By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — There was no room at the inn in Saskatoon for Connor Cox.
The Everett Silvertips had no vacancy, either. However, they decided they’d make room for Cox anyway.
Everett’s newest defenseman may have been squeezed out of an automatic bid to the 2013 Memorial Cup, but Cox is grateful that in the wake of being dumped by Saskatoon, the Silvertips showed he’s still valued around the Western Hockey League.
“That was a great thing to hear,” Cox, who’s set to play his first home game as a member of the Silvertips tonight when Everett hosts Spokane, said of learning he’d been acquired by the Tips. “It’s a good thing coming out of a tough couple days there, when you’re sitting waiting to hear if you’re getting picked up.”
Cox played in all six of Everett’s games during its recently completed road trip through the East Division. The 20-year-old from Lethbridge, Alberta, has been paired primarily with Everett’s rookie defensmen, and he helped solidify the back end as the Tips finished 4-2 on the trip.
“He’s been good,” Everett coach Mark Ferner said. “Being 20 years old he’s been in the league for quite a while and played for some pretty good hockey teams. What he does is settle things down back there, and he’s been around so he understands. He’s been a good addition.”
But he was an addition who caught nearly everyone by surprise.
Cox, a diminutive puck-moving defenseman at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, spent nearly two full seasons with Saskatoon. Last season he had 41 points (three goals, 38 assists) in 65 games to finish in the top 25 in the league in scoring among defensemen.
This season Saskatoon is hosting the Memorial Cup, thus earning an automatic berth into the tournament that decides the champion of the Canadian Hockey League. The Blades had to whittle a host of overage candidates down to three, and when the dust settled, Cox had made the cut, all but booking his ticket to the Memorial Cup.
However, the Blades sputtered out of the gate, and just before the overage cutdown date Saskatoon traded for overage winger Adam Kambeitz from Red Deer. Cox found out the next day he was the odd-man out.
“I felt a little like I was safe, but in the back of your head you always know there’s a possibility, especially when a team’s hosting the Memorial Cup,” Cox said. “You knew there were going to be changes, especially after we started so poorly. Something was going to happen. They ended up bringing in a 20-year-old, and the next day that was the end for me.”
The Blades were forced to put Cox on waivers, sending him into the overage dispersal draft. Everett, by virtue of having the league’s second-worst record at the time, had the second pick in the draft. Kootenay, which had the first pick, passed. That meant the Tips had their choice of overagers cut by the rest of the league.
Everett, which was in Brandon, Manitoba, getting ready for the first game of its road trip, already had its three overager slots filled by wingers Ryan Harrison and Cody Fowlie and defenseman Landon Oslanski. It seemed unlikely the Tips would make a move. However, Tips general manager Garry Davidson decided Cox was too good to pass up. Davidson then made the difficult decision to release the popular Fowlie.
“That was tough,” Ferner said. “Fowls is such a great kid, he just got off to a little bit of a slow start for us. We know he’s a good player and he was a real popular player. We certainly hope Cody all the best.”
Fowlie was not selected by a team during the overager draft, but was picked up by Kelowna earlier this week as the Rockets dealt with injuries to their overagers.
As for Cox, it stung knowing he was no longer assured a spot at the Memorial Cup. However, he’s kept a positive attitude.
“It’s definitely tough missing out on an opportunity like that,” Cox said. “But I still have a chance with this team and we’re going to try our hardest to get there ourselves.”
And who knows? Everett may not be among the favorites to emerge from the WHL, but the Tips did beat the Blades 3-2 when they met during the road trip.
“That was a great feeling, especially a week after it all happened,” Cox said.
Now Cox is hoping he can help create more of those great feelings for the Tips.
Goaltender Austin Lotz, who’s been out since Oct. 6 because of a groin injury, is set to return this weekend. Therefore, the Tips reassigned goaltender Cole Holowenko on Thursday. The 19-year-old Holowenko was acquired just prior to the beginning of the season from Prince Albert in exchange for defenseman Evan Morden and goaltender Andy Desautels. However, Holowenko struggled in four appearances with Everett, compiling a 6.41 goals against average and .808 save percentage, and was passed on the depth chart by Daniel Cotton. … Tips captain Ryan Murray was selected Thursday to play in the Canada-Russia Super Series, which is used by Hockey Canada as an evaluation tool for the World Junior Hockey Championships. Murray, who played for Canada at last year’s World Juniors, will play in the Nov. 14 game in Vancouver.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.