THUNDERBIRDS

WHL Playoffs: Tri-City uses its depth to take Game 2 in Everett

Apr 21, 2018, 10:44 PM | Updated: 10:51 pm
Tri-City goalie Patrick Dea fights to make a save during the Americans 5-3 victory over the Everett...
Tri-City goalie Patrick Dea fights to make a save during the Americans 5-3 victory over the Everett Silvertips (Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)
(Photo by Christopher Mast/Everett Silvertips)

EVERETT – Loaded with marquee stars, it would be role players that came up big for the Tri-City Americans Saturday night.

After a third-period flurry that saw Tri-City and the Everett Silvertips exchange scores to tie the game at three, an unlikely hero would come through for the Americans. Forward Maxwell James, who only scored seven times during the regular season, muscled his way through the Silvertips defense to score his first of the playoffs and give his squad a big 4-3 lead.

“Any time you’re going to have any kind of success and a deep run in the playoffs you have to have guys step up,” Tri-City head coach Mike Williamson said about James and the third line. “We‘ve got a lot of depth and they’ve been a huge part of our team from day one, playing well at both ends of the ice.”

Michael Rasmussen would add a late empty-net marker for the Americans to seal a 5-3 Game 2 win and even the best-of-seven Western Conference Final at a game apiece.

Parker AuCoin is on a line with James and he set up the game-winner as well as potting two goals of his own. While the Silvertips were able to manage the Tri-City stars, the depth of the Americans came through.

“It’s nice for us to chip in offensively,” AuCoin said of his mates. “That’s not normally our role on this team, we have a lot of high powered guys that carry most of the load. It’s nice for us to get some confidence on our line.”

The Silvertips came out strong at the Angels of the Wind Arena Saturday and it looked like it was going to be their night. They took 16 of the first 18 shots and built a 1-0 lead at 7:34 when a shot on the power play deflected off of Matt Fonteyne and past Tri-City goalie Patrick Dea.

Down a goal and getting heavily out shot, the Americans didn’t panic and started to put some shifts together.

That paid off when Juuso Valamaki weaved his way through the Everett zone and found AuCoin at the side of the net. AuCoin banged it past Carter Hart at 12:29 for his first of the night and tied the game at one.

“We know how hard they come at the start of games and we talked about that but until you feel it, the guys have to experience it,” Williamson said. “I think the biggest thing against them for us, is playing under control, managing the puck, and just being patient with our game.”

Despite the momentum starting to shift, the Silvertips would jump back ahead two minutes later when they took advantage of a five-on-three power-play opportunity. Patrick Bajkov took a shot from a tight angle that hit off an Americans skate and into the net.

The Americans began to tilt the ice more and would outshoot Everett 13-8 in the second period. That would result in the tying score off the stick of Jordan Topping at 12:02 of the period. Topping crashed the net and tipped home a pass from Isaac Johnson in front of the Everett goal.

“As you get deeper into the playoffs you can’t have those mental lapses,” Everett’s Fonteyne said of the second. “Both games we haven’t played a full 60 minutes. They’ve come out in the second and been more ready than us and kind of taken over the game. So, I think moving forward we just need to focus on one shift at a time.”

Both teams played it tight for the first half of the third period, tied at two, but then the goals came fast and with a flurry.

AuCoin would score his second of the night at 10:19 when he knocked home a rebound off the end boards.

“James made a good play to get it in,” he said of the play. “You’ve got lively boards here and you never know what’s going to happen. It took a nice bounce right out front.”

The two goals would be his second and third of the post season.

The Silvertips wasted little time to get that goal back and would tie the game at three just over a minute later when Garret Pilon scored his third of the series on a wicked wrist shot. James would answer with his game-winner a minute after that in what turned out to be a back-and-forth finish.

Down a goal, and running out of time, the Silvertips threw everything they had a Dea and the Americans. They outshot Tri-City 12-5 in the third but couldn’t find the equalizer. Dea ended up making 37 saves on the night while his much more heralded counterpart in Hart kicked out 22 shots.

“Patty’s stepped up and we feel that he’s one of the top guys in the league and it doesn’t matter if he gets talked about as much,” Williamson said of his goaltender. “He’s here to help us win and was a huge part of that game tonight.”

It was a nice bounce back win for a Tri-City team that had to deal with losing for the first time in the post season Friday night. They showed no ill affect from that and have stolen home ice advantage in the series as it shifts to Kennewick for Game 3 on Monday night.

“We’ll be happy on the bus home here and then we’re back to business Monday,” AuCoin said. “We know it takes four, it doesn’t take one.”

Eastern Conference

The Swift Current Broncos took a 2-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference Final Saturday night with a 4-3 overtime win over the Lethbridge Hurricanes. After falling behind in the second period, Swift Current’s Alexsi Heponiemi tied the game in the third period to send it to the extra frame. In overtime it would be ex Hurricane Giorgio Estephan who would notch the winner to beat his former club. Game 3 in that series gets underway from Lethbridge Tuesday night.

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WHL Playoffs: Tri-City uses its depth to take Game 2 in Everett