Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bittersweet Loss for Silvertips; Fall 3-2 to Chilliwack

Emotions ran high on the ice and in the stands at Comcast Arena last night for the Everett Silvertips’ final home game of the regular season against the Chilliwack Bruins. The game was sold out, yet people braved the icy wind blowing outside the Arena, hoping to score a ticket.  I thanked my lucky stars that I had bought my ticket earlier in the week.  I ended up in a great location, Section 108, Row 6, Seat 10. It’s four rows up from center ice in what the arena calls the “club section.”  (One perk, you don’t have to get up to buy food; someone can do that for you, so you don’t miss a second of action).  

I ended up next to a nice woman whose family have been season ticket holders for years.  She knew all of the players and had a great grasp of the game.  At first, she thought I was a Chilliwack fan because I was there alone.  I quickly pointed out my green shirt and white tank top, Silvertips colors.  The Bruins are black and gold, like the Boston team for which they’re named.  Once we got that settled, we sat back to enjoy the game.

Right off the opening puck drop, both teams played at a furious pace.  The puck seemed to whiz from one end to the other, players racing to keep up with it.  I noticed lots of hits being leveled by both teams.  Early in the period, the pace of play sent a Chilliwack player crashing into Everett’s net, knocking goalie Kent Simpson flat.  About four minutes into the period, a play near the Everett net knocked Chilliwack’s Ryan Howse (#22) to the ice.  He remained on the ice for several minutes while trainers checked him out.  Two of his teammates lifted him to his feet and one helped him skate off the ice into the locker room.  I noticed that he kept his right leg lifted and just let his teammate glide him off the ice.  The bad thing about injuries is that you never hear exactly what’s wrong, because coaches don’t want to tip off opponents to any perceived weaknesses.  I’m going to guess he will end up having a “lower body injury”, when all is said and done.  It looked like an ankle or knee problem to me.

Play got pretty chippy here.  Players were hitting each other all over the place. I mean, every player was leveling hits any chance they could get.  Chilliwack got on the board first, about 12 minutes into the first period.  David Robinson (#18) snuck it past Simpson. Kevin Sundher (#9) was credited with the assist.  The Bruins struck again, with about six seconds left in the period, when Everett’s Ryan White went to the box for interference.  This time, Sundher scored, with help from David Robinson and Dylen McKinlay (#19).  The first period ended with Chilliwack up 2-0.

*Interesting note:  the referees left the ice to the left of where I sat.  As they walked past, I noticed one ref pull a puck out of his pocket and hand it to a young girl who was peering over the railing.  The girl looked to be about 4 years old.  I thought that was a sweet gesture from someone who spends pretty much every hockey game being booed.

The second period started with a change in net for the Silvertips.  Kent Simpson was out, replaced by Thomas Heemskerk.  This period featured more hitting and a faster pace, if this could be possible.  Heemskerk made a few good saves and took a hit, when teammate Mike Alexander accidentally knocked fellow Silvertip Campbell Elynuik into the net.  Everyone shook themselves off and play continued.  At the 9:07 mark, Chilliwack’s Brandon Manning (#32) was called for cross-checking, setting Everett up on a power play.  Kellan Tochkin rose to the occasion, finding the net a minute later and sending the puck through.  Tyler Maxwell got the assist.

More hits, pushing and shoving ensue here.  The Bruins’ David Robinson (#18) seemed to be spoiling for a fight and tried to pick on with Ryan White.  The refs stepped in and separated the two, and dispersed other players who had converged around them.  Shortly after that, Chilliwack’s Matthew Ius (#27) went to the box for roughing and the Silvertips wasted no time taking advantage of the situation.  This time, D-man Taylor Ellington sent a shot flying into the net, on a pass from Byron Froese and Kellan Tochkin.

Chilliwack got called for two more penalties and Everett went to the box for one, but neither team could capitalize on their respective power plays, so the second period ended with things all tied up at 2-2.

The third period featured more physical play, and both teams fighting to keep the play in their opponent’s end.  Neither team lost focus nor energy and it would only be a matter of time before one team scored to pull ahead.  On this night, Chilliwack would prevail.  Just under eight minutes into the third period, Dylen McKinlay got past Thomas Heemskerk, putting the Bruins up 3-2. No matter how hard the Silvertips tried, they could not find a way to tie things up.  They pulled Heemskerk late to give themselves an extra attacker on the ice.  But as time ran out, the score remained: Chilliwack 3, Everett 2.

