#WHLPlayoffs Preview: Tri-City Americans (WC1) vs. Everett Silvertips (1)
With the Western Conference Championship set to begin Friday, April 20, WHL.ca provides a look in at each of the four head-to-head matchups across the league.
With a general introduction, vital statistics and keys to the series, we’ve got everything you need to know heading into the 2018 WHL Playoffs. While the usual suspects are known, our ‘Players to Watch’ section will take a deeper dive into some of the supporting characters set to take on a big role in the post-season.
Finally, we close each of our series previews with a quick look to the past for a brief historical take on the rivalry that exists – or stands to ignite.
In our first of two Conference Championship previews, we’ll examine two strong performers colliding in an all-U.S. Division matchup as the Everett Silvertips and Tri-City Americans get set to meet.
We’ve made it to the Western Conference Championship in the 2018 Western Hockey League Playoffs with an exciting all-U.S. Division matchup on tap for fans.
Opening the series at home will be the offensively dominant and defensively-limiting Everett Silvertips. Besides a one-game lapse against each of their opponents in Rounds One and Two of the 2018 WHL Playoffs, the Silvertips have come back stronger each game against their opponents. Undefeated on the road, the Silvertips have taken their travelling act for fans in Kent, Wash. and Portland, Ore. to witness, methodically grinding down their opponents.
To say goaltender Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers) has been good would be an incredible understatement. Having made it past Round Two of the WHL Playoffs for the first time in his career, one could easily say he’s playing some of his best hockey of the season and WHL career. The Silvertips offence has also been riding high with 15 different players scoring throughout their first 10 games.
For a third straight series, the Tri-City Americans will enter as the underdogs, but by how much is a better question. As good as the Silvertips have been in this post-season, the Americans have swept their first two opponents and have trailed for a grand total of 27:10 through their first eight games, with all of that coming in the high-scoring Game Two against the Kelowna Rockets back on Saturday, March 24.
Offensively, Morgan Geekie (Carolina Hurricanes) and Michael Rasmussen (Detroit Red Wings) are tied for the team lead on the Americans with 24 points each, with Geekie garnering 15 goals and nine assists to Rasmussen’s 10 goals and 14 assists. No matter how you look at it, this series will be a challenging test for whichever team comes out ahead.
The Western Conference Championship gets underway Friday, April 20 (7:35 p.m. PT) at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash., with Game Two scheduled for Saturday, April 21 (7:05 p.m. PT). The series will then shift southeast to the Toyota Centre in Kennewick, Wash. for Games Three and Four on Monday, April 23 (7:05 p.m. PT) and Thursday, April 26 (7:05 p.m. PT).
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 14, 2018
Game 1 – Friday, April 20 – Angel of the Winds Arena – Everett, Wash. – 7:35 p.m. PT
Game 2 – Saturday, April 21 – Angel of the Winds Arena – Everett, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 3 – Monday, April 23 – Toyota Centre – Kennewick, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
Game 4 – Thursday, April 26 – Toyota Centre – Kennewick, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
*Game 5 – Saturday, April 28 – Angel of the Winds Arena– Everett, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
*Game 6 – Monday, April 30 – Toyota Centre – Kennewick, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
*Game 7 – Tuesday, May 1 – Angel of the Winds Arena – Everett, Wash. – 7:05 p.m. PT
* If necessary
Sept. 24 Tri-Cities 1 at Everett 4
Sept. 30 Everett 4 at Tri-Cities 5
Oct. 18 Tri-Cities 3 at Everett 2 (OT)
Nov. 22 Everett 3 at Tri-Cities 0
Dec. 10 Everett 4 at Tri-Cities 3
Jan. 10 Tri-Cities 0 at Everett 4
Jan. 15 Tri-Cities 5 at Everett 6
Mar. 13 Everett 2 at Tri-Cities 4
|Everett Silvertips||vs.||Tri-City Americans|
|47-20-2-3 (99 points)||Record||38-25-8-1 (85 points)|
|Third||WHL Standing||Tied for Eighth|
|First – U.S.||Division Standing||Fourth – U.S|
|246 (11th)||Goals For||255 (Ninth)|
|167 (First)||Goals Against||249 (Eighth)|
|23.5% (Ninth)||Power Play||25.4% (Fifth)|
|84.5% (First)||Penalty Kill||77.1% (15th)|
|Lost Round 2||2016-17 Playoffs||Lost in Round 1|
|Patrick Bajkov – 33-67—100||Leading Scorer||Morgan Geekie – 30-54—84|
|Matt Fonteyne – 35-53—88||Second Leading Scorer||Jordan Topping– 38-42—80|
|Garrett Pilon – 34-46—80||Third Leading Scorer||Dylan Coghlan – 17-46—63|
|Connor Dewar – 38 goals||Top Goal Scorer||Jordan Topping – 38 goals|
|Kevin Davis – 10-55—65||Top Scoring Defenceman||Dylan Coghlan – 17-46—63|
|Carter Hart (31-6-1-3, 1.60, .947, 7 SO)||Top Goaltender||Patrick Dea (22-14-7-0, 3.17, .913, 2 SO)|
Key to the Series – Everett Silvertips
Defence is the best offence: It seems in every hockey league, a pivotal playoff battle between the league’s best defence and the league’s best offence provides a temporary hurrah for fans of either side each season. The 2018 WHL Playoffs are no different.
