Is this the way the Tips are going to have to win games this season?
Everett got its preseason schedule started in victorious fashion tonight, using the combination of solid defense and good goaltending to fend off the Royals. In many ways it looked the way a first preseason game is expected to look. Play wasn't particularly crisp, younger players looked a little nervous, and special teams still need a lot of fine tuning.
That said, Everett put out a lineup that's pretty close to what it will be during the regular season. The Tips used their full allotment of three overagers, and 17 of the 20 players Everett dressed have at least suited up for WHL regular season games in the past. This was no lineup full of doe-eyed rookies. Meanwhile, Victoria had a more typical first-game-of-preseason lineup, using no overagers and dressing two 15-year-olds on defense. Yet Everett still had difficulty creating offense.
This issue didn't sneak up on anyone. Everett returned a lot of players from last season, but the ones who are gone were the heart of the offense. Joshua Winquist was at the heart of everything Everett did offensively last season, Manraj Hayer and Jujhar Khaira were his main supporting cast, and Matt Pufahl provided the offense from the blue line. Those guys are gone, and it's yet to be determined whether the Tips can compensate.
One thing that could really help the Tips out offensively is if it can get more offense out of its 19-year-old forwards. Logan Aasman and Remi Laurencelle are two of those, and they were probably Everett's best performers in the offensive zone tonight, combining to set up Jordan Wharrie for the game's only goal. Aasman and Laurenelle combined for four goals and 15 assists in 84 games last season. Between training camp and the first game of preseason, they're showing evidence they can improve upon that.
Everett received good performance from both its goaltenders. Austin Lotz appears to be in mid-season form. Meanwhile, Nik Amundrud had a solid effort in relief as he engages in a three-way battle for the back-up position with Mario Petit and Carter Hart.
Finally, a little birdie told me that all the players on Everett's roster will play this weekend. So that seems to confirm that Petit, forwards Nik Malenica and Gunnar Wegleitner, and defenseman Tristen Pfeifer have all signed with the Tips.
Everett 1, Victoria 0
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