The Everett Silvertips handed the Tri-City Americans their first loss of the postseason in game 1 of the conference finals. It didn’t come easily, however, and proved to be a tough battle all night for the Silvertips. The Americans are one of the bigger-bodied teams they’ve faced, and head coach Dennis Williams was not afraid to tell his guys if they weren’t playing as strong as they needed to.
“We’re kind of coming in and just half-hitting,” said Williams. “And i think we need to be a lot more aggressive on that. I thought they dictated the physicality and I thought we shied away from it at times.”
Fortunately for Everett, they were able to take advantage of most of their opportunities. Barely a minute into the game, the Americans turned it over in the neutral zone. That turnover gave way to a Garrett Pilon and Connor Dewar 2-on-1, something I’m sure goaltender Patrick Dea wasn’t too thrilled about. Pilon fired a wrist shot over Dea to give the Silvertips a 1-0 lead on their first shot on goal.
“I think a big start is something we were kind of keying in on going into the game,” Pilon said of his opening goal. “To get a goal in the first I think 2 minutes whatever it was was a big thing for our group and a big confidence boost going into the rest of the game.”
Later in the first, the Silvertips were again able to capitalize on an Americans turnover. An errant pass by defenseman Dylan Coghlan gave Dewar the puck all alone directly in front of the net. Dea was able to make a great first save, but Dewar found his own rebound and threw it back at the net from below the goal line. Americans defenseman Jake Bean did his best baseball player impression and tried to knock the puck away in midair, but only managed to foul it off into the back of his own net. The Silvertips took a 2-0 lead and carried that into the second period.
Dewar was called for a charging penalty at the end of the first period, so the Silvertips were forced to begin the second against the Americans’ league leading powerplay. The unit that has been so effective so far in these playoffs continued to succeed here, when Bean floated a pass to the middle for leading goal scorer Morgan Geekie. Gerkie’s shot found netting behind Carter Hart to give the Americans their first goal of the night.
Just two minutes later the Americans went back on the powerplay when the Silvertips were called for too many men on the ice. Carter Hart mishandled the puck behind the net on a dump in, and Michael Rasmussen came up with it. Rasmussen was able to tuck the puck in with a wrap around before Hart could make it back into his net.
“Just a miscommunication,” said Williams on the tying goal. “Obviously a bit of a layup for Rasmussen, it doesn’t help that he’s 6’4”, 6’5” he can do an easy wrap around on it.”
Just like that, the Americans tied the game up less than 4 minutes into the second period.
The Silvertips fought back late in the period. Sean Richards won a puck battle in the left corner of the Americans’ zone and got it to Riley Sutter, who then found Pilon open out front. Pilon put it home for his second of the night, giving the Silvertips a 3-2 lead to take into the third.
“I didn’t think we played a great 40 minutes,” said Williams, “but we’re in a position to win a hockey game. We go win the third, we get to win game 1.”
The Silvertips did indeed go out and win that third period, not letting the Americans get much going in the offensive zone. The Americans finally gained enough control to get Dea pulled with just over a minute left to play, but it didn’t last long. The Silvertips cleared the zone quickly and Pilon found himself with a wide open net, but was denied his hat trick when Juuso Valimaki batted the shot down out of midair. In the end it proved not to matter, and the Silvertips hung on for a hard fought 3-2 victory.
The teams will be back in Angel of the Winds Arena for game 2 on Saturday at 7:05.