Zach Hamill, Peter Mueller, Shaun Heshka and Leland Irving — those were some of the names on the 2005-06 Everett Silvertips team that defeated the Kelowna Rockets in six games and advanced to the Western Conference Final.
That trip to the conference final ended in heartbreak as the Vancouver Giants swept the Silvertips in four straight and went on to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup.
Now, 12 years later, the Silvertips are back in the Western Conference Final looking to continue their dream season and make their first trip to the WHL Final since their inaugural season and possibly win their first cup.
Friday night at Angel of the Winds arena, Everett played an incredible team-defense game and with their star goaltender Carter Hart stopping all the chances that did get through, they shut out the Portland Winterhawks 4-0 and won the best-of-seven series in five games, 4-1.
The loss means that the WHL careers for Portland’s overagers – captain Keoni Texeira, goalie Cole Kehler and second-line center Alex Overhardt are now over.
Joachim Blichfeld, Kieffer Bellows and Dennis Cholowski are all eligible to return as overage players next year but they are signed to NHL entry-level-contracts and are thus unlikely to return.
Everett, despite facing a team desperate to continue their season and in the case of those six Winterhawks, came out and did not allow the skilled group to get space and create scoring chances, the way they do when Portland is at their best.
Hart left the game after the mid-period break and did not return until the start of the third period. Thus he does not get full credit for the shutout but rather has to share it with rookie Dustin Wolf, who came in and stopped four shots. Hart turned away all 28 he faced and stopped 136 of the last 140 shots Portland fired on him in the series.
Hart said afterward he had been sick all day and had to get off the ice. Performed well after returning to combine on the shutout with Wolf.
— Jesse Geleynse (@JesseGeleynse) April 14, 2018
The two teams combined for 29 shots (Everett 13 and Portland 16) in the first, but neither could beat Kehler or Hart — who were both on their games.
In the second, Everett finally broke through with a seeing-eye shot from Jake Christiansen that Patrick Bajkov screened perfectly from Kehler’s view. The marker was Christiansen’s first career playoff goal, but he was not done yet.
Without some athletic saves from Kehler, the second could have been worse for Portland as the ‘Tips swarmed the Portland net after their momentum building goal. Kehler stopped 28 of the first 29 shots he faced.
Portland knew they had to take chances in the third with their season on the line. They attacked furiously but it was Everett who scored next. Riley Sutter got his stick on a shot by Ondrej Vala and redirected it by Kehler for the 2-0 lead 2:49 into the final period.
Sutter and his wingers Garrett Pilon and Connor Dewar continuously got the tough job of matching up with Portland’s extremely talented top line of Bellows, Skyler McKenzie and Cody Glass. After a tough first game, they tightened up on that trio and ended up outscoring them 17 combined points to six.
Gianni Fairbrother, who had a quality pinch that led to a goal in Game 3, added one of his own in Game 5. He jumped up into the play behind the Portland net, got to a loose puck and tried twice to beat Kehler before doing so – notching his own first ever WHL post-season goal.
Christiansen added his second of the night after Portland pulled Kehler for an extra -attacker late. 4-0 final — the very same score they eliminated Seattle by in Game 5 of their first round series.
score the series winner
you get the BELT! pic.twitter.com/Ev1M9qRsBo
— Everett Silvertips (@WHLsilvertips) April 14, 2018
The goals by Fairbrother and Christiansen added to the great offensive series that the Silvertips d-men had. They combined for 17 points, with all six defenseman having at least two points.
They have a tough task in the Tri-City Americans, who blazed through the B.C. Division bracket and won eight straight games. The Americans are making their first trip to the West Final since 2010 themselves. Every other team in the U.S. Division has been at least once since 2010.
Portland was 0-for-1 on the power play, while Everett was 0-for-4. Neither team did well on the man-advantage in the series with Portland going 2-for-11 and Everett being successful on 2-of-15.
-The top shooting trio of Bellows/Blichfeld/McKenzie scored nine times in the playoffs, despite firing 147 shots on goal. That is a combined shooting percentage of 6.1 percent.
-Bellows led the way with seven shots in Game 5, while Blichfeld had six and Henri Jokiharju had five.
-Overhardt went 4-for-14 at the draw, while Glass was 11-of-16, Jake Gricius was 6-of-13 and McKenzie went 2-of-7.
-Portland looks to be a favorite again next year with the likely return of Glass, McKenzie, Jokiharju and Hughes – four of their top-six scorers from this year. They will also bring back Shane Farkas, who is the odds-on favorite to start in net on opening night.
-Portland was eliminated in five games in the second round for the second year in-a-row.
-Bronson Sharp, the former Winterhawks depth forward will move on while his former teammates had their season end. He was dealt to Everett at the trade deadline.