The Everett Silvertips have won a lot of games already this season, but Saturday night they made their first true statement.
Everett prevailed in a key early-season showdown when the Tips defeated the Seattle Thunderbirds 3-2 Saturday night at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Everett already beat Seattle twice earlier in the season, but those games came before the U.S. Division began sorting itself out. Since then Everett and Seattle emerged as the teams to beat in the division, and heading into Saturday both teams were on impressive rolls — the Tips hadn’t lost in regulation through their first 11 contests, and the T-birds had won eight straight.
So even though four-and-a-half months remain in the season, this one meant more than the typical regular season contest.
“I was sitting with (assistant coaches Louis Mass and Dean DeSilva) before the game and they made the comment that there was a different air of seriousness to that game,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “When they walked by the players they could see the look on the guys, that they had to be ready to battle. It was a little bit of a different feeling, which was good.”
Indeed, the Tips came out and grabbed control of the game. Although they didn’t score in the first period, they outshot the T-birds 12-3. Then they scored three goals in nine minutes during the second period to take a 3-0 lead.
Seattle battled back in the third period, and a power-play goal with 5:57 remaining made it a one-goal game. But Everett managed to close it out without too much drama.
“What I’m really proud about is we were able to move on from Friday’s game (a 6-0 home victory against Tri-City),” Williams said. “We had to play a little different, it was a tighter game, and I liked the way we competed. I thought our whole team from the net on out played a real solid game. They had a push in the third, which is what you would expect, and we were able to weather that.”
Everett (11-0-0-1) now leads Seattle (10-3-1-0) by two points in the division standings with two games in hand.
Everett made one roster move during the week, as 18-year-old defenseman Brady Van Herk was reassigned to the Oceanside Generals of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. The move reduced the roster to 23 players: 14 forwards, seven defensemen and two goaltenders. One of those forwards, 18-year-old Brendan Hunchak, is on the long-term injury list because of an upper-body issue.
Three stars of the week
Third star: Ronan Seeley. The 19-year-old defenseman had one goal and two assists between the two games. His set-up for Ryan Hofer’s opening goal against Seattle was as good as it gets.
Second star: Jackson Berezowski. The 19-year-old winger scored two goals, one in each game, and his goal against Seattle ended up being the game winner. He has reclaimed the team lead in goals with eight.
First star: Michal Gut. The 19-year-old center had four assists, and he was a magician in the game against Tri-City, when his three helpers were all of the needle-threading variety. He also went 22-for-31 on faceoffs, and with 15 points in nine games he’s becoming one of the top offensive threats in the league.
The week ahead
It’s a big week for Everett for multiple reasons.
First, this is the Tips’ busiest week so far this season. Everett has four games scheduled, including what will now be its first midweek game (since last week’s midweek game against Spokane was postponed after two members of the Chiefs tested positive for COVID-19) when it travels to Portland on Tuesday. It’s also Everett’s first three-in-three weekend when it plays at Vancouver on Friday, then hosts Spokane on Saturday and Seattle on Sunday. This will provide a true stress test on the Tips’ unbeaten record.
Second, Friday’s game at Vancouver represents Everett’s first game against a non-U.S. Division foe in 629 days — the last time the Tips faced a team outside their division was when they beat Kelowna 4-1 on Feb. 29, 2020 at Angel of the Winds. Everett’s record over the past two seasons is an off-the-charts 30-4-0-1, but without having played any opponents outside the division there’s no real sense of how the Tips stack up against the rest of the league. Friday’s game against the Giants, who are off to a solid start at 7-5-1-0, will be the first gauge.