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Victoria Royals close out season Saturday night against Gibson and Silvertips

Victoria hosts Everett on Saturday night

The Everett Silvertips weren’t about to pack their duffle bags and abandon the season after the staggering deal that sent the Tips’ two-time Canada world junior championship gold-medallist defenceman Olen Zellweger and veteran forward Ryan Hofer to the Memorial Cup-hosting Kamloops Blazers for 10 future WHL draft selections, including four first-round picks, through 2026.

“Our first team meeting afterward was to say we are still here to do something this season. No excuses,” said Ty Gibson, the Silvertips’ veteran defenceman from Victoria.

The Silvertips (32-32-3) have more-or-less lived up that vow and are the sixth seed for the Western Hockey League playoffs and preparing for their first-round playoff match-up against the third-seed Portland Winterhawks beginning next week. Up first, however, is the regular-season closing home-and-home set against the Victoria Royals, which began Friday night with the Royals beating the ’Tips 6-4 before 8,249 fans at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Washington. The teams conclude the regular season this evening at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.

“Anytime you return to your hometown to play is special and I will have a lot of friends and family out [tonight],” said Gibson, the Juan de Fuca Minor Hockey Association product.

Gibson continued his development at the youth elite level with Langford-based Pacific Coast Hockey Academy and the South Island Royals, representing B.C. in the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer, and was selected by Everett 64th overall in the third round of the 2018 WHL prospects draft.

At five-foot-nine and 192 pounds, he has survived on the WHL blue line with his wiles and keen ability to read the ice. The 19-year-old Island rearguard has six goals and 18 assists for 24 points in 65 games in this his second full season for the Silvertips.

“Being a smaller defenceman, I’ve used my hockey IQ on the ice, and the weight room off the ice to increase my speed and strength,” said Gibson.

Losing Zellweger has moved everybody up a notch in the Everett blue line pecking order.

“I’ve taken on more of a leadership role now,” said Gibson.

The Islander and the rest of the Silvertips veterans head into the post-season with a chip the size of Mount Rainer on their shoulders after last year’s epic first-round upset loss to the Vancouver Giants, the first time a No. 8 seed has beaten a No. 1 seed in WHL playoff history.

“We want to reverse what happened last year,” said Gibson.

With the roles reversed.

“We are the underdogs this time [to the Winterhawks] and want to prove people wrong.”

The Royals (17-43-7), meanwhile, won for the second consecutive game but will miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Victoria won Friday with two goals from Teague Patton and one each from Tanner Scott, Teydon Trembecky, defenceman Nate Misskey and graduating 20-year-old forward Alex Thacker. Captain and 20-year-old forward Jackson Berezowski led the Silvertips with three goals.

Royals goaltender Braden Holt, returning to Everett for the first time since being traded by the Silvertips in December, made 16 saves in a sweet first return to Angel of the Winds. Victoria lit up former Royals goaltender Tyler Palmer, came the other way in the Holt trade, with three goals on seven shots to chase him from the Silvertips net before the game was 10 minutes old.