Saturday, March 28, 2009

Silvertips lose crucial Game 4 to Tri City, 4-1

The Everett Silvertips find themselves in a very precarious position this morning. Like their brethren down I-5, the Seattle Thunderbirds, the 'Tips are down 3 games to 1 in their playoff series against the Tri City Americans. Tonight, they face the daunting task of trying to win on Tri City's home ice to force a Game 6 back at Comcast Arena.

Tri City, on the other hand, has a more pressing matter to deal with. Rookie Spencer Asuchak hit the boards hard in the final minutes of the game- and after lying on the ice for a frightening ten minutes, was carted off on a stretcher, loaded into an ambulance and taken to the hospital for evaluation. We still don't know the extent of his injuries. I will post an update as soon as I find out.

Now, back to the game. It started out well enough. From my vantage point right behind Everett's bench, I could see the determination on the Silvertips' faces and they played with determination as well. Maybe they started out with a little too much. Captain Zack Dailey was called for checking from behind about 1:30 into the first period. There was a mad scrum around Everett's net two minutes later, and the puck hovered dangerously close to Silvertips' goalie Thomas Heemskerk's feet and no one seemed to notice it for several long seconds. Then an Everett stick swept the puck out of danger.

There were several Tri City penalties in succession but Everett could not capitalize on the power play until the ten minute mark. Daniel Bartek deflected a hard shot by Tyler Ellington right past Tri City goalie Chet Pickard to put the Silvertips up 1-0. Chris de la Lande also assisted in the goal.

The rest of the first period featured a lot of action at Everett's end of the ice. Thomas Heemskerk made a number of good saves, including one at 16:43 as he fell on the puck. Jesse Burt, Zack Dailey and Tyler Maxwell delivered some monster hits, along with d-men Graham Potuer and Tyler Ellington. In the final minute of the first period, Daniel Bartek made a great run at Tri City's net, but Chet Pickard blocked him. Dan Iwanski slapped two hard shots at goal with 20 seconds on the clock, but Pickard turned those away, too. The first period ended with Everett on top 1-0.

The second period had barely gotten under way when Tri City found itself in penalty trouble. Taylor Procyshen was called for checking from behind at 1:04. A minute and a half later, teammate Riley McIntosh went to the box for tripping. The Silvertips' two man advantage didn't last long, though, as Tyler Maxwell was called for goaltender interference at the 3 minute mark.

It took less than a minute after that for Tri City to finally get on the board, albeit in a controversial way. A flurry of activity around Everett's goal seemed to knock the net slightly off its moorings. At the same time, another player ended up going INTO the net with the puck. The referees called for an instant replay. (NOTE: Instant replay is not used during regular season WHL games, but is being used during the playoffs) Guess what? It counted! Johnny Lazo got credit for the goal. Mitch Fadden and Lane Werbowski were credited with assists. Comcast Arena erupted into a chorus of 'BOO's at this point; the crowd, definitely not happy with the call.

Everett tried a few good runs at Tri City's net, urged on by the thousands of cowbells in the arena. But the 'Tips ran into penalty trouble again. Tyler Maxwell went to the box for tripping at 5:53. Zack Dailey was called for interference at 7:45. Thomas Heemskerk really stepped up, blocking shot after shot after shot. In fact, my notes read: "good stop Heemskerk @ 7:25", "good catch by Heemskerk @ 8:50", "good set-up by TC, better stop by Heemskerk @ 9:29".

Just after the halfway mark of the second period, Tri City's Jarrett Toll found a second home in the penalty box. At 11:43, he was called for high sticking. He had just left the box when he was sent back for interference. Five minutes later, he visited the box again, this time for delay of game, after flipping the puck right over the glass and into the crowd.

The Silvertips could not capitalize on any of their power plays, even though they had some good scoring chances. On the other end of the ice, Heemskerk continued his stellar play, stopping several shots and denying Tri City any opportunities to pull ahead. Chet Pickard made a key save for the Americans at the 19 minute mark, and the second period ended with things all tied up at 1-1.

