Everett is coming off a 6-3 home loss to Portland, the defending league champion and the team currently with the most points in the league.
Next up for the Tips? A road game Friday against the team with the best winning percentage in the WHL, Kelowna.
Portland and Kelowna were widely regarded as the class of the Western Conference before the season started. Both teams blew past the 100-point barrier last season, and both teams returned a big chunk of their squads from last season.
Kelowna, however, is a very different type of team than Portland. The Winterhawks are far and away the highest scoring team in the league. Kelowna, in contrast, has allowed the fewest goals in the league. The Rockets have a great 1-2 punch in goal in Jordon Cooke and Jackson Whistle, and Kelowna has a tremendous defense that is deep, talented and experienced without being old.
Everett is trying to break into this duo and make it a trio at the top of the Western Conference. In the standings the Tips are there, just one point behind first-place Portland. And Everett is still two points ahead of Kelowna, though the Tips have played four fewer games than the Rockets.
But to join those two in earnest, the Tips need to show it in the head-to-head match-ups. Everett did it when the Tips beat Portland 3-2 on Nov. 15, dominating the first two periods in the process. But Everett was handled 6-3 by Kelowna in their first meeting on Oct. 2 at Comcast Arena, and last season the Tips looked as bad against the Rockets as they did against any team in the league. The Tips didn’t know who they were when they played Kelowna earlier in the season, and they’ve built an identity since. But if Everett wants to prove it belongs with the conference’s elite, it needs to start competing in games like Friday’s.