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WHL Playoffs: Tri-City stays alive with 5-2 win at Everett

Michael Rasmussen stayed alive Saturday with a 5-2 win over the Everett Silvertips (Brian Liesse)

EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips were ready to party Saturday night at the Angel of the Winds Arena but Patrick Dea and the Tri-City Americans weren’t in the mood.

The Tri-City goalie allowed a goal seven seconds into the game but then shut the door as the Americans stayed alive in Game 5 of the Western Conference Final.

“He played phenomenal for us,” Tri-City coach Mike Williamson said of Dea. “He stood tall, they had a lot of pressure.”

Juuso Valamaki paced the Tri-City offense by scoring twice as the Americans cut the series lead to 3-2 with a 5-2 win. Dea kicked out 35 shots and was not rattled by the early goal that whipped the 7,812 in attendance into a frenzy.

“I love it,” Dea said of the crowd. “We’re on the road and you know they’re not cheering for you and you get a lot of adrenaline from it. It’s awesome to see the fans come out and thankfully we spoiled their parade today.”

With a chance to earn a bid to the WHL Final for the first time in 15 years, the Silvertips got going early.

Connor Dewar potted a rebound for the Silvertips seven seconds into the game on the first shift from the opening face off. It would be the fifth straight time of the series that Everett opened the scoring.

With the building jumping, the Americans calmed the storm.

“59 minutes, 53 seconds to go,” Williamson said about his message on the bench. “We said something like that. There was a lot of hockey, obviously, to be played.”

Down the early goal, in an elimination game, the Americans stayed the course. Two first-period power plays helped. Even though they didn’t score on them they would end the first period by taking nine of the period’s final 10 shots.

That helped swing the momentum and calm down the party atmosphere in the arena.

“We got a lot of shots, momentum off of that,” Valamaki said of the power plays in the first period. “I think our power play has been good the past couple of games. Even when we haven’t scored we got a lot of good chances and good looks. Obviously, the momentum can change quick in a game.”

Valamaki further quieted the revelry 2:29 into the second period when his wrist shot got through Carter Hart’s five-hole to tie the game at one. The Americans would take a lead ten minutes later after Jordan Topping threw a puck-freeing hit on the forecheck. He picked it up and flung it to the front of Everett’s net where Nolan Yaremko deflected it through Hart.

Hart ended the evening by stopping 19 shots.

Tri-City took the second-period lead despite being out shot 19-7 by Everett, thanks in large part to Dea. His 19 stops in the period were highlighted by a point-blank stop on Sean Richards with under two minutes left in the frame.

The 20-year-old netminder was not worried about the number of shots he was seeing.

“We’re just trying to win games,” he said. “In the playoffs, stats don’t matter. The only thing that matters is the win. We got one today.”

In the third period, Valamaki would extend the Tri-City lead with a highlight reel play.

He weaved his way through the Everett defense to get in close to the goal. Once there, he fired a back-handed shot that found the top corner of the net.

“I got through a couple guys and saw a little hole on the short side, just put it up there,” the Finnish import said. “I guess I was just kind of playing my game… kind of how we all felt out there, just wanted to enjoy the moment.”

Parker AuCoin would give the Americans a commanding 4-1 lead at 15:57 of the third before Dewar would score again for Everett, with the extra skater on the ice. Michael Rasmussen would quiet the big crowd for good with an empty net tally at 18:11.

The win sets up a critical Game 6 Monday night back in Kennewick. The Silvertips have yet to lose in six playoff road games and the Americans know that there is still work to do.

“We just have to realize that it’s going to get harder,” Williamson said about Monday. “The games have been tough and it’s just every shift and every play is so critical. You don’t want the guys to play tight, but you have to realize that every time you step on the ice it could be the difference in the series. We just have to do it together.”

Eastern Conference

In the East Final, the Swift Current Broncos are one game away from advancing to the WHL Championship after holding off Lethbridge Saturday night. The Broncos got two more goals from former Hurricane Giorgio Estephan and held off a late Lethbridge charge to get the win. Game 6 in the series will be played Monday night in Lethbridge.