The Christmas break is over. The players returned to town today, then begin the second half with a bang as the Tips have a home-and-home set against rival Seattle, with Friday’s game in Everett and Saturday’s game in Kent. The T-birds have won nine of their past 10 to pull within two points of the Tips in the standings, and it should be one heck of a series during the second half, as the teams meet nine times.
Everett has a major challenge on its hands to begin the second half. The Tips are missing three of their top six defensemen for the first five games of the second half. Mirco Mueller is with Switzerland at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden, while Kevin Davis and Noah Juulsen are with Team Pacific for the U-17 World Hockey Challenge in Nova Scotia. The earliest any of those players will be available for Everett is Jan. 8 against Portland, meaning the Tips will be without half its first-choice defense for at least five games.
The fortunate thing for Everett is that options No. 7 and 8 are good, as Cole MacDonald and Micheal Zipp are both players with experience at this level. They both found themselves skating regularly on defense (both spent stretches during the first half playing forward) at the end of the first half because of Mueller’s absence and games sat out by Davis and Juulsen, meaning they should be able to hit the ground running.
However, that still leaves Everett one player short on defense. Therefore, to fill out the lineup the Tips have called up 16-year-old Jordan Wharrie. Wharrie, a fifth-round pick in the 2012 bantam draft, is playing with the Port Moody Panthers of the junior B Pacific Junior Hockey League. He’s fourth on the team in scoring with 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) in 31 games.
Everett was also missing several other players at the end of the first half. Overage center Manraj Hayer missed the final four games of the first half because of a concussion, winger Patrick Bajkov missed seven games because of an upper-body injury, and goaltender Austin Lotz sat out the final two periods of the final game after taking a knee to the head. While Lotz practiced Thursday, Hayer and Bajkov remain on the sidelines.