EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips are missing a lot of things right now. They’re missing many key players, and with those players they’re missing much of their skill, their guile, their depth.
But there’s still one thing the Silvertips have never lacked, no matter who was in the lineup:
And this one was all about guts.
Turning in perhaps the most improbable comeback in franchise history, the Silvertips scored four unanswered goals in the third period, defeating the Seattle Thunderbirds 4-2 Saturday night in Western Hockey League action.
Mitch Love scored the tie-breaking goal with 5 minutes, 8 seconds remaining, stunning the T-birds and sending the sellout crowd of 8,406 at the Everett Events Center into a frenzy.
“I think (guts) were everything,” Love said about Saturday’s win. “We just kind of emptied the tanks. Any time you’re playing your archrival you’re going to have a little extra juice. That’s what we did, we emptied the tanks in the third period to see what we could do.
“That was one of the biggest wins of the season for us, for sure.”
Torrie Wheat and Curtis Billsten scored earlier in the third period to tie the score and Alex Leavitt added an empty-net goal for Everett (19-11-6-2), which moved within five points of first-place Seattle in the U.S. Division.
“I have no idea how we won that one,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “They’re such a good team with a lead and such a good team when they score first, it’s pretty hard to come back on them down one, let alone down two. It was just a fun hockey night for us.”
Scott Jackson and Chris Durand scored for Seattle (25-10-0-1).
There was no reason why the Silvertips should have won Saturday’s game. Everett was facing the team with the best record in the WHL, a team the Tips lost to 3-1 four days earlier, and the Tips were missing nine first-team players because of injury and international call-ups. The Tips had just one intact line, the other two a makeshift combination of remaining veterans and players who arrived just days earlier. Everett general manager Doug Soetaert joked before the game that the Tips were fielding their Midget team.
And for the first 15 minutes that’s exactly how it looked. Seattle dominated so completely that it didn’t even seem the teams should be on the same ice. The Tips went more than 11 minutes before registering their first shot on goal, by which time the T-birds had a slew of quality scoring chances.
But, trailing 2-0 going into the third period, Everett scored 54 seconds in on Wheat’s rebound goal, giving the Tips a glimmer of hope.
“Coming into the third we knew we had a power play at the start and it was pretty key for us to score one quick,” said Everett defenseman Shaun Heshka, who made one of the plays of the game when he repeatedly batted a goal-bound puck with his glove to keep it out of the net. “We wanted to get that first goal and get the crowd going behind us.”
With the crowd brought to life, the Tips turned up the intensity, and Everett caught a break at 8:07 when Billsten’s shot from an impossibly tight angle somehow banked off Seattle goaltender Bryan Bridges and in to the score.
Then it was time for Everett’s captain to step to the forefront. Love pinched in from the left point to field Leavitt’s pass from the right corner, deked past one defender, then slid a shot past Bridges and into the far corner of the net to give the Tips the lead.
Michael Wall finished with 29 saves in goal for Everett. Bridges made 18 stops in net for Seattle.
“I thought we played well for two periods,” Seattle coach Rob Sumner said. “Obviously we let it get away from us in the end.”
Slap shots: Everett forwards Tyler Dietrich and Derek Lewis were scratched as they recover from mild concussions suffered during Wednesday’s 3-1 loss at Seattle. To fill those spots, Everett dressed seven defensemen and 15-year-old forward Mitch Wall was given his WHL debut. … Zach Hamill had two goals and an assist, Brady Calla had two assists and Leland Irving made 32 saves to lead Team Pacific to a 5-2 victory over Team Atlantic on Saturday at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Silvertips 4, Thunderbirds 2
First Period-1, Seattle, Jackson 3 (Thompson, Farmanara), 10:19.
Second Period-2, Seattle, Durand 14, 14:13.
Third Period-3, Everett, Wheat 15 (Heshka, Love), 0:54 (pp). 4, Everett, Billsten 9 (Sawa), 8:07. 5, Everett, Love 5 (Leavitt, Heshka), 14:52. 6, Everett, Leavitt 7, 19:59 (en).
Shots on goal-Seattle 12-13-6-31. Everett 6-6-10-22. Power-play opportunities-Seattle 0 of 3. Everett 1 of 2.
Goalies-Seattle, Bridges 21-7 (21 shots, 18 saves). Everett, Wall 14-10-5 (31 shots, 29 saves).