I became a little distracted during the third period by a group of fans sitting to my left. Let's just say they were really enjoying themselves and had imbibed maybe a little too much. Unfortunately, they became very rowdy, surly and abusive. And very loud. The others around me and I tried to ignore them as best we could and follow the game. I was surprised that the team could ignore them. We were right behind their bench and some of the unruly fans had extremely loud and piercing voices, including one woman who seemed bent on teaching every child in her general vicinity some choice new words.

Back to the game. Just under two minutes into the third period, the puck flew toward the Everett bench and nearly hit a photographer in the head. He ducked just in time and laughed off the close call. The play was very aggressive this period, right off the bat. Silvertips hit everyone they came across and their feeling of frustration was palpable. The faces sitting on the bench in front of me were grim, determined.

At 7:32, Tri City's Johnny Lazo drove the puck toward Everett's net so hard, he ended up skating into goalie Thomas Heemskerk. The refs quickly stepped in as Silvertips converged around Lazo, but oddly, did not call him for goalie interference. Heemskerk made several good stops as action continued down in Everett's end before the Tips found a way into Tri City's zone. Chet Pickard stopped two successive shots at 9:35; the first by Dan Iwanski, followed by Zack Dailey with the rebound. Dailey was a human cannon ball. He skates so quickly, he's a blur. And the shots he leveled last night, belie his small stature (the roster lists him at 5'6" tall). Thomas Heemskerk made a good save at 12:05, and before Tri City could attempt another shot, Cameron Abney was there to knock a player and the puck away from Heemskerk.

Tri City found the net again at 12:50. Tyler Schmidt took a blocked shot and rebounded it into an open area of the net on Heemskerk's left. 36 seconds later, Mitch Fadden scored the exact same way, after assisting Schmidt on his goal. Jason Reese also got a helper for both goals. With just under six minutes to play, d-man Graham Potuer took a hit or something that sent him crumpling to the ice. I watched him try to get up and fall again. He finally crawled to the Everett bench, where another player helped him off the ice. A trainer took over and helped Potuer to the locker room. I don't know thow badly he's hurt.

Play grew even more aggressive in the final five minutes of the third. Once again, Everett got into penalty trouble and Tri City took advantage. Taylor Ellington was called for holding at 15:25. A minute later, Jason Reese scored on the power play. Taylor Procyshen and Tyler Schmidt were credited with the assists.

With 2:29 left to play, rookie Spenser Asuchak hit the boards hard, and fell onto the ice. I saw him propped up on his elbows, talking to the trainer. Then he went limp and lay still as Tri City and Everett's trainers looked him over. His right foot wriggled several times, then stopped. The crowd was silent as we watched a player skate out with a backboard, which they placed on the ice next to Asuchak.

Several more long minutes passed, broken up by some very loud and crude comments by a woman sitting behind me. There was no doubt that everyone inside Comcast Arena heard the things she said, the tamest of which accused Asuchak of not being hurt, and calling him a few rude names. In hindsight, I should have turned around and asked this woman her name so I could print it here. That way, anyone who knows her would be able to tell her just how stupid, rude and nasty she was last night.

Paramedics arrived ten minutes after Asuchak's fall, and gingerly placed him on a stretcher, making sure his head and neck were fully braced. Then, they wheeled him slowly off the ice and into a waiting ambulance, as the crowd at Comcast Arena applauded and players banged their sticks in support.

Asuchak's injury and Tri City's three goals seemed to take the wind out of the game for the Silvertips. They tried a last push at Chet Pickard with no success, and time ran out. Final score: Tri City 4, Everett 1. The shots on goal really tell the story here. Chet Pickard stopped 23 of 24 shots for Tri City. Thomas Heemskerk stopped 51 of 55 shots for Everett. He was named the Number One Star of the Game. Number 2 was Mitch Fadden and Number 3, Jason Reese, both from Tri City.

The Silvertips travel to Kennewick tonight for that crucial Game 5 against Tri City. The puck drops at 7:05pm. If you cannot make the drive to the Tri Cities for the game, tune your radio to North Sound 1380AM for Jon Rosen's stellar play by play coverage.

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