By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Daniel Cotton is ready to take the reins.
The Everett Silvertips’ most recent rash of injuries means Everett’s back-up goaltender will have to shoulder a heavy load, at least temporarily. But Cotton has already showed he’s capable of meeting the challenge.
Everett fell victim to a series of injuries to key players the past couple weeks, the most significant being to No. 1 goaltender Austin Lotz. Tips general manager Garry Davidson revealed Thursday that the injury Lotz suffered at the end of practice Monday was an ankle sprain. Lotz, who is wearing a walking boot on his left foot, is classified as week to week and will be out for this weekend’s home games against Tri-City and Kamloops.
That means it will be up to Cotton to try and shut the door on Everett’s goal.
“It should be fun to get a few games in a row,” said Cotton, who started just four of Everett’s previous 19 contests as Lotz got hot. “I’ll just do what I did last time, work hard and just have a lot of fun out there.”
Indeed, this is not the first time Cotton has been drafted into starter duties for the Tips. Cotton was originally acquired as an emergency back-up in October during a previous Lotz injury, and he wasn’t expected to stick around for long. But Cotton quickly proved himself more than just a stopgap, playing every minute in goal during Everett’s swing through the Western Hockey League’s East Division, logging six road starts in just nine days as the Tips went 4-2.
Overall, Cotton’s numbers (9-11-0-0, 3.24 goals against average, .901 save percentage) are similar to Lotz’s numbers (12-15-1-1, 3.40 goals against average, .906 save percentage), though they took a bit of a hit during Everett’s 6-0 home loss Tuesday against Portland.
“Daniel has done very well,” Davidson said. “Even the other night, we reviewed the goals, he gave up six, but a couple went off our own guys and a couple I don’t think he had much of an opportunity. We feel very comfortable with him. He did a great job on the East swing and had a shutout in Vancouver a couple weeks ago. He’ll get in there and do the job for us.”
With Lotz unavailable to dress in Tuesday, the Tips were left scrambling to find a back-up to Cotton. Bryce Fink of the Mountlake Terrace-based Seattle Junior Totems was brought in Tuesday on an emergency basis.
But Everett is now settled going forward. The Tips called up 15-year-old prospect Nik Amundrud to serve as the back-up while Lotz is out.
As of Tuesday it was not certain Everett would have access to Amundrud, a third-round pick in last year’s bantam draft. But Amundrud, who already had signed an education contract with the Tips, arrived in town Wednesday night and will back up Cotton this weekend, and perhaps beyond.
“You have to look at the positives,” Davidson said. “We’re giving one of our young prospective goaltenders an opportunity to come in here and get some experience. Obviously, we didn’t want to lose Austin Lotz. But you’ve got to look at the positive. (Amundrud) is in here, he’ll get some good practices, and we’ll see if we can work him into a game or not.
How long Amundrud remains with the Tips “will depend on Austin’s injury,” Davidson added. “I’m hoping it will be this weekend and maybe next weekend at the most. We can’t keep him here indefinitely, either, because he’s important to for his midget team as well.”
Lotz wasn’t Everett’s only major loss this week. Leading scorer Joshua Winquist left Tuesday’s game after he aggravated an ongoing upper-body injury. Lotz and Winquist join defensemen Austin Adam (concussion) and Ayrton Nikkel (finger) among Everett’s latest wave of injuries. All four are unavailable this weekend, but Davidson wasn’t dwelling on the injuries.
“This league is 72 games jammed in, and I think the way the game is played with the high tempo and speed, it’s just a factor in every league that there’s injuries,” Davidson said. “You have to learn to deal with them and play through them. It’s not an excuse for anybody, it’s part of the game. We’ll have 20 guys ready to play tomorrow night and they have to do the job.”
It’s not all bad news for Everett on the injury front. Overage winger Ryan Harrison has been cleared to return tonight. Harrison missed the previous three games with concussion symptoms. His return is expected to add both skill and fire to Everett’s lineup.
Pugilistic winger Lucas Grayson, who hasn’t played since Dec. 30 because of a lower-body issue, is also available to return.
With Adam, who the Tips hoped would be able to return this weekend, not able to go, overager Landon Oslanski will continue to play as a defenseman after converting to forward earlier in the season.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.