In 10 games during the post-season, the Silvertips have allowed 19 goals. Ten of them came in two games. That’s it.
They’ll be matched up against a Tri-City Americans squad that are second in the 2018 WHL Playoffs with 46 goals scored, but have done so in just eight games compared to the 51 in 10 for the league-leading Lethbridge Hurricanes.
This same playoff preview writer expressed thoughts in Round Two that the Portland Winterhawks had found ways to score on Hart and get him off his game during the regular season and that they could replicate it in their upcoming series. Hart went on to allow nine goals in five games. Take that playoff preview writer.
If the Americans can’t solve Hart early on in the series and maintain the scoring levels that made them successful in Rounds One and Two, it could spell trouble for their post-season hopes.
Key to the Series – Tri-City Americans
Offence is the best defence: With 46 goals in eight games, the Americans have had no trouble finding the back of the net against the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals. How will that compare to the Everett Silvertips?
Time will tell of course, but both the Seattle Thunderbirds and Portland Winterhawks managed to put five past Hart during the series, they just weren’t able to keep up that momentum to other games. That’s where the Americans come in. Through eight first periods in the 2018 WHL Playoffs, they’ve outscored their opponents 14-5 and closed out games with a 20-9 goal differential in the third. Last time we checked, that was pretty good.
The Americans have the tools and the experience at exposing strong goaltenders in these playoffs, will the same ring true for their challenging of Hart?
Forward to Watch – Everett Silvertips
LW Matt Fonteyne (4-9-13): The Silvertips have only been around for 15 seasons, but they still have their fair share of playoff records from making the post-season in every single one of those campaigns. One of those records is for the most points in a single post-season, a record held by Peter Mueller and John Dahl, who finished with 16 points each in the 2007 and 2004 WHL Playoffs respectively.
That record could be surpassed this coming series by no less than four Silvertips, including Fonteyne, who has 13 points (4G-9A) through the first 10 games of the 2018 WHL Playoffs and will be on the hunt for more come Friday’s series opener at home.
Fonteyne’s offensive rise was taken note of by the San Jose Sharks organization, who signed him to an American Hockey League contract with the San Jose Barracuda.
Patrick Bajkov (Florida Panthers), Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals), and 2018 NHL Draft prospect Connor Dewar also stand as part of the four to potentially surpass the record.
Forward to Watch – Tri-City Americans
— The WHL (@TheWHL) April 8, 2018
C Michael Rasmussen (10-14-24): Success in the WHL Playoffs is tied to learning lessons about your opponents before its too late. Unfortunately for the Kelowna Rockets and Victoria Royals, Rasmussen has been teaching a lesson over the past eight games that both were unable to pick up on.
When it wasn’t Morgan Geekie finding the back of the net for the Americans, it was the first-round draft selection by the Detroit Red Wings in 2017, who tallied 12 points (5G-7A) each in the four-game sweeps of the Royals and Rockets.
Both Geekie and Rasmussen are each three points away from tying Daymond Langkow (1995, 1996) and Terry Ryan (1995) for the most points in a single post-season since the team became the Americans in the late 1980s. That would mark an incredible feat for either to accomplish and it’d go a long way in aiding their chances against the Silvertips.
Defenceman to Watch – Everett Silvertips
D Kevin Davis (1-7-8): During the season series between the Silvertips and Americans, only one defenceman between the two sides managed to record double-digit points. His name is Kevin Davis and he had 12 points (3G-9A) in eight games. He’s been valuable offensively to the Silvertips in the 2018 WHL Playoffs with eight points (1G-7A) so far and will no doubt play a role at both ends of the ice regardless of the series length.
With 48 games in the WHL Playoffs to his credit, it feels like a shame we haven’t seen Davis play past Round Two. That will change once the puck drops Friday in downtown Everett and you can imagine the overage defenceman will be ready more than anyone.
