. He had a natural hat trick by scoring three consecutive goals in Sunday’s victory over Spokane. It was the second hat trick of his WHL career.
The week ahead
The Tips follow up a busy week with a light one as they play just once, traveling to Kennewick on Friday to take on the Tri-City Americans.
Tri-City (3-5-0-0) is tied with Spokane for fourth place in the U.S. Division. The Americans are led in scoring by 17-year-old NHL draft prospect Lukas Dragicevic (two goals, seven assists) and exciting 16-year-old rookie Jordan Gavin (two goals, seven assists).
Following the game at Tri-City, the Tips get ready for their longest road trip of the season as they board the bus for the six-game tour through the WHL’s East Division.