It’s official. The red-hot Everett Silvertips and the Swift Current Broncos will play in the WHL Championship. Both teams will be competing for the Ed Chynoweth Cup after long dry spells. This is the first time in 25 years that the Swift Current Broncos won the Eastern Conference Championship. The Everett Silvertips won their last Western Conference title in their 2003-2004 inaugural season. This promises to be one for the record books. Their respective paths to the WHL Championship provides a good preview of things to come. Players to watch include Garrett Pilon, Connor Dewar, Aleksi Heponiemi and Giorgio Estephan.
Western Conference Final: Garrett Pilon Leads an Epic Silvertips Comeback
The Everett Silvertips were leading the Western Conference Final series 3-2 and they needed only one win to bring home the trophy. Thanks to Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals) and his teammates, they did. The Tri-City Americans did more than put up a fight – they very nearly forced a Game 7. Until the 9:52 mark of the third period, the Americans were leading the game 5-2, led by the usual suspects. Kyle Olson had two goals, Juuso Valimaki had three assists. Morgan Geekie, Jordan Topping and Michael Rasmussen each had one goal.
2018 NHL draft prospect Connor Dewar launched the comeback attack at the 9:52 mark of the third period. It did not take long for Everett defenseman Kevin Davis and forward Garrett Pilon to follow. Davis scored at 13:53, followed by Pilon at 14:29. The game would stand at 5-5 through the third period, setting up the overtime. Davis struck again with the game winner at 5:58 in overtime.
Davis also had an assist on one of Patrick Bajkov’s two goals. Garrett Pilon added an assist, including one on the game winner. Captain Matt Fonteyne had three assists, including one on the game winner. The final score was 6-5 in overtime.
Eastern Conference Final: Matteo Gennaro, Beck Malenstyn Lead the Charge
The Lethbrige Hurricanes scored early in the first period with a goal from 2018 NHL Draft prospect Calen Addison. They kept the Swift Current Broncos off the score sheet for the rest of the period and dominated the shot counter 20-2. But this is junior hockey, where looks can be deceiving. The Broncos scored three goals in 96 seconds, starting at 6:33 of the second period.
Broncos forwards Matteo Gennaro and Beck Malenstyn (Washington Capitals) were the stars of this show. Gennaro scored the first goal at 6:33, followed by Alexski Heponiemi (Florida Panthers) with what would stand as the game winner. Malenstyn rounded out the 96-second blitz with a short-handed goal. He also scored on the empty net at the 16:51 mark of the third period.
Former Lethbridge captain Giorgio Estephan rounded out the scoring. Swift Current Broncos captain Glenn Gawdin had two assists. Gennaro added an assist on the empty netter. The final score was 5-1, the same score in both of the Lethbridge’s wins in this series.
WHL Championship Series Preview
Proper credit for Everett’s near-perfect championship season must be given to new Head Coach Mike Williams. He brought discipline, player development and creativity to the table. Not much has stopped the Everett Silvertips this season. The statement game is their signature move.
The Broncos had their own near-perfect season. They finished the regular season in second place in the East Division, the Eastern Conference and the WHL overall.
By the Numbers
Mathematically speaking, both teams are well-matched in this series. More importantly, their players have the fortitude to overcome adversity in hard times. The WHL Championship promises to be a battle of wills, if nothing else.
Everett Silvertips: 12-3-1-0. Away record: 7-0-0-0. Home record: 5-3-1-0. Power play percentage: 20%. Penalty kill percentage: 71.8%.
Swift Current Broncos: 12-6-2-0. Away record: 5-5-0-0. Home record: 7-1-2-0. Power play percentage: 28.4%. Penalty kill percentage: 80%.
Everett Silvertips NHL Prospects to Watch
Carter Hart (Philadelphia Flyers). His playoff stats are closely aligned with his regular season achievements: .922 save percentage, 2.44 GAA.
Garrett Pilon (Washington Capitals). The Capitals third-round pick was part of a trade deadline deal with the Kamloops Blazers. The Blazers have missed playoffs this year, and they lost in the quarterfinals the two years prior. That explains why you may not have heard a lot about Pilon until now. He’s a good individual player who was just named the WHL Player of the Month for April.
Connor Dewar (draft eligible 2018). 9-12-21. He won the Silvertips Most Dedicated Player Award this year. Having seen him play in person, I can confirm that he earned it.
Patrick Bajkov (Florida Panthers). He’s the king of the “did he just do that?” goal.
Matt Fonteyne (free agent). The captain of the Silvertips is a natural leader who is known for leading the way off the ice too. He has won the team’s Community Relations Award for the past two seasons.
Riley Sutter (draft eligible 2018). Ron Sutter’s son is currently ranked 80th on the NHL Central Scouting final rankings.
Swift Current Broncos NHL Prospects to Watch
Glenn Gawdin (free agent). The team captain has been a key player in the playoffs year. He’s no stranger to dropping the mitts either. He leads the team in penalty minutes, with 24 in 18 games played so far. His PIM for the regular season was 101. Gawdin is an over-ager, so no matter what happens next, he’ll go out with a bang.
Aleksi Heponiemi (Florida Panthers). The Finnish standout also has an interesting stat in playoffs so far: zero penalty minutes. In my experience, Euro players tend to play a leaner, cleaner game overall, staying out of the box and focusing on shots and goals.
Stuart Skinner (Edmonton Oilers). Skinner has had a swift ascent since joining the Broncos. Pun intended. His playoff save percentage is .927 and his GAA is 2.32.
Tyler Steenbergen (Arizona Coyotes). He’s best known for scoring Team Canada’s game-winning goal at World Juniors this year. Steenbergen was already on fire before that. He has 24 points in playoffs so far, tying him with Heponiemi in points.
Colby Sissons (New Jersey Devils). The defenseman has 18 points in playoffs so far, which follows a 71-point regular season.
The Everett Silvertips and the Swift Current Broncos met only one time in the regular season. The Silvertips won 4-1 and they dominated the game throughout, with 2 goals in the first and one in the second and third periods. The Broncos barely put up a fight, scoring once at 8:59 of the second period. I don’t think the Broncos will make the same mistake again.
The Silvertips have had a nearly perfect season in which they had to fight their way back from a 5-2 deficit in Game 6 of the Western Conference final. They know they can survive when they have to. I will give the edge to the Everett Silvertips in the WHL Championship, with the understanding that the Swift Current Broncos will put up a fight this time. I’m going with Everett Silvertips as the Ed Chynoweth Cup winners in six games.
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