For teams in the U.S. Division, there’s been no “easy” stretches this season. All five teams sport records better than .500, meaning there’s always a meaningful and challenging game around the corner.
But it’s hard to imagine anyone having a more difficult stretch than the one Everett has this week.
This week Everett plays four games in five nights. The first three of those are on the road at different locations. Here’s the specifics:
Wed. — at Kelowna
Fri. — at Portland
Sat. — at Seattle
Sun. — Portland
These teams? Well, Kelowna just happens to have the best record in the league. Portland is the defending league champion and has the second-best record in the Western Conference. Seattle has the third-best record in the conference and has won six straight. That is just a brutal schedule.
Frankly, it doesn’t really get any easier after that, either. Everett has 26 games remaining. Not one of those games is against a team with a winning percentage under .500. Think about that.
During the first half Everett looked like a contender, at one point reaching the top of the WHL standings. The Tips have been in a bit of a swoon since the beginning of December, going 5-10-2-1 in their last 18 games. Everett is getting closer to full strength — Joshua Winquist’s suspension was set at one game, so he’ll be back Wednesday, but Matt Pufahl (ribs) remains day to day. So while this may be a daunting stretch of games, it’s also and opportunity for the Tips to re-establish themselves as being a factor in the conference race.
Is Everett a team to reckon with in the playoffs? This week may give us the answer.