By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
The Everett Silvertips find themselves at the apex of the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference.
The Medicine Hat Tigers occupy the same position in the Eastern Conference.
That means there’s a good old-fashioned showdown tonight.
Conference supremacy is on the line when the Tips travel to Medicine Hat to take on the Tigers tonight in an interconference heavyweight bout.
Everett (17-4-4-0) currently occupies the top spot in the entire WHL with 38 points. Medicine Hat (16-5-3-0) is right on Everett’s heels and tops the Eastern Conference with 35 points.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Everett winger Joshua Winquist said. “It should be a good game. We can’t take them lightly, they have a lot of skill and can score a lot of goals, so we have to be tight defensively.”
Tonight’s game begins the second half of Everett’s four-games-in-five-nights road trip through the Central Division. The Tips won the first two games, beating both Kootenay and Lethbridge by 3-2 scores.
“I think we’ve played pretty good,” Winquist said of the games. “We have four points, which is what we wanted.”
However, the Kootenay and Lethbridge games were just the opening acts. Now comes the main event. First there’s tonight’s game against the high-flying Tigers. Then the trip concludes Saturday at Calgary, which going into Thursday night’s contest against Prince George had the second-best winning percentage in the Eastern Conference.
The kicker to this weekend’s games is that Everett has little knowledge of either opponent, considering the teams face one another just once each season.
But one thing the Tips do know about Medicine Hat is that the Tigers can score goals. Medicine Hat has 13 players who each average at least half a point per game. And in winger Hunter Shinkaruk, a first-round pick by the Vancouver Canucks in this year’s NHL draft, the Tigers have one of the most explosive offensive players in the league.
“Neither team really knows each other much,” Winquist said. “The coaches will have us watch video, but it’s all about which team comes to work.”
Winquist has a shot at some personal glory in tonight’s game. He goes into the game having scored at least one point in 14 consecutive games. The Everett franchise record scoring streak is 15 games, set by Zach Hamill from Sept. 23-Nov. 7, 2006. Winquist, who has 11 goals and 14 assists during his streak, can match Hamill’s record with a point tonight.
It remains to be seen whether the Tips get defenseman Mirco Mueller back for the game. Mueller, taken six spots ahead of Shinkaruk in this year’s NHL draft by the San Jose Sharks, missed the first two games of Everett’s road trip because of illness.
While the Tips are hot — with wins in three of their past four games — the weather they’re experiencing in Canada is not.
“It’s about minus-15 (centigrade), which isn’t too bad,” Winquist said. “It’s a little tough on the Vancouver guys and lower-mainland (B.C.) guys, but not for us Alberta and Saskatchewan guys.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.