The record is not what the Everett Silvertips (3-6-0, six points) would like.
Nevertheless, head coach Dennis Williams found encouraging signs following Everett’s 5-4 loss at Medicine Hat Wednesday night, its third straight loss on the biennial Central Division road trip.
“I thought our guys played a pretty resilient game,” Williams said. “We’re not much for moral victories, but that effort and compete (level) … if we get that consistent effort from our forwards and defense we’ll be good.”
The resiliency to which Williams referred was the fact the Tips faced a 2-0 deficit just two minutes into the game. They later faced deficits of 3-1, 4-2 and 5-3 and battled back to within a goal each time before ultimately losing by a single goal.
Also encouraging is the fact Everett tallied four goals Wednesday after scoring only once in each of the previous three games. While the number of shots the Tips take hasn’t much wavered on the trip, turning them into goals was a challenge. Patrick Bajkov and Matt Fonteyne each scored and tallied an assist Wednesday as the longtime linemates snapped goalless streaks of six and four games, respectively.
“Your best players have to be your best players — that’s no different in the Western Hockey League,” Williams said. “There’s no extra pressure on them, but your top two lines are expected to produce and score goals and help in that. The game itself I hope will build confidence. We went through a little stretch where we had a hard time scoring goals, but hopefully now we’ll catch back on fire again and continue that going into Lethbridge.”
Speaking of Lethbridge, that’s the 6 p.m. stop Friday, the fifth one of the six Central Division matchups and the eighth-straight road game for the Tips who conclude the trip Saturday against the Kootenay Ice in Cranbrook, B.C.
It’s been an eventful road trip both on and off the ice. The team had the day off Monday for Canadian Thanksgiving and celebrated by listening to several guest speakers and taking in the pregame skate between the Edmonton Oilers and Winnipeg Jets.
Former WHL and NHL enforcer Matt Kassian spoke to the team at breakfast at the hotel. Then former Portland Winterhawks head coach/general manager and current Winnipeg Jets assistant Jamie Kompon addressed the team prior to the Jets’ morning skate.
“(Kassian) really gave a great example to our guys about his hard work and commitment,” Williams said. “He went through the rounds of pro hockey just out-working everybody. There were guys with skill that he left behind and (told us) what it takes to be a pro and the details.”
One thing about being a pro — or even playing in the WHL — is the long travel. While it’s a familiar pattern for veterans like overagers Bajkov, Fonteyne and Kevin Davis, it’s an adjustment for the nine rookies on the team. The trip also came very early this season without much opportunity to develop a road routine for the younger players.
“It’s been a grind for these young men, getting in every night at four o’clock in the morning and having to go play the next night,” Williams said. “It takes a toll, especially the group of players who have never been on the road. They’re having to learn quickly.”
Lethbridge (3-3) is coming off a 6-2 loss to Swift Current on Tuesday. The Hurricanes are led by Giorgio Estephan’s 10 points (including three goals). Jack Flaman has a team-high four goals while Jordy Bellerive, Igor Merzhko Calen Allison and Flaman all have six points.
Goaltender Stuart Skinner is 3-3 with a 3.24 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage.
Everett is still without the services of goaltenders Carter Hart and Dustin Wolf. Dorrin Luding has seen most of the minutes in net and is 2-4 with a 3.36 GAA and a .900 save percentage.
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