The Everett Silvertips stayed overnight in Spokane Wednesday night as Snoqualmie Pass was treacherous. Their 4-0 win over the Chiefs in a midweek match-up was key, but the Tips will face a much stiffer test Friday when they take on the Seattle Thunderbirds with U.S. Division and Western Conference supremacy again at stake.
Friday’s environment will no doubt possess a playoff feel and the veteran players on Everett’s roster take on a critical role at this stage of the season for a team that has six rookies and another five players in their second WHL season.
“We really want to help them understand what the situations are going to be like,” said second-year Everett forward Brian King. “Once you’re in the moment of the playoffs we just have to play every game like we play every (other) game. We play to win, that’s how it’s going to go and we just have to focus on what we need to do next to accomplish that goal.”
Young players, particularly on the defensive end, played big minutes for the Tips this season as they withstood myriad injuries to remain in position to contend for the top spot in the conference. There were games when four of the six defensemen dressed were either 16 or 17 years of age, and that’s a tall order in the Western Hockey League.
Since the return of Noah Juulsen and Lucas Skrumeda, who comprise Everett’s top pairing, the Tips have gone with Kevin Davis and Jake Christiansen on the second pairing and Aaron Irving and Snohomish County-born Wyatte Wylie as the third pairing.
That has meant that 2000-born defensemen Ian Walker and Montana Onyebuchi have been healthy scratched or played at forward on the fourth line following the season-ending injury to Orrin Centazzo.
“I just try to emphasize that everyone has to be ready to go,” Irving said. “Injuries aren’t something this team isn’t aware of, and they know what happens and it’s happened to them in the past. I think having everyone ready is key and that’s something the leadership and myself take a big part on our shoulders.”
The Tips haven’t won at ShoWare Center this season, but they’ve been close in in three of the four games. Everett fell 4-3 in a shootout on Jan. 6 with backup netminder Mario Petit in net after overcoming a 3-0 deficit with three power-play goals.
The Tips lost 3-1 on Jan. 17 with Hart in net when the T-Birds added an empty-netter at the end, and Everett also lost 3-2 on Jan. 28 after two late power-play goals flipped the script (and my game story). Everett’s 6-1 loss 12 days ago was an aberration in a series that has been extremely tight for the past two seasons.
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