EVERETT — Who were those Everett Silvertips?
For three years Everett has been the WHL equivalent of a middle-aged man content to live in his parents’ basement: no goals. Over the past three-season stretch the Tips were easily the lowest-scoring team in the league.
So one question lingered in the wake of Everett’s two exhibition games over the weekend in Kennewick: Where did all the goals come from?
Everett scored 16 goals in its two victories at the Tri-City Americans Preseason Tournament, and although the games were merely preseason contests, the Tips are understandably excited by their newfound offensive prowess.
“It’s pretty unheard of for us, so we’re pretty excited about it,” said Brayden Low, whose six points over the weekend matched his season total in 43 contests last season.
“I don’t know what was going on,” Low added. “Pucks were going in. Obviously we weren’t seeing all the starting goaltenders and the top D pairings. But it’s still the same concept and it was still going in the net somehow, so we’re doing something right, I guess.”
Everett smacked Portland 8-2 Friday morning, then topped Kootenay 8-6 in a wild encounter Saturday morning. Those eight-goal outbursts are something that hasn’t been seen in Everett in a long time. The last time the Tips scored eight goals in a regular season game was when Everett beat Portland 10-4 at home on Oct. 14, 2009.
“I have no idea where that came from,” said Manraj Hayer, who had three goals and three assists in the two games and is tied for the league lead in preseason scoring with nine points in four games. “I don’t think we’ve scored 16 goals in two games since I’ve been here, and I’ve been here for three years. We’re putting pucks to the net and right now it seems like everything’s going in. It’s a pretty good strategy, if you put the puck on net good things are going to happen, and right now we’re being rewarded.”
Seeing crooked numbers on the scoreboard has been a long time coming for the Tips. Last season Everett scored 171 goals in its 72 regular season games, an average of 2.4 per game. That was right in line with the three-season trend as the Tips scored 183 goals the previous season and 171 in 2010-11. Everett’s three-season total of 525 was dead last in the league, 38 fewer than the next-worst team Seattle.
But it’s been a different story so far in the preseason. Everett scored 26 goals in its first five exhibition games, an average of 5.2 per contest. It’s not just one or two players who are doing all the damage, either. Last season the Tips had just one player, Joshua Winquist, who averaged a point per game. So far in the preseason Everett has 12 players who have reached that mark.
Everett’s was aided over the weekend as its opponents were short-handed because of players attending NHL rookie camps, with both Portland and Kootenay missing their No. 1 goaltender. But the Tips were missing key personnel as well because of NHL camps. Winquist had two goals and an assist to lead Everett against Portland, then received the day off against Kootenay — and the Tips still found the net eight times.
So what’s changed from last season?
“I think it’s our style,” Low said. “We’re doing a lot of the right things. Coach (Kevin) Constantine is really emphasizing getting lots of shots. Every time you get a chance, put it to the net and go get the rebound. I think a big part of it is our style and how we’re playing now. We’re playing a lot more up-tempo than we were last season.”
The weekend’s victories improved Everett’s record to 5-0 in the preseason. The five-game winning streak is also rarified air for the Tips. The last time Everett won five straight was when the Tips rattled off 14 in a row in January of 2010.
“We’re excited,” Hayer said. “We haven’t won five in a row since I’ve been here. But it’s fun to win. guys are excited and playing well and we’re rolling right now.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.