Defenceman to Watch – Tri-City Americans
D Jake Bean (1-13-14): We honed in on Jake Bean during our preview for Round One and it feels only right to circle back to him once again, especially after earning WHL On the Run and CHL Player of the Week honours on Monday and Tuesday respectively.
Bean was the Americans’ lone major acquisition at the WHL Trade Deadline and he’s stepped up his game in the playoffs. With 14 points (1G-13A) through eight games, he has the best point-per-game average of all defencemen and is tied for the scoring lead among WHL defencemen as well.
Part of his increased offensive production may have to do with the system he’s in not requiring him to log heavy minutes in shutdown and offensive roles. There’s more than enough players on the blue line in Kennewick to share the wealth and at the moment, Bean and the Americans are reaping the rewards of the mutually-beneficial relationship.
A defenceman from a U.S. Division team has led all blue liners in scoring during the past two WHL Playoffs thanks to the back-to-back efforts of Ethan Bear in 2016 and 2017. Can Bean make it three years in row?
Goaltender to Watch – Everett Silvertips
Carter Hart (10 GP, 8-1-1-0, 1.92 GAA, .944 SV%, 2 SO): There’s a reason fans on Twitter refer to Hart as the #NumberOneHockeyBoy. Leading all goaltenders in the 2018 WHL Playoffs in goals-against-average, save percentage, tied for the lead in wins and sitting in a respectable three-way tie for second with two shutouts. Save for a small absence in Game Five against the Portland Winterhawks, Hart was perfect in that game too, earning a combined shutout that won’t count towards his individual totals. There’s a reason he’s going for his third straight Del Wilson Memorial Trophy as the WHL’s Top Goaltender and has extended his award dominance to include a nomination for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy as the WHL Player of the Year.
Expect Hart to continue raising his game to incredible levels like he’s done through the first 10 games of the 2018 WHL Playoffs. He’ll be hard to beat.
Goaltender to Watch – Tri-City Americans
Patrick Dea (8 GP, 7-0-0-0, 2.77 GAA, .905 SV%, 2 SO): After a sweep of the Kelowna Rockets, it would’ve been easy to think that while Patrick Dea was stellar, the Victoria Royals presented enough offensive options to eventually find a way to win four games against the Americans over the course of a seven-game series. Well the St. Albert, Alta. native proved any and all doubters wrong once again. Besides one bad lapse in Game Three against the Royals, which the Americans still won, Dea was sharp and even recorded his second road shutout of the 2018 WHL Playoffs.
In the season series against the Silvertips, Dea was in net for a pair of wins and a pair of losses, but still maintained a 3.11 goals-against-average and .935 save percentage. The Silvertips will once again present a team rife with offensive studs. Can Dea silence them and continue his strong run?
Playoff History – Everett Silvertips
In their 15 years in Everett, the Silvertips franchise have been to a pair of conference finals, winning once in 2004 WHL Playoffs and losing two years later in the 2006 WHL Playoffs. Running into a strong Vancouver Giants squad in the 2006 edition of the Western Conference Championship, the Silvertips have to revert to their 2004 run to remember their last victory in the Western Conference Championship, which came to them via a pair of Jeffs against the Kelowna Rockets.
Goaltender Jeff Harvey stopped 36 of 37 shots in Game Seven while Jeff Schmidt provided the overtime-winner to give the Silvertips a 2-1 victory in the game and 4-3 victory in the series. All seven of the games in the series were decided by a single goal, with Everett winning the last three games of the series in overtime. Does more Conference Championship magic await them this time around?
Playoff History – Tri-City Americans
This year’s appearance in the Western Conference Championship is the team’s first since the 2012 WHL Playoffs, but if you wanted to search for their last win in a Western Conference Championship, you’d have to go back two years further to the 2010 WHL Playoffs, when the Americans defeated the Vancouver Giants before bowing out against the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL Championship Series.
Patrick Holland is the answer to the inevitable trivia question of who was the last member of the Americans to score a game-winning goal in a Conference Championship game when he scored the third goal in a 5-2 win against the Giants on Sunday, April 25, 2010. There’s no time like the present to create some new memories with a special squad compiled by the Americans.
Head-to-Head Playoff History – Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks
2011-12: Tri-City Americans defeat Everett Silvertips 4-0 in Western Conference Round One
2008-09: Tri-City Americans defeat Everett Silvertips 4-1 in Western Conference Round One
2005-06: Everett Silvertips defeat Tri-City Americans 4-1 in Western Conference Round One