As the Bruins celebrated on the ice, the Silvertips grouped together and skated around the rink, raising their sticks in salute to the fans who have supported them from Day One.  The crowd responded by cheering more loudly than I’d heard through the entire game (and believe me, they were pretty loud throughout the game).   

The 3 Stars of the Game:   1. Kellan Tochkin (1 goal, 1 assist), 2. Kevin Sundher (Chilliwack- 1 goal, 1 assist), 3. Taylor Ellington (1 goal).

Following the game, the ‘Tips remained on the ice.  First, the team paid tribute to three players who would not be returning next year, because they have reached the WHL age limit:

Defenseman Taylor Ellington (#3).  Ellington played his entire WHL career with Everett. This 20 year old was drafted 33rd overall by the Vancouver Canucks in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft.  He’ll most likely play for the Canucks’ ECHL affiliate, the Victoria Salmon Kings, which is good news for Taylor, as he’s from Victoria.  In an interview earlier this week, Taylor told me about being drafted by his favorite team (Vancouver). You can read the interview by clicking here.

Defenseman Graham Potuer (#8).  Potuer also played all four years in Everett. This 20 year old was an Alternate Captain for this year’s Silvertips, along with Ellington.  The native of Red Deer, Alberta, has not decided on the next move in his hockey future, although college remains a consideration.

Center Daniel Bartek (#29).  Bartek joined the Silvertips at the start of this season in a trade with the Brandon Wheat Kings, for a fourth round draft pick in the 2009 Bantam Draft.  The 20 year old is from Olomouc in the Czech Republic.  It’s not clear what he plans to do next, although I’ve heard that college is also possibly in his future.

The tribute was followed by presentation of player awards. 

MVP:  Two players received this award:  Right Wing Shane Harper (#11) and D-Man Taylor Ellington (#3).  Harper has played an amazing regular season.  In 70 games, he’s amassed 32 goals and 34 assists for 66 points.  That surpassed the team record for most points scored by a Rookie, which was held by Kyle Beach.  Ellington was honored not only for his amazing play, but also his leadership and for being such a wonderful mentor for younger players. 

Rookie of the Year:  Right Wing Kellan Tochkin (#16).  Tochkin leads the WHL in Rookie scoring. In 70 games, he has 20 goals and 54 assists for 74 points.  If you haven’t seen this kid play, you need to. His star is rising quickly.  Tochkin was the first Silvertip I interviewed this year. You can read about his journey to the WHL by clicking here.

Most Improved:  Right Wing Cameron Abney (#26). This 17 year old has worked hard to improve his skating and puck handling skills.  Extra training sessions before and after practice have paid off for this hard hitting player, who ends the regular season with one goal and 3 assists.  In an interview two weeks ago, Cameron told me about his extra training sessions and his desire to be more than a hitter.  You can read that interview by clicking here.

Unsung Hero:  Defenseman Graham Potuer (#8).  He led the team in blocked shots and pretty much makes an impact every time he steps on the ice.  Last night, the announcer said his number may not be on many fans’ jerseys, but he is the backbone of the team.  Funny thing. I saw more Graham Potuer jerseys where I was sitting than anyone else.

Coaches’ Award:  Center Byron Froese (#14).  Byron joined the Silvertips on September 18, 2008 and made his impact felt right away. He’s been a key player all season and has 19 goals and 36 assists for 55 points. 

Iron Man Award:  Four players were recognized for playing in the first 71 games of the season: Center Zack Dailey (#21), RW Kellan Tochkin (#16), C Byron Froese (#14), RW Shane Harper (#11) (Read interview with Shane Harper here)

Scholastic Player of the Year Award:  This was given to Center Tyler Maxwell (#9) for his achievements in high school.  Several players are still in school and must combine a grueling playing schedule with classes and work hard to keep their grades up.  Byron seems to have had the most fun in Drama.  To see what happened when KING 5 cameras went to class with Byron and several other ‘Tips, click here.

Community Relations Award:  The was presented to C Byron Froese and D-Man Shayne Brown (#5) shared this award, which highlights their work in the community, which ranged from reading to elementary children to other appearances within the community.

The Silvertips wrap up the regular season tonight against the Seattle Thunderbirds at ShoWare Center.  The puck drops at 5:05pm. And I'll be there.




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