EVERETT — The 2014-15 WHL season was one heck of a ride for the Everett Silvertips. But on Sunday that ride finally rolled to a stop.
Everett’s season came to an end Sunday as the Tips dropped a 3-2 thriller to the Portland Winterhawks in Game 5 of their second-round playoff series at Xfinity Arena. Portland won the best-of-seven series 4-1.
“We left it all out there,” Everett captain Kohl Bauml said. “We wanted to have no regrets. Everyone put their heart on the line. It was close, but not close enough.”
Oliver Bjorkstrand’s two second-period goals staked Portland to a 3-1 lead. Cole MacDonald got Everett back within one late in the second, then the Tips made a furious push during the third. But Winterhawks goaltender Adin Hill made several good saves in the third, including a stunner on Ivan Nikolishin, as Portland advanced to the Western Conference championships.
“It’s kind of surreal right now,” Portland coach Jamie Kompon said. “It was such a well-played series by both teams, it was so evenly matched. It could be 4-1 for Everett right now and they could be walking away. But I’m proud of the way we came in here tonight. We had the right attitude in how we played in the second period, and Everett wasn’t going to quit. They kept coming and coming.”
Nicolas Petan added a goal and two assists for Portland, which will face Kelowna as it goes for its fifth straight conference title. Hill finished with 31 saves.
Jordan Wharrie scored the other goal for Everett, while Nikita Scherbak dished out two assists. Carter Hart made 28 saves in net for the Tips.
Though the series finished 4-1, it felt much closer than that. Three of Everett’s losses came by a single goal, with two of those coming in overtime.
“If we get a bounce or two in any of those overtime games it could have been 3-1 us coming home today,” Bauml said. “But that’s the way the cards were dealt, they put the puck in the net and that’s the way she goes.”
Everett then could have folded up shop Sunday after falling behind 3-1. But the Tips got themselves back in the game late in the second period. Everett was on the rush when Scherbak spied MacDonald jumping off the bench trailing the play. Scherbak fed the puck across the ice, and MacDonald rifled a shot from the top of the left circle past Hill, getting Everett back within one with 1:07 remaining.
The Tips then pushed hard in the third period, forcing Hill into a series of saves. The biggest of those came with six minutes remaining. The Winterhawks turned the puck over deep in their own end, giving Carson Stadnyk a chance to set up Nikoloshin at the far post for what seemed like a certain goal. But Hill, who played a part in the turnover, moved like lightning to make a diving pad save and somehow keep it 3-2.
Everett had other chances with Hart pulled for an extra attacker, but the Winterhawks held on to advance.
The loss ended a season that saw Everett, projected by most to finish third in the U.S. Division, win both its first division title and playoff series in eight years. It also ended a series in which the Tips were forced to play without several key regulars because of injuries.
“It was a difficult task, guys were logging extra minutes,” Everett assistant coach Brennan Sonne said. “But at the same time we’re extremely proud as coaches that other guys stepped up and in big minutes performed. They played with courage and heart, and that’s all you can ask of guys.
“Our leadership group all year has been spectacular, they’ve been our rock,” Sonne added. “The younger guys look to them to lead the way and Bauml, (Brayden) Low and (Ben) Betker as 20-year-olds did that.”
Portland came out like a team determined to end the series during a wide-open first period. The Winterhawks grabbed an early lead on the power play at 6:43 as Petan’s shot from the right circle through traffic got past Hart to make it 1-0. Portland had other good chances in the period, but put the puck wide.
It was after one of those missed opportunities that Everett tied it. The Winterhawks couldn’t capitalize on a juicy rebound and the Tips headed the other direction. Graham Millar played Wharrie in on the right, and Wharrie’s shot just got through Hill and trickled over the goal line to tie it at 1-1 at 12:10.
Portland threatened to run away with it again early in the second period, with Bjorkstrand scoring twice to give the Winterhawks a 3-1 lead. First, at 3:19, he tucked home a rebound following Petan’s shot from the point. Then at 8:40 Portland broke three-on-two and Bjorkstrand fired a shot past Hart from the high slot.
But just when it appeared the game could get out of hand, Everett answered. Time was winding down in the period when Carson Stadnyk put a shot off the crossbar, and shortly after MacDonald scored to set up the frantic final period.
Everett was again without defenseman Noah Juulsen. Juulsen, who missed the first four games of the series because of injury, took the warm-up, but was unable to play. The Tips were also without wingers Dawson Leedahl and Jake Mykitiuk and defenseman Tristen Pfeifer because of injuries. … With four players out injured, the Tips handed a WHL debut to Spencer Gerth. The 16-year-old winger was called up last week.
Winterhawks 3, Silvertips 2
Portland 1 2 0 — 3
Everett 1 1 0 — 2
First Period—1, Portland, Petan 7 (Turgeon, Henry), 6:43 (pp). 2, Everett, Wharrie 1 (Millar, Scherbak), 12:10. Penalties—Laurencelle, Everett (cross checking), 4:59; Petan, Portland (roughing), 8:48; Betker, Everett (cross checking), 8:48; De Leo, Portland (roughing), 12:22; Heinrich, Portland (delay of game), 17:01.
Second Period—3, Portland, Bjorkstrand 9 (Petan, Iverson), 3:19. 4, Portland, Bjorkstrand 10 (Petan), 8:40. 5, Everett, MacDonald 2 (Scherbak, Leslie), 18:53. Penalties—none.
Third Period—no goals. Penalties—Iverson, Portland (slashing), 9:05; Betker, Everett (roughing), 9:05.
Shots on goal—Portland 12-12-7—31. Everett 13-8-12—33. Power-play opportunities—Portland 1 of 1. Everett 0 of 2.
Goalies—Portland, Hill 8-3 (33 shots, 31 saves). Everett, Hart 5-6 (31 shots, 28 saves).