10 Defining Moments: 2015-16 Silvertips hockey

At some point this season, if these guys didn’t make your circulatory system race, check your pulse.

 

The 2015-16 season, delivering the 13th in downtown Everett, was my first in the broadcast booth and therefore a preliminary experience to unfold the story of a band containing 20 men whose sole purpose: the path of highest resistance.

 

(Up until the last week of the season, they led the CHL in fewest goals allowed per game.)

 

I am, however, still behind compared to many who’ve filled a seat at XFINITY Arena in a green jersey based on their association with this team’s remarkable history. They’ve seen a lot from Harvey to Lotz, from Armstrong to Scherbak. Underneath the sheer entertainment value, they welcomed a grass-roots start-up now boasting an around-the-clock youth hockey agenda, and resident nurtured talent cracking the Silvertips lineup (see: Wylie, Wyatte).

 

Now, they bear witness to the only team IN THE LEAGUE – since they entered the WHL 13 years ago – to never miss the playoffs.

 

All things considered, you can’t leave the Everett Silvertips as a hockey afterthought, an “opening act,” an outpost.

 

The span of 13 years is a lot. We’re now entering the years of talking about serious tradition being built. We’re now talking about winning no matter what personnel (think the 2014-15 team that locked down at 2.7 goals against, but cracked top 10 for offense at 3.3 per game). They can win.

 

They can draw the fans. They can deliver timeless moments that remain with us forever.

 

Here is what you should never forget:

 

10) Outstanding in OT: It started opening night vs. the Spokane Chiefs. Delivering opening night theatrics, the Silvertips went an incredible 8-0 in their first eight games that ended in the extra session, designed to revolutionize the first five minutes past regulation. The new concept of “3-on-3 in OT,” according to many pundits, was slanted to favor more high-octane teams and manufacture unpredictable and edge-of-your seat OT winners. It turned out that this year’s team, was among the first across the game to master it based on control and intelligence. Not to mention: they still have guys who could finish. Laurencelle led the Silvertips with five game winners. Connor Dewar was tied among a select group of Tips, who had four.

 

9) Good night, Kelowna. Good night, 2015: The boys in green last recorded a win in the Okanagan on Jan. 18, 2012. I think back then: the iPhone 4 was just rolling off the conveyor belt. That’s a lot of time to pass between wins in a tough barn like Prospera Place. But facing a championship proven goaltender in Jackson Whistle (unfortunate circumstances leading this game to the last in his Rockets career), Carter Hart one-upped him and Dawson Leedahl’s game-winner at 2:27 of OT extinguished a nine-game win streak for Kelowna. More so: it proved the Silvertips recent success to open the season was no fluke. They could hang with virtually every projected “big boy” powerhouse in this league.

 

 

8) Charity begins at home: Two games tied into one moment: everyone packed downtown Everett in pink, and teddy bears rained down. In October, the Tips drew nearly 8,000 into XFINITY Arena for the annual “Pink The Rink” game. Think about how many tickets were purchased, then think about the percentages that were flipped to breast cancer treatment. A total of $87,000 went to that cause. Come the holidays, there would be no controversy over any manufactured “Teddy Bear Toss Goal” jinx. Connor Dewar took care of that pretty early. Plus, a ton of children in need got to enjoy an amazing holiday. In a sense, “everybody wins.”

 

 

7) Fit to be tied with Brandon: The only Silvertips loss that makes this list – and for justifiable reasons. The final: 3-2 in a shootout to the Brandon Wheat Kings, a team supposed to win the title last year (until a blazing Kelowna team routed them in four games) and is on an inside track to complete that mission this year. They were simply dominant in the first period’s opening few minutes, and Al Kinisky and I marveled at the near NHL pace encompassing the Wheat Kings cycle. It was sharp, crisp, quick and near-robotic. The Silvertips gutted their way through it: Carter Hart was on top of his game with 38 saves. Dario Winkler (ex Wheat Kings forward) scored in his Silvertips debut. And equipment manager James Stucky worked the 1,500th game of his illustrious career. Not too bad.

 

 

6) Bow, Down: 1:50 left in regulation – that’s all the time that remained as Graham Millar jumped on a rebound and parked it over the blocker of newly acquired late-game winner. XFINITY Arena, which seats nearly 9,000 people, was packed that night. It was a night where the Silvertips delivered yet another stunning blow to their U.S. Division rivals, in a series many expected to be so lopsided to the dwellers from Kent. It was proof the Silvertips could grind out one-goal wins in a challenging series (won handily by the Tips, 6-2-1-1). Not to mention: I nearly missed the call.

