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Thunderbirds-Silvertips Saturday night feud spills into Sunday

A heated rivalry had the temp turned up Sunday as Thunderbirds GM Bil La Forge commented on Saturday's game. (Brian Liesse/T-Birds)

KENT – The fallout from Saturday night’s game between the Seattle Thunderbirds and Everett Silvertips spilled into Sunday.

The bad blood began when Everett’s Justyn Gurney hit Seattle’s Cade McNelly with a shoulder to the head in the second period. There was no call on the ice and the ensuing anger led to a number of Seattle penalties and ultimately a 5-2 Everett triumph.

After the game, Everett head coach Dennis Williams made some pointed remarks to Josh Horton of the Everett Herald.

“I don’t know what (Seattle’s) mindset is,” Williams told The Herald. “Do they not want to play hockey? The game of hockey is skilled. It’s making plays, it’s going up the ice. From the midway to the second on, we knew we had them beat.”

Those comments did not sit well with Thunderbirds General Manager Bil La Forge.

“Their comments post-game got me riled up,” La Forge said. “We always are portrayed as the big, bad Thunderbirds. We do play hard and I’m not apologizing for that nor will I ever. But I think them yelling down at us from their high horse has to stop.”

Williams went on to say that he pulled goalie Dustin Wolf from the game with about five minutes left in the third period and cut down playing time on some of the Silvertips’ top players because he was worried about what Seattle might do in retaliation.

That worry doesn’t fit with how the third period played out Saturday.

Down 4-1, Seattle pushed to get back in the game, matched Everett in shots, earned two power-plays, was awarded a penalty shot, and scored a goal to cut the lead. Seattle pulled its goalie and came close to scoring again to pull within one goal but the puck bounced over Matthew Rempe’s stick.

“The plan was to try to win the hockey game obviously,” O’Dette said Saturday night about the third period.

Williams’ comments push the narrative that Seattle plays the game dirty while his players are on the up and up.

“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” La Forge said. “They’ve been suspended 52 games in the last three seasons, we’ve been suspended 40. Twenty-six of their (game) suspensions have been against us and only eight of our game suspensions have been against them. That tells me that we’re playing hard, I’m not going to deny that. But, we’re trying to play within the rules as much as possible.”

La Forge points to other incidents that have been troublesome in the Thunderbirds’ eyes.

“There have been two circumstances this season where in the last 10 seconds, they’ve put on guys,” he explained. “I can remember one situation, (Henrik) Rybinski is on the wall and (Everett’s Dawson Butt) comes on the ice and cross-checks him trying to start something and then (Tyrel) Bauer ends up coming over and they get kicked out of the game.

“The time before that, (Aidan) Sutter jumps a Euro. The difference is our guy stood up for himself. I just think you have to be careful when you’re chucking stones, you’ve got to check your own house first.”

La Forge is referring to a Jan. 11 game won by Seattle 4-3 at the accesso ShoWare Center when Butt and Bauer were each assessed misconduct penalties at the 19:56 mark of the game. On Nov. 9, Sutter fought Andrej Kukuca with 22 seconds left in a 4-2 Silvertips win.

The Thunderbirds sent a tape of Saturday’s game, and the Gurney hit on McNelly, to the league office for review. There was no penalty called on the ice but the league determined that the hit warranted a two-game suspension for Gurney.

“I felt that I had to go and protect our players,” La Forge said about sending in the tape. “I think it was a suspend-able hit. The length of the suspension is the length and I think it’s pretty consistent.

“We have to make sure that they’re not penalizing the crest, just the players need to penalized. If McNelly makes that hit the whole world is up in arms. Gurney makes that hit on McNelly and he’s the kind of kid who popped right back up and didn’t play dead. I think that speaks for itself.”

La Forge worked as the Director of Player Personnel for the Silvertips prior to taking over the Thunderbirds general manager position in the summer of 2018. His last season in Everett was Williams’ first as head coach and La Forge said that the comments Saturday night were a surprise.

“I don’t dislike Dennis Williams but I think some of those comments were completely out of line,” La Forge said. “It surprised me, because like I said, I like Dennis. Even look at last night’s game. Gurney hits McNelly, that’s one thing. (Bryce) Kindopp cross-checks (Blake) Lyda in the back of the head and we get a penalty for responding. Sure, Lyda deserves a penalty there but so did Kindopp.”

The hostilities and vitriol add to an already heated-up rivalry, and the two teams still have three meetings remaining on this season’s schedule. The first of those three come on Valentine’s Day, next Friday night at Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena.

While the two teams won’t be trading chocolate trinkets and baubles, La Forge says that his team is trying to do nothing more than earn two points.

“We’re not in a place right now where we can solve personal vendettas in the game,” he said. “We’re going to go out and try to win the game. We’re going to play Thunderbirds hockey and if it’s whistle to whistle, so be it.”