By Staci. C – Silvertips staff writer
Two games for the next to last weekend of the regular season helped the Everett Silvertips inch closer another achievement, in the form of a U.S. Division title and the top seed in the Western Conference.
It began in Kent on Saturday night, when the Tips closed out the ten game series with the Seattle Thunderbirds in a 3-2 victory. It was the third straight win for the Silvertips in Kent, the first time they achieved such a feat since the 2014-15 season.
As it stands, the Tips magic number is 3 points to clinch the division and conference. They can get closer on Tuesday at Tri-City, but must wait until Friday to clinch now since Portland doesn’t play until then.
“First period we dominated, second period [Seattle] dominated,” said Tips head coach Dennis Williams. “As I told the guys, ‘the series is 1-1 now, best of 3–you gotta win the third for the best of 3 series.’ We had a good kill there and a great goal there by Bryce [Kindopp] net front while 4-on-4.
Then we get back to an interesting situation when they score with 1:30 left or so with the goalie pulled but I thought our guys did a good job for the last minute to keep their composure and keep the pucks to the outside.”
Bryce Kindopp came up huge on Saturday with his two goals, the second one ending up being the game winner. Williams provided perspective on the performance.
“It’s playoff hockey,” said Williams. “If you look at his first goal, he opened up and maybe didn’t get it off right away but he had the right mindset to open up so he could one time that puck. The other one he was just net front and this time of year, you have to play inside the dots to find those wins and keep the teams to the outside.”
Kindopp showed flashes of magic in a big game environment.
“I don’t know, just fierce competition I guess,” said Kindopp. “Once the game gets going, it’s just hockey. Reece [Vitelli] fed a really nice pass to me [on the first goal] and I kind of fanned on it but then it rainbowed over his [Hughes’] stick and went in, I was happy either way. [On the second goal] I saw Jake and knew he was going to get a shot off. I went kind of backdoor towards the net and he just hit it off me and it went in.”
Special teams played a big part in the victory over Seattle, including a big kill of a major power play that kicked off the third period.
“[The momentum from the kill] it was huge,” said Williams. “It was really good. I thought we did a really good job of not letting them set up. We had to get a few different other guys involved on the penalty kill that maybe don’t do it quite as much, especially with the three minutes but this time of year is special teams. We had a power play goal and we had a big kill in the third, that’s what you expect.”
The Tips had no Kyle Walker for the game, or Ondrej Vala [game misconduct] for the final period. With Vala out, it left the Tips with five defensemen and forced Gianni Fairbrother back into high impact minutes.
“I think [Mitch Love] did a great job with rolling those guys and it was important to help out our d-men when we only had five and managing pucks smarter,” said Williams. “You gotta make sure that they come 200 feet and not do those blue line turnovers that we had in the second.
I think it comes from Mitch who did a great job with managing those guys shifts and our centermen did a really great job of coming back and helping those guys out. I think it worked out well.”
The Tips would follow up with a 2-0 loss in Portland, postponing any efforts to clinch more regular season achievements. But with three games to go, they have one objective in mind, as much as we all hear it often:
One game at a time.