By Staci C. – Silvertips staff writer
It took the precision and focus of a surgeon, and the guts of a lion tamer.
It resulted in the Everett Silvertips advancing onto the second round at the expense of their closest U.S. Division rival, knocking out the Seattle Thunderbirds in a five game series following a 4-0 victory in downtown Everett, Saturday night.
To start the weekend, Everett took a commanding 3-1 series lead on Friday night with an outstanding 7-3 victory in Kent — they outscored the Thunderbirds 10-4 for their two road games of the series. They saw just about everything go right for them throughout the game and saw big plays by not only their top two lines but from the bottom two lines and their defense contributing offensively.
Not only did the Tips do fantastic work at 5-on-5 but they did great on the power play as Bajkov netted the first goal of the game on the power play in a rather quick fashion and momentum continued to build from that.
Kevin Davis got his first of the series with a sweet move through Seattle’s defense to build the team’s confidence early in the game.
The Tips were also outstanding on the penalty kill; not only did they kill both penalties off but they managed to get their second shorthanded goal of the series. Connor Dewar had a shorthanded breakaway that resulted in him getting tripped up before taking the shot and he was awarded a penalty shot. On the penalty shot, he elevated the puck over Liam Hughes’ pad to make the score 3-1. This occurred shortly after Seattle’s first goal of the evening and effectively killed their momentum going into the 2nd period.
The second period continued to be so strong for this Everett squad and it was seemingly perfection – two goals, 8 big saves by Carter Hart and a perfect penalty kill. Sean Richards caught Hughes out of position and tapped in a rebound from Matt Fonteyne to make it 4-1. The fifth goal was great work by the fourth line’s Spencer Gerth and Ethan O’Rourke to end the second with a commanding 5-1 lead.
Although Seattle took control in the beginning of the second and managed to bring their team within two with 13 minutes left, this Everett squad never let down and never quit. They did not let the potential comeback get to them and they kept powering through. Sutter effectively killed any momentum that the T-Birds had in the third with his goal with less than 5 minutes left in the game. On the 6th goal, Dewar managed to get his 3rd point of the game and easily was awarded first star of the game.
Seattle gambled by pulling Hughes with 3:14 left in the third and Everett made them pay for it as Fonteyne got the seventh at 17:15 on an empty net heave from center ice.
On Saturday, the Tips got the monkey off their back and demolished their nemesis the Seattle Thunderbirds in 5 games. From top to bottom, the series winner was as close to perfection and total efficiency. The Tips were disciplined, allowing no power play opportunities for Seattle.
Seattle had done surprisingly well against the Tips’ dangerous penalty kill throughout the series and not giving them that man advantage was big. The Tips continue to never quit and even when they were up 3-0, they continued to work hard every shift and not give Seattle prime opportunities to cue a comeback.
1) Carter Hart: If anyone has come up huge for their team this year, in the WHL and the international stage, it is Carter Hart. Hart had an incredible game tonight and earned his 36 save shutout. He made some relatively easy saves throughout but there were grade A- opportunities for Seattle, particularly the huge glove save that Carter made midway through the second period. He did an excellent job tracking the puck and playing the puck smart, ensuring that there were no easy rebounds for the T-Birds to capitalize on. With Carter’s shutout, he has the best save percentage out of all the playoff teams with .938 and his goals against average is 1.97.
2) Connor Dewar: as he’s called ‘Pitbull,’ his dogged determination produced an incredible series against the Thunderbirds. On Saturday he managed to get a goal and two assists, including an assist on the game winner. The second line was arguably the best line of the night with the most opportunities and offensive zone time. Outside of the game tonight, Dewar is tied with Matt Fonteyne for the most points on the team during the series with 8. Dewar is tied with 5 players for 11th overall in playoff points.
3) Riley Sutter: After returning from a one game suspension, Sutter came up huge for his team in games 4 and 5. In this weekend’s back to back, he got a goal in each game, including the series winner 5:46 into the first period where he roofed a bid from close range over Liam Hughes. Sutter ended the series getting two goals and an assist; he did a lot of hard work off the scoresheet as he was able to get his opponents off the puck with his physical presence and continues to impress with his stick work.
Now: the Silvertips get to rest, waiting it out for Friday’s game 1 against the Portland Winterhawks or Spokane Chiefs.