By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — For the Everett Silvertips, there’s no rest for the weary.
Everett’s already busy November gets even busier today when the Tips begin a lengthy four-game road trip through the WHL’s Central Division.
Everett has already played nine games during the first 16 days of November. While that was a heavy game load, at least the Tips had the consolation of playing eight of those nine games at home.
But now that all changes. After losing 3-1 at home against Prince George on Saturday night, the Tips departed first thing Sunday morning for Cranbrook, B.C., the home of the Kootenay Ice. Everett plays Kootenay tonight in the first of four road games over the next five nights.
When all is said and done, Everett will have played an astonishing 13 games in 23 days.
“It’s just part of the journey,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “We’ve talked about being a division champion, competing with Portland and competing in a tough division. We have to walk the talk, too, and part of that is going out and winning on the road. So we have to go out and get the job done.”
Said Everett leading scorer Joshua Winquist: “It’s tough this way, but it’s kind of fun. Games are a lot more fun than practice. We can’t really control the schedule, so we just have to work through it.”
This is Everett’s second long road trip of the season. The first came in early October, when the Tips played two games against Central Division opponents in Alberta, then made the trek to northern B.C. for two games against Prince George.
When the Tips departed for that first long road trip, they didn’t yet know who they were. Everett had played just five games, going 3-1-1-0. The Tips had a successful road trip, earning seven of a possible eight points to put themselves right in the thick of the U.S. Division race.
Since then the Tips have continued to establish themselves as one of the better teams in the conference, and they currently sit second in the league with 34 points, just two behind division rival Portland.
So does this alter the expectations for the current trip out east?
“It’s the same as always,” Winquist replied. “We’re going to try and win every game, beat all those teams and show we’re a top team in the league.”
The busy schedule, with travel now tacked on, makes it grueling for Everett’s players. But so far the Tips seem to be holding up physically. On Saturday all four of Everett’s scratches were healthy.
“We’ve actually gotten healthier during this stretch, which most of the time it goes the other way,” Constantine said. “You get a little tired and sometimes tired equals injuries. That’s not to say there isn’t a little wear and tear from playing a lot, and being a little mentally tired. There’s probably some of that going on. But that also determines whether you’re championship material. You can’t be a champion and find excuses easily, because if you grab onto an excuse you’re pretty much guaranteed to not be successful. It doesn’t really matter whether we’ve had a lot of games or not, we still have to find a way to win hockey games.”
The good news for Everett is this will be the team’s last long bus ride of the season, as the Tips will have both their eastern swings and their Prince George road trip behind them. The busiest travel after that are the two home-and-home sets with Victoria, and those commutes are broken up by a pleasant ferry ride that allows everyone to get off the bus and stretch their legs. Outside the trips to Victoria, Everett has just one other road game outside the U.S. Division during the second half of the season.
“It’s nice to get them done and just have divisional games in the second half,” Winquist said. “It’s easier on the body to have less travel.”
And after this week, the Tips will even have a chance to catch their breath, too.
Around the WHL
Former Silvertips defenseman Nick Walters was on the move again Saturday after being included in the league’s latest blockbuster trade. Walters was part of the compensation Brandon gave up to acquire disgruntled defenseman Ryan Pilon from Lethbridge. The 17-year-old Pilon, who was the third-overall pick in the 2011 bantam draft, left the struggling Hurricanes and demanded a trade. In exchange for Pilon and the rights to 16-year-old forward Colt Conrad, the Wheat Kings surrendered the 19-year-old Walters, 18-year-old forward Taylor Cooper, and 16-year-old prospect defenseman Tanner Browne. Walters, who spent two-plus seasons with Everett, was dealt by the Tips to Brandon at last season’s trade deadline. ? Tyler Brown had the unusual experience of beginning a game with one team and finding out afterward he was joining the other as the 19-year-old defenseman was dealt from Moose Jaw to Lethbridge while the teams were playing one another. The Warriors received a third-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft in return. ? Brandon’s Ryan Pulock was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 19-year-old defenseman had two goals and five assists as the Wheat Kings went 3-0.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.