WHL Playoffs: Stuart Skinner blanks Silvertips to put Broncos on the doorstep
EVERETT – He wasn’t the goalie with all the headlines coming into the WHL Championship Series but Stuart Skinner is stealing them all now.
The Swift Current net minder kicked out all 32 shots he saw from the Everett Silvertips during a 1-0 whitewashing in Game 4 at the Angel of the Winds Arena Wednesday night. It would be his fourth road shut out of the post season, fifth overall, and it put the Broncos on the doorstep to a championship as they take a 3-1 series lead.
With the clock winding down and the Silvertips with the extra skater, Skinner made his biggest save of the night. A mad scramble in the slot developed and Everett’s Garret Pilon found the puck and took a shot. Somehow Skinner saw it and flashed a big pad out to block it and preserve the slim lead.
“It was kind of a broken play,” Skinner said. “I kind of lost the puck for a second. Somehow, he got it on his stick and he made a nice move. I had to go into 911 goalie zone. I did my best, had some fun with it and made the save.”
He made all the saves Wednesday night and hasn’t allowed a goal in over 100 minutes of game time. Everett’s Carter Hart was the goalie to watch coming into the series after winning his third straight Goaltender of the Year award and a WHL MVP award. The two goalies are childhood friends and after four games, its Skinner who is stealing the show.
He’s getting help from his mates in front of him. The Broncos got into shooting lanes Wednesday to block a number of shots and were there to clear rebounds after Skinner made saves.
“That’s what’s winning us games right now,” Skinner said. “It’s the desperation and putting our lives on the line. We’re playing with a lot of passion right now and at the same time it’s not over and we haven’t done anything yet.”
Swift Current also killed off all five Silvertips power-play chances on the evening.
“We’re working hard,” Swift Current head coach Manny Viveiros said. “We’re blocking shots. Usually our goalie is our best penalty killer and Stu’s been really good. We are doing the things you want to do…the kids are digging in.”
The power play continues to be an issue for Everett.
With the man advantage the Silvertips have gone 1-for-14 in the series. All four games have been decided by one goal and missing on those opportunities has been costly for Everett.
“We’d like to score off them,” Everett head coach Dennis Williams said about his power play. “We’d like to get some momentum off it. A little bit of it is our guys feeling tired, they’re playing a lot of minutes. We had a hard time executing. They did a good job of keeping us to the outside.”
It was after a failed power-play chance in the second period that Swift Current got all the offense it would need on a power play of it own.
Defenseman Colby Sissons picked up the puck in the neutral zone, raced into the Everett zone and unleashed a deadly wrist shot. The shot got past Hart and into the top corner of the net. It was Sissons’ second marker of the series and came at 14:35 of the period.
“It was a bit of a broken play in the neutral zone from what I remember,” Sissons said of the goal. “Just a three-on-two and I had some space in the middle. Just trying to get the puck on net, lucky it went in.”
As good as Skinner has been in the post season, it’s been on the road where he has been at his best. Wednesday night was the fourth time the Edmonton Oilers prospect has posted a shut out in the playoffs as a visitor. That includes three road shutouts in Swift Current’s seven-game series against the high-powered Moose Jaw Warriors in the second round.
“I think it’s a different atmosphere than back at home,” he said about the road. “It’s almost a good thing when I’m playing away. I think I get more jacked up and focused because of the atmosphere and getting chirped. It focuses me even more. The whole time I’ve just been having fun and doing my best.”
Skinner’s best has the Western Conference Champion Silvertips on the brink of elimination.
Wednesday was the first time Everett failed to score in the playoffs and the first time they have lost three straight. They will get one more chance on Friday to stay alive and force the series back to Swift Current.
Everett surprisingly has not fared well at home in the playoffs. The loss Wednesday drops them to 5-6 on home ice and if they want to stay alive, they’ll have to find a way to even that record.
“We’re not going out without a fight,” Williams said. “We’re going to compete, we’re going to battle and do what we can to try and extend the series. This is the first time with our backs against the wall and I know we’ll have a great response.”