EVERETT – The Everett Silvertips battled back to cut a four-goal deficit in half before ultimately falling 6-3 to the Kelowna Rockets for their first loss of the season Wednesday night at Comcast Arena. Now standing at 2-1 for the year, Everett will prepare to host U.S. Division foes Tri-City and Spokane on Friday and Saturday at Comcast Arena.
Rookie Import forward Ivan Nikolishin contributed on all three Everett goals, scoring his first in the WHL and assisting on two others. Matt Pufahl scored his first goal as a Silvertip and chipped in an assist, while Jujhar Khaira also netted his first WHL goal in his home debut for the Silvertips. The ‘Tips scored all three of their goals on the powerplay; converting on 3 of 5 opportunities.
The Silvertips had a rough first period, falling to a three-goal deficit after 20 minutes. Madison Bowey started it off for the Rockets, picking up a clearing attempt along the boards and releasing a quick shot that beat goaltender Daniel Cotton. Bowey scored again minutes later on the powerplay as his slapshot from the left point once again found its way to the back of the net. With less than a minute to go in the frame, Damon Severson fired a shot through traffic that hit traffic in front and slid under Cotton to give the Rockets a 3-0 lead heading into the dressing room. Shots were 8-6 for Kelowna through the first period.
Kelowna tacked on another goal early in the second period after the ‘Tips turned to Austin Lotz in goal. Zach Franko was stopped on a rebound in front, but the Silvertips couldn’t clear the puck before he lifted a third chance past Lotz to give the Rockets a four-goal lead. Everett rallied late in the period however, finally getting on the board with two powerplay goals to cut Kelowna’s lead in half.
Ivan Nikolishin sent the puck into the slot to set up the first goal as a scramble in front ended with Jujhar Khaira backhanding a shot into the top corner to get the ‘Tips on the board. Everett reduced the deficit to 4-2 minutes later on another powerplay goal. Josh Winquist drew the defense toward him and dished a pass to the blue for Matt Pufahl, who rifled a shot behind Kelowna goaltender Jackson Whistle at 18:26. After two periods of play the Silvertips took a 21-17 lead on the shot clock.
The ‘Tips opened the third looking to make it a one-goal game before Nick Merkley scored twice in less than one minute to rebuild the Rockets’ cushion. After a series of scoring chances for the ‘Tips, Merkley deked the defender off the rush and slid the puck between Lotz’ pads to make it 5-2. Tyson Baillie then stole a pass just outside the Everett blueline, setting up Merkley’s second goal on a 2-on-1 break. The Silvertips answered again on the powerplay as Ivan Nikolishin set up in the right faceoff circle and blasted a perfect slapshot inside post over Whistle’s shoulder, making it 6-3 with eight minutes remaining. Everett outshot the Rockets 32-26 for the night, but came no closer in their first defeat.
Daniel Cotton stopped five shots before being replaced by Lotz (1-1), who took the loss after making 15 saves over 40 minutes. Jackson Whistle (1-0) stopped 29 shots to win his first start of the year. Kelowna finished the night 1 for 5 on the powerplay.
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The Silvertips will now prepare for back-to-back weekend games against U.S. Division foes before embarking on a five-game road swing. The Tri-City Americans come calling Friday at 7:35 pm and the Spokane Chiefs visit Comcast Arena Saturday at 7:05 pm.
Season tickets, mini-game packages and six-game packs for the 2013-14 WHL season are available now at the team office. Visit www.EverettSilvertips.com or call 425-252-5100 for more information. To keep up with all the latest team news, “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.