 

* Story time. If this bores you, just skip ahead to more nuts and bolts below. I have severe allergies to seafood (fish, shellfish, etc. Bottom line: if it swims, I can’t eat it). A press room meal misunderstanding between chicken alfredo and salmon alfredo left me realizing that I ate the wrong thing, after the fact. Dropping my fork and knife – and fearing my life – I ran to the Silvertips locker room. Luckily, trainer Wayne Duncan saw my sprint, walking the other way, and made a U-turn to follow me. He and a team of medical on-site professionals caught me in time. Administering an epipen along with sharp antibodies, I made a 180-degree turn for the better within 45 minutes (it was the sharpest recovery time I ever had from a bout with seafood allergies). It was also 15 minutes before puck drop, with Al Kinisky sweating bullets – fearing he’d have to call play-by-play on short notice. I winged the pregame show. Tips won before a boisterous crowd. The night almost had a heart stopping moment, or two. Also happened the day after my 35th birthday. I don’t remember asking for an adventure as a belated present.

 

 

5) By any means necessary: that one time where the Silvertips needed a win, or at least a point, to stave off the hard-charging Thunderbirds and keep their grip on first place. What we witnessed in the third period was nothing short of magic. Down 3-1, the Tips willed back with two goals, including Remi Laurencelle’s stunner with less than a minute left in regulation. Bedlam took over XFINITY Arena, and the Tips settled for a point in a 4-3 OT loss to Kamloops.

 

 

4) Hart-rob: the Kamloops Blazers were in the way. Matt Revel tried to force his way. Carter Hart said “no way.” Save of the year, folks.

 

 

3) Sweep dreams, Portland: For the first time since Mitch Love was patrolling the Tips blueline and George W. Bush was in office, the Tips blitzed their way through the first round in four games. For the first time since William J. Clinton was in office, the Winterhawks were hammered out of the playoffs with a whimper. It ushered payback for 2015, when the Tips were bounced from the second round against Portland. Let’s just say the bus wasn’t exactly quiet that night.

 

 

2) The biggest T-Bird Takedown: the stakes elevated in late February, and the Silvertips fending off a two-goal rally by the Thunderbirds in the third period meant a 3-3 tie was in the hands of the veterans. They didn’t disappoint, taking advantage of a turnover by the Thunderbirds in the neutral zone: another moment where downtown Everett turned into bedlam.

 

 

1) Dewar’s goal vs. Kelowna: just consider this. When you’re down 5-1, and need four goals in the last 20 minutes to stand a chance against the defending WHL champs, did you really expect anyone to pull this kind of goal out of their back pocket? You know you just can’t stop watching it. And it’s now getting talk in the same breath as Zach Hamill’s “the goal” against the Thunderbirds in 2007.

 

 

 

We’ll always remember those plays. Now it’s time to remember some guys. They aren’t just any guys: they’ll forever be a part of Silvertips Alumni:

 

  • Cole MacDonald (D): 266 games, 98 points and 29 additional games in the postseason. He led the Silvertips d-men in points this season. His shot didn’t come racing off the blade with the highest degree of velocity, but with as close to an assurance of getting to the net. If it wasn’t going in, it was producing a grade-A chance. He was a quiet leader, and was in the middle of several of the timeless moments listed above.
  • Remi Laurencelle (C): Consider how much the famous trade from Lethbridge in 2013-14 delivered his fortunes with a U-turn. Before trade: 100 games, 26 points. After trade, with Silvertips: 160 games, 104 points. He had the only hat trick and was the Silvertips leading scorer this season. Yeah, pretty certain to say he polished his resume to diamond-shiny levels, whether he carves the minor pro or CIS route.
  • Carson Stadnyk (RW): What else can you say about the one of the last Doug Soetaert era holdovers, family to a hockey namesake (see: Federko, Bernie) and the elder statesman on the Silvertips roster? He didn’t produce leading scorer numbers, but consistently busted the 20-goal plateau. By this season, he was nearly irreplaceable on the top line. I can’t speak for what was observed inside the room at 6:30pm each night, but his poise, savvy and dignity were an incredible set of traits delivering influence.

 

They will be missed. But they pass the torch, for great moments still to come.

 

Lasting words: this season was my first in the Silvertips broadcast booth. Since season #1 is in the books, only appropriate the thank-yous formally go out in bunches to many people for helping me and family get settled in. For starters, a great deal of gratitude goes to the front office powers that be for presenting me with the opportunity to work here — and excel:

  • Thank you Zoran Rajcic, Garry Davidson, and Bill Yuill. To Jon Rosen (esteemed Tips broadcast alumnus now working in the NHL), who told me about the job when it opened (without him, I wouldn’t be here), thank you.
  • To Al Kinisky and Kellan Tochkin, who are not just pros for the words they articulate in the booth to all listening ears, but great people to build relationships with, thank you.
  • To Kevin Constantine, Mitch Love, Brennan Sonne: thanks for sharing your wisdom, insight, and more to open to door to a great relationship we’re building.
  • To James Stucky, thanks for being a great bus seat neighbor with your professionalism and relaxed approach to work. And life in general.
  • To the fans, who have made me feel welcome online, inside XFINITY Arena, at Sporty’s, and on the street, thank you. They’ve also made my wife and family feel welcome and our embrace of the Pacific Northwest has accelerated rapidly. Feels like “home.”

