Two weeks ago the Everett Silvertips’ goaltending situation was a mess.
Everett’s No. 1 was injured. The Tips’ back-up was struggling. Everett was compelled to trade for a goaltender — the third goalie the Tips traded for in three months — just so the team would have someone to dress as the back-up. Everett had won just one of its first seven games, the issues in net playing a big part, and observers were left wondering when the other shoe was going to drop.
Fast forward through two weeks, four wins and several thousand miles of highway, and again the Tips are confronted with questions in goal. However, these are very different questions.
Austin Lotz, Everett’s No. 1, returned to practice today as the Tips took to the ice for the first time since returning from their eastern road trip. Lotz missed the previous seven games because of a groin injury. However, he’s making progress and it’s possible he will be available for this weekend’s home games against Spokane and Seattle.
Before suffering the injury, Lotz was starting to play better in goal. He had a rough outing in Everett’s season opener, but in his subsequent four starts he stopped 112 of the 121 shot he faced, which is a .926 save percentage, and he hadn’t allowed more than three goals in a game.
But while Lotz was out, Daniel Cotton emerged. Cotton was an emergency acquisition from Seattle just before the road trip began. He was rotting in Seattle, where he was the No. 3 goalie and had yet to even suit up in a game this season, and he was tabbed by the Tips primarily because he was in close enough proximity to Everett to be able to suit up hours after the trade.
However, his services were required in that first game against Tri-City as he came off the bench to stop all 14 shots he faced. He then improbably played every minute in goal for the Tips during the road trip, and he performed well. He now sports a 2.45 goals against average and .918 save percentage, both of which rank in the top seven in the WHL. On the road trip Cotton made six starts in nine days. Last season backing up Calvin Pickard he made just eight starts the entire season.
So now what for the Tips? Everett acquired Cotton in exchange for a conditional sixth-round bantam draft pick, with the pick exchanging hands if Cotton is still with the team at a specific date (a date that has not been revealed). One has to think Cotton has done enough to stick around for a while, meaning the Tips will likely have to surrender a pick they probably weren’t planning on giving up.
What about when Lotz is ready to return? Who do the Tips go with? The player seen as the team’s future in goal? Or the one who won the team games on the road trip?
And what about Cole Holowenko. The Tips traded away two players to acquire Holowenko. But now Holowenko seems to have slipped on the depth chart. What happens with him when Lotz is ready to return to the lineup?
So there’s lots of questions to be answered for Everett. But at least these are the type of questions the Tips are happier to consider.