Doug Love/ Chris Mast

WHL Western Conference Final preview: Everett Silvertips vs Tri-City Americans

Season series:

Everett 5-2-1-0

Tri-City 3-5

9/24/17: Everett 4 Tri-City 1

9/30/17: Tri-City 5 Everett 4

10/18/17: Tri-City 3 @Everett 2(OT)

11/22/17: Everett 3 @Tri-City 0

12/10/17: Everett 4 @Tri-City 3

1/10/18: Everett 4 Tri-City 0

1/15/18: Everett 6 Tri-City 5

3/13/18: Tri-City 4 Everett 2

Tri-City Americans:

Second Round Recap
The round one win by the Americans over the B.C. Division champion Kelowna Rockets was considered to be an “upset” by many. The round two victory over the Victoria Royals felt more expected, but not the manner in which it was achieved. Tri-City swept the Victoria Royals in round two, marking the first time in team history that the Americans have swept the first two rounds of the playoffs.

They remain the only undefeated playoff team in the entire CHL. Victoria and Kelowna both play a similar game based on speed. The Americans were able to contain that speed again against the Royals, just like they did to the Rockets in round one.

The defense didn’t give the Royals much of a chance to get their transition game going. Very rarely was Victoria allowed to have clean zone entries and get set.

The Royals were second in the league in regular season scoring averaging 3.99 goals per game. The Americans held them to 2.25 per game including a Game 1 shutout.

On the flip side, the Americans offense remained red hot in round two, scoring 22 goals in four games. That puts them in second place in team postseason scoring, but with two less games played than the scoring
leader Lethbridge Hurricanes.

Morgan Geekie (Dayna Fjord)

The Americans are averaging 5.5 goals per game to Lethbridge’s 5.1 goals per game. The offensive leaders remained the usual suspects for round two. Forward Morgan Geekie added six more goals to push his league leading total to 15 for the playoffs. He is on a league-record eight-game playoff goal scoring streak.

Power forward Michael Rasmussen added five goals to push his total to 10 for the playoffs which puts him third. Both players are tied for second with 24 total points each. Both are also on an eight-game point streaks in the playoffs.

Michael Rasmussen
Michael Rasmussen (Judy Simpson)

Defenseman Jake Bean had 10 points (1g, 9a) in round two, including a five assist Game 3.
He leads all WHL defenseman in scoring in the playoffs.

Keys to success
In the third period of game 3, Tri-City allowed the Royals to score five goals. That was a Victoria record for most goals in a period in a playoff game. The Americans had built a five-goal lead in that game and eventually went on to win 6-5. A big question was, “How will the team
respond to that adversity?” That question was answered pretty quickly in game four as they defended against Victoria throwing everything they could at them and completed the sweep.

The mental toughness they showed in responding to their worst period of the playoffs so far, will be needed in this round against Everett. The Silvertips are a different beast than what Tri-City has faced in round one and two. The biggest difference is that both teams are in the same division which means the familiarity is higher. They played each other eight times in the regular season with Everett winning five of those.

Patrick Dea (photo-Andy Devlin)

The other difference is in overall style of play. The Silvertips bring a speedy attack, but it starts with their defensive scheme and solid goaltending behind Carter Hart. They defend first and then work patiently looking to capitalize on chances, but not getting frustrated if they don’t. Tri-City will need to keep up the attack and keep play in their offensive zone as much as possible.

Hart has been phenomenal in net, but he is human.

Everett won’t be able to spend it’s attention on one or two players on the ice at a time which will spread the defense out and give Tri-City more chances than what Everett has seen up to this point. Keep the puck moving and get lots of shots on Hart. On the defensive side, they need to keep up what they have been doing. The Americans defenseman love to come up and join the play, and then do a great job of getting back and defending the opposition’s transition.

Goaltender Patrick Dea just needs to keep doing what he has been doing, which has been solid. The special teams battle goes solidly to the Americans. They lead the league with a 47.8% conversion rate compared to Everett’s 18.2%. That number isn’t a fluke either.

