LYNNWOOD — With less than two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Everett Silvertips are riding high.
However, it’s likely the Tips will have to travel the rest of the journey without one of their heart-and-soul players.
Key center Kohl Bauml has been diagnosed with a broken leg, and it’s feared he’s done for the season.
Bauml suffered the injury in the opening minutes of Everett’s 5-1 victory over the Kelowna Rockets on Tuesday at Comcast Arena. Bauml and a Kelowna player got tangled together and crashed hard into the boards in front of the Everett bench. Bauml needed to be assisted off the ice and did not return to the game.
Thursday it was revealed that Bauml suffered a compound fracture to his tibia. The typical recovery period for that injury is six weeks. Therefore, Everett likely would have to advance past two rounds of the playoffs for there to be a chance of Bauml returning to the lineup this season.
“It’s a huge loss,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said following Thursday’s practice at Lynnwood Ice Center. “I think he’s done for the year.”
The news comes just as things were picking up for Everett. The Tips have won four straight games and six of their past seven, and Tuesday’s victory over a Kelowna team ranked No. 1 in the entire Canadian Hockey League might have been the team’s best game of the season.
But replacing Bauml will be a difficult task for the Tips. The 19-year-old from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is a heady and seasoned veteran who’s in his third season with Everett, and he also serves as an alternate captain.
Bauml’s statistics are modest — 14 goals and 14 assists in 65 games. However, his contributions go far beyond the numbers. Bauml is often assigned the responsibility of playing against the opposition’s top line. He’s also a member of Everett’s top power-play unit, and he’s the Tips’ top penalty-killing forward.
“He was a part of everything,” Constantine said. “He was on our first power-play group, he was our first penalty killer every penalty kill and he played a very regular shift, doing a lot of good work against the top players on the other team.
“There’s a lot of things besides what you see on the ice,” Constantine added. “He’s a good kid from a high character family. He brings a lot of locker room stuff to our team too, because he’s a pretty mature kid and good around the room. It’s a big loss.”
Among the players who could be asked to pick up the slack from Bauml’s absence are wingers Tyler Sandhu and Logan Aasman. Sandhu has missed the past 17 games and Aasman sat out the previous two, both because of upper-body injuries. Both have been cleared to return for tonight’s game at Tri-City.
Tonight’s game begins Everett’s sprint to the finish line. The Tips’ recent winning ways elevated Everett into sixth place in the Western Conference with six games remaining. The Tips have a five-point cushion on seventh-place Vancouver, and they’ve crept within one point of fifth-place Spokane.
However, if Everett wants to leapfrog Spokane and set up a potentially mouth-watering first-round playoff series against Seattle, the Tips will have to get the job done on the road. Five of their final six games are away from the friendly confines of Comcast Arena.
Everett struggled on the road though much of the second half of the season, losing its first 10 road contests after the calendar flipped to 2014. However, the Tips won their past two road games, taking 3-2 in a shootout at Tri-City on Feb. 22, then prevailing 3-1 at Seattle last Sunday. Those are the same two places Everett travels to this weekend.
“Earlier in the year we won games at home and won them on the road, then in the middle of the year we lost games at home and lost them on the road,” Constantine said. “Minus Bauml’s injury, we’re healthy now and winning at home, hopefully we can be a competitive team on the road. I don’t know that for sure, but if we want to have success we have to be, whether it’s in the playoffs or finishing down the stretch. We have to figure it out.”
This weekend Everett leading scorer Joshua Winquist will be looking for a piece of Silvertips history. Winquist has 41 goals, which is one short of the franchise single-season record of 42 set by Shane Harper in 2009-10. Winquist has six games in which to break the record. … Kelowna defenseman Dalton Yorke received a three-game suspension for his game misconduct Tuesday, and the Rockets were fined $250. Yorke line changed to instigate a fight with Everett’s Zane Jones after Jones put a big hit on Kelowna’s Nick Merkley.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.