Stingy Silvertips defense keeping opponents in check

During the preseason and the first week of the regular season, the Everett Silvertips showed promise of being a much-improved offensive team.

However, Everett’s recent success has come from a more familiar formula.

Everett had an ideal start to its first long road trip of the season this week, winning back-to-back games against Red Deer and Edmonton. However, instead of a prolific offense, it’s been a stingy defense that’s done the heavy lifting.

Everett allowed just three goals in the first two games of its current four-game road trip, which concludes with back-to-back contests at Prince George tonight and Saturday. The Tips topped Red Deer 2-1 Tuesday, then beat Edmonton 4-2 Wednesday in a game that was 2-1 until the final 30 seconds of regulation. In both of those games Everett managed to keep opposing scoring chances to a minimum.

That’s a stark contrast to the way things went during the preseason, when the Tips scored the most goals of any team in the Western Hockey League. Everett then followed that up by putting eight past Prince George in a season-opening 8-3 victory.

Since then, Everett’s offense has slowed down. The results, however, have remained positive. Through their first seven games the Tips allowed just 14 goals, the fewest in the league. The defense has been even tighter of late, with Everett allowing just four goals in its past four games. Therefore, despite scoring just eight goals in those four games, the Tips came away with seven points via three wins and an overtime loss. The stretch has Everett at 5-1-1-0 and just a point behind Spokane and Seattle for the lead in the WHL’s U.S. Division.

While Everett’s defense has been solid — the Tips allowed just 101 shots on goal during the past four games, an average of 25.3 per contest — goaltender Austin Lotz has played a big role in keeping the scores low. Lotz hasn’t had to make a lot of saves, but the ones he’s been called upon to make have had a high degree of difficulty. He currently ranks fourth in the league in both goals against average (1.74) and save percentage (.934).

Defense and goaltending were hallmarks of the Everett teams coached by Kevin Constantine during his first stint with the team from 2003-07. So was winning, as the Tips hoisted three U.S. Division banners during Constantine’s four seasons.

With Constantine once again calling the shots, there’s starting to be a familiar feel to these Silvertips.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.

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