By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips are on their way east.
And this season they’re making the long trek earlier than ever before.
The Tips departed first thing Tuesday morning for their longest road trip of the season, their six-game swing through the Western Hockey League’s East Division. And this year they’re getting the trip out of the way as quickly as possible.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Everett defenseman Nick Walters said. “It’s good to have it at the beginning of the season, get it out of the way quicker.”
Everett’s first game on the trip is Friday at Brandon. That kicks off a stretch of six games in nine days, concluding on Oct. 20 at Saskatoon.
Each season the U.S. Division teams face each team in the Eastern Conference just once. One of the two divisions, either the East or the Central, comes to the U.S. Division locations to play. The U.S. Division teams hit the road to face the other division, almost always getting all the games out of the way at once. The only time Everett didn’t complete its eastern swing in one trip was the inaugural 2003-04 season, when the Tips took two separate trips to the Central Division.
Everett generally takes its eastern trip in early November, with it sometimes starting in late October. But this year the trip comes just a bit more than two weeks into the season, and it will be completed earlier than any of the prior eastern trips began.
“I think it will be good for our group,” Everett coach Mark Ferner said. “Obviously things haven’t gone the way we want them to go at home, so it will be nice to get out on the road.”
There’s good incentive to have the trip early in the season.
First, there’s the roads. The longer a team waits, the more likely snow becomes a factor. Getting the trip done earlier means less chance the weather slows down the bus rides.
“It think it’s good to have it before the weather gets cold, at least,” said Everett captain Ryan Murray, who’s making the trip this season after missing the eastern swing in two of his previous three seasons because of injuries. “Now that we live (in Washington), we’re not too used to the cold weather. But I think it’s good to go out there and spend a lot of time together.”
That leads to the second advantage of taking the trip early: team bonding. Each season brings a number of new faces to the team who are trying to find their places within the team. Spending two weeks on a bus and in hotels together forces the players to interact with one another to a much larger degree than when they’re home. That affords the newcomers the opportunity to be brought more fully into the community.
“I think it’s important, absolutely,” Ferner said. “I think with this young group, we need to be on the road and around each other a little bit more. I think that will be a good thing.”
Added Walters: “It’s a chance to get used to all the new faces. There’s some guys who you see every day, but you don’t really know them. I’m at least going to try and get to know some of the new faces around here.”
Lotz makes trip
Austin Lotz, Everett’s No. 1 goaltender, was on the bus when it departed Tuesday morning. It was questionable whether Lotz, who suffered a strained groin muscle during Saturday’s game at Seattle, would make the trip.
Lotz is considered week-to-week and it was possible the team would decide he was better off staying behind to recover. His presence on the bus likely means the Tips think there’s a chance Lotz could return to the lineup before the trip ends.
Everett has three goalies on the trip as Lotz joins Cole Holowenko and the recently acquired Daniel Cotton.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.