The Americans were 7-for-13 on the man-advantage in round one and 4-for-10 in round two against a Royals teams that was killing over 88% of their penalties in round one. The Americans power play should continue to find success against an Everett penalty kill that is running around 77%.

Impact Players
Morgan Geekie
Michael Rasmussen
Juuso Välimäki

Everett Silvertips:

Second round recap

Connor Dewar has 13 points in 10 games this postseason(Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

The Silvertips and their star goaltender Carter Hart once again bounced back from a five-goal night from their opponent to tighten up defensively and go on to win the series. This time it was thanks to an incredible effort from the line of Connor Dewar, Riley Sutter and Garrett Pilon, who not only shut the door on Portland’s all-NHL drafted top line of Kiefer Bellows, Cody Glass and Skyler McKenzie, they outscored them 17 points to six in the five-game Everett win.

Perhaps most impressive in the series for Everett in the second round was their late game rally in Portland where they were out shot and out chanced but scored twice in just 46 seconds to turn a 2-1 deficit in the last two minutes of the game into a 3-2 win. Portland never recovered.

The Silvertips had gotten to the second round four straight years, but had fallen to one of their U.S. Division rivals each time. Now they have broken that losing streak and find themselves deeper in the playoffs than they have been since 2006.

Hart gave up five goals once to Seattle and once to Portland in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but recovered well both times, both times being the best player on his team in series wins.

Keys to success:

(photo-Chris Mast)

Hart now gets to face perhaps the deepest of the three U.S. Division teams he will see these playoffs. The Americans have seven players operating at better than a point-a-game in the postseason so far.

Hart will need an even better effort from the defensive corps in front of him than they piece together in the first two rounds. Everett loaded up a pairing of Dallas Stars signee Ondrej Vala and overage mainstay Kevin Davis at times against Portland’s top line, leaning on Jake Christiansen and Wyatte Wylie to step up against the Winterhawks second line. They were stellar and pitched in offensively as well.

The Silvertips’ d-men outscored Portland’s 17-6 in the series, with Gianni Faribrother and Christiansen scoring key goals late in the series.

How well Wylie, Christiansen and Fairbrother play against Tri-City could be a big key in this series. They will now be facing a bigger and stronger group than they have seen before in the postseason and will need to hold up against the grind of what could be a long series. The Silvertips were susceptible to Portland and Seattle’s bigger lines, which could spell trouble since Tri-City sports seven forwards that weigh 200 pounds or more.

The top line of Patrick Bajkov, Matt Fonteyne and either of Sean Richards or Bryce Kindopp has come up big for Everett in the playoffs.  Bajkov leads the way with seven goals and eight assists in 10 games and Fonteyne (one of the better two-way centers in the WHL) has chipped in 13 points. If Richards gets a lot of playing time, who well he toes the line and does not commit an offense worthy if suspension could be key in the series as Everett’s depth on paper does not match Tri-City’s.

Sean Richards(Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

On the other hand, Everett has an ability to goad the other team into penalties and while their power play is not clicking right now at 6-for-33, them going on the man advantage derails whatever their opponent is trying to throw at them.

In the end, if Tri-City can continue creating offense like they have been, everything will come down to Hart playing up to his ability and frustrating the Ams.

Prediction
Just as in round two, the Americans will face a goalie in Carter Hart, that has the ability to steal games. The familiarity factor could be big for Everett to find a way to slow down Tri-City. However, this Americans team is not the same team the Silvertips were used to playing through the early and middle part of the regular season. The last time these two met, the Americans took the 4-2 victory against a fully healthy, fully clicking Silvertips team. It was really the first time all season that both teams played each other with a full team. Everett did a great job of shutting down Portland’s top line in round two. I don’t see that happening in this round. Even if it
does, the Americans have secondary scoring on every other line they can rely on. The amount of scoring talent, and a head coach (Williamson) that has been here before and won it all, should give Tri-City the edge. Americans in six.

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