The Western Conference Finals arrive in Everett this weekend when the Silvertips host the red-hot Tri-City Americans. With their 5-3 win over the Victoria Royals last Wednesday, the Americans now boast a perfect 8-0 record in the playoffs. The top seeded Silvertips are coming in on solid ground as well, having only lost twice so far in these playoffs and winning 4 straight to finish off the Portland Winterhawks last Friday.
The quick series wins are great for team confidence, but the weeklong wait until the next game isn’t the best way to keep the momentum going.
“I’m sure both teams wanted to keep going, especially with the momentum going,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams remarked on the long break. “Right now we’re just trying to keep it loose throughout the week, and bring some compete to practice and keep our minds sharp.”
The Silvertips managed their first postseason series win over the arch-rival Seattle Thunderbirds in only 5 games. Their second round matchup with the Portland Winterhawks looked much tougher, especially when the Winterhawks opened the series with a 5-2 victory in Everett. But Coach Williams seems to have a knack for getting his team to quickly move on and learn from losses like that.
“We’ve said it all year, really, we always talk about hitting that reset button. Whatever happens that night in a hockey game, we learn from it, we get better from it, and the next day we get refocused and reset for the next challenge in front of us.”
The Silvertips certainly seemed able to hit that reset button. They won the next four games against the Winterhawks, outscoring their opponent 19-4 in the process. Goaltender Carter Hart pitched two shutouts: the first just a day after allowing 5 goals, and the second in the series clinching win in game 5.
The Americans were a common pick to win the U.S. Division before the season started, but injuries to some key players held them back. They came into the postseason as the first wildcard team in the West. The roster is healthier than it’s been all season, and the Americans finally look like the team everyone expected them to be before the year started. They’ve dispatched both the B.C. Division winning Kelowna Rockets and an injury riddled Victoria Royals in 4 game sweeps. The Americans have now won 14 of their last 15 games going back into the regular season.
“The staff and the players obviously know that they’re 8-0,” said Williams. “and they’re scoring lots of goals and their powerplay has been strong. We want to focus on how we want to play, and not read into too much of our opponents.”
Both the Silvertips and the Americans are flush with NHL potential. The two teams have a combined 7 players already selected in a previous NHL draft (3 of them first-rounders), 4 more expected to be taken in the middle rounds of the 2018 draft, and 2 undrafted skaters that have already signed a contract with an NHL team. These rosters should make for some fantastic hockey games.
The Silvertips hold a 5-2-1-0 record in 8 regular season meetings between the two teams. Their most recent game was in March, when the Americans defeated the Silvertips 4-2 in Tri-Cities.
Everett’s Players to Watch
Bajkov became the first Silvertip to net 100 points for the club this year, and he’s carried that into the playoffs, leading the team with 15 points. He wasn’t selected in the NHL entry draft, but did sign a 3-year entry level contract with the Florida Panthers in March.
Hart was the first goalie selected in the 2016 NHL draft when the Philadelphia Flyers took him in the second round. Hart’s 0.947 SV% was 0.330 points higher than any other goalie who played at least 1200 minutes. He led the WHL in SV% 3 out of his 4 full seasons, and finished in second the other season.
Tri-City’s Players to Watch
Bean was selected 13th overall by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016. The Americans acquired him from Calgary just before the trade deadline. He currently leads all defencemen with 14 points in the playoffs thus far.
The towering 6’6” Rasmussen, 9th overall pick by the Detroit Red Wings in 2017, missed 25 games in the regular season due to injury. He got healthy at the right time though, and already has 24 points in just 8 games in these playoffs.
Game 1: Tri-City @ Everett, Friday April 20, 7:35
Game 2: Tri-City @ Everett, Saturday April 21, 7:05
Game 3: Everett @ Tri-City, Monday April 23, 7:05
Game 4: Everett @ Tri-City, Thursday April 26, 7:05
Game 5*: Tri-City @ Everett, Saturday April 28, 7:05
Game 6*: Everett @ Tri-City, Monday April 30, 7:05
Game 7*: Tri-City @ Everett, Tuesday May 1, 7:05