 

Here’s to many more years together! This is a great place to live, work, play, grow, and to thrive.

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Lasting image (thanks, Chris Mast): very top of this post. It still gives me chills to look at a packed building in Downtown Everett. At its peak, it sounds like a miniature NHL environment.

 

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his first season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips. Tweet at him here

 

Must See! Here Comes Round Two

Please excuse yourself from the lack of sleep, the long day at work, the never-ending sloth of traffic, or the disappointing grade on that term paper to relish everything that happened on Monday:

And you wonder why we all love sports?

It’s for moments like those. They’re dopamine-drenched, feel-good, warm-fuzzies we often rehearse in our brain under the “what if THAT could happen” category?

And now we get the second ever Everett Silvertips vs. Seattle Thunderbirds playoff series. Total drive time: 45 minutes (without traffic, of course). Everett to Kent, Kent to Everett. Whether you go green or bear blue, we all coexist under the same Pacific Northwest umbrella (one that has flourished with the nearest NHL team two hours away in the Vancouver Canucks).

Quite fitting that one local media outlet previewed the series with two guys in one studio. At the same time.

At hand: zero overnight hotel stays and just 45 minutes of travel between I-5 and I-405. Anybody associated with this series and an automobile loves the extended family time (my wife and 16-month old son, Lukas, included).

By the way of stakes:

  • The Tips are bidding for their first appearance in the Conference Finals since 2005-06.
  • The T-Birds are bidding for their first appearance in the Conference Finals since 2002-03.

By the numbers:

  • Silvertips record: 6-2-1-1 in the series.
  • The Thunderbirds have lost only once in regulation since Feb. 8, capturing the U.S. Division title.
  • Verdict: 7 of 10 games were decided by two goals or less.
  • Both clubs have combined for 53 home wins, regular season and playoffs.
  • Both clubs finished in the top 3 for fewest goals allowed per game in the WHL.

Two Silvertips game winners were decided with less than three minutes left in regulation. Another one ended in the seven millionth round of a shootout.

It has two first round NHL Entry Draft selections:

  • Noah Juulsen, named WHL second team All-Star.
  • Mathew Barzal, named WHL first team All-Star.

A goaltender on each end has captured a WHL Goalie of the Month nomination:

  • Carter Hart, named WHL first team All-Star.
  • Landon Bow, 1st in WHL shutouts (7)

Let’s just put the predictions aside (those are for the pundits outside these walls) and consider that for all the contributing pieces (because there were many, for both teams), we have the building blocks of a series to remember. For a long time.

Games 1-2 in Kent make for a breezy commute for dedicated Tips road trip diehards, but the set of Games 3-4 (and 6, if necessary) is where the essence of “showtime” is needed for Snohomish County.

If you have a soul for hockey in these parts, you need to be in downtown Everett.  If you have a thirst for the entrancing elements of playoff hockey, you need to be in downtown Everett. If you carry the weight of pride – not just for the Silvertips, but for the achievements of Snohomish County in general – you need to be in downtown Everett.

(By the way, www.everettsilvertips.com/playoffpromos is where you get your tickets, if you haven’t crossed that off your list.)

SILVERTIP REWIND: In come the Winterhawks, and out they go with a Silvertip four-game sweep. Three wins came in the absence of Carter Hart. In place: Mario Petit and crew kept the Winterhawks tied or trailing for all but 2:16.

The ancient Chinese proverb remarks, “one finger cannot lift pebble.” Welcome to 2015-16 Everett Silvertips hockey.

Much to the credit too of head coach Kevin Constantine and assistants Mitch Love and Brennan Sonne, the Tips allowed a paltry 2.3 goals allowed per game (for much of this season: lowest in the entire CHL) got past them in the regular season. They don’t trip over their own feet, by way of a league record low 8.9 minutes in penalties taken per game. To borrow a phrase from Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff, “everybody ropes, everybody rides.” They outscored Portland 15-6 in the series.

By the end of it, countless additional contributions to help sweep the Winterhawks for the first time since the Clinton administration, Wayne Gretzky’s last season, and the rise of N*Sync.

To conclude four games against Portland, stick tap to the Silvertips faithful who made the trek down I-5 to Moda Center. We saw, heard, and enjoyed the engulfing pro-Silvertips support. Those who wear green certainly travel well. I tend to operate in a vacuum at times, but it was impossible to ignore the contrasting cheers at times during Game 4.

RADIO: Game 1 is Friday, with air time at 7:00pm in Kent (Fox Sports 1380/Tips App/WHL Live). Al Kinisky will be with yours truly, while Kellan Tochkin will take over color analysis for parts of the series (while big Al tends to business).

As a guy holding play-by-play responsibilities, it’s enticing theatre waiting to be described.

Let’s enjoy this one.

 

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton is in his first season as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips. Tweet at him here