Carson Stadnyk scores two goals and Carter Hart makes 23 saves for the Silvertips, who have won five of six games in the season series.
KENT — Everett still has 20 games left in the regular season, but the Silvertips took another giant step toward repeating as the U.S. Division champions with a convincing 4-1 triumph over the Seattle Thunderbirds on Saturday night.
The Silvertips are now 32-16-2-2 and padded their lead to nine points over the Thunderbirds, 28-21-3-0.
The difference between the two teams? Simple. In six games against each other this season, Everett is 5-0-1 and has earned 11 standings points in the series. Seattle is 1-5-0 and has earned only two standings points.
The reason? Nearly as simple. Everett goaltender Carter Hart.
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A sophomore, Hart has allowed Seattle only seven goals in the six games.
Hart is the top-rated goaltender in North America and will be a top NHL pick in June. He improved his record to 31-15-1-2 and lowered his already microscopic and league-leading goals-against average that came in at 1.98 a game.
Seattle knew the importance of this game and came out hard. Everett survived and scored first.
All the Seattle pressure that resulted in five of the first seven shots of the game became moot when Carson Stadnyk skated around the net and tucked in a wraparound goal at 12:16 of the first period. Stadnyk doubled the lead when he knocked in a rebound after a shot by Cole MacDonald at 5:17 of the period. That made it Stadnyk 2, Seattle 0 after the first period with MacDonald getting a pair of assists.
“We just try to stick to our game and somehow find a way to win against these guys,” Stadnyk said. “It’s always huge for us to beat them. It’s always a battle and every game seems to come down to one goal. We just stay close and something happens.”
Stadnyk, who now has 13 goals and 36 points this season, said the one big thing that happens is that Hart is in goal.
“He’s obviously been a big part of our team and our success,” Stadnyk said. “He’s having an absolutely incredible year and has been stealing a ton of wins for us all season.”
Seattle came out hard in the second period, but it didn’t matter when Everett’s Graham Millar scored a power-play goal at 7:30 of the second period for a 3-0 lead. Seattle cut the margin to 3-1 when a shot from the point by Brandon Schuldhaus made its way past Hart, but Millar scored his second of the game and 14th of the season and it was over.
Seattle’s only real hope to make up ground on Everett in the standings is to find a way to earn eight points in the four remaining games the teams play this season.
Seattle coach Steve Konowalchuk said his team is battling some internal adversity and played hard to start the game. Falling behind Everett, and Hart, changed things.
“Obviously, they’re a tough team to come back on,” Konowalchuk said. “We played hard, but we need find more consistency. We’re not really worried about the standings at this point. We just want to play as well as we can and worry about getting everyone on the same page.”
The T-birds played with defenseman Turner Ottenbreit, who has been suspended indefinitely after a hit against Portland on Friday, and Jerret Smith, who has been out for the last week with an undisclosed upper body injury.