By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Ryan Harrison found Saturday night’s playoff game between the Everett Silvertips and Portland Winterhawks an uncomfortable experience.
Play was heated in Game 2 of the first-round Western Hockey League series, with a number of scrums developing after the whistle had been blown. Normally, Harrison would have been right at the center of those scrums, getting in opponents’ faces and doing more than his share of pushing, shoving and yapping. Instead, the Silvertips overage forward was practically jumping out of his skin in the radio booth, where he was providing color commentary for the game. Although itching to dive into the fray, he could do nothing more than watch and talk.
Harrison was in the radio booth instead of on the ice because he suffered a concussion during Everett’s 4-2 loss at Spokane on March 8. He’s been listed as day-to-day ever since, but he has yet to return to practice. He won’t play tonight, either, when the series between the eighth-seeded Tips and the top-seeded Winterhawks, which is knotted at a game apiece, resumes with Game 3 at Comcast Arena.
“It’s not the way you want to finish your WHL career,” Harrison said. “Playoffs are the best time of year. The close games, the high intensity, the chippiness, that’s what I like to do. So it’s tough, for sure.”
With Harrison’s absence, Everett is navigating the playoffs without the player perhaps best suited for the postseason.
“It would be really nice to have him in there,” Everett general manager Garry Davidson said. “He’s a physical guy who finishes checks, and when he’s on the ice, I think other teams’ players are very aware and have to be conscious (of him) out there because he’s going to put a shoulder into somebody if he can get a chance.
“He’s a physical player and when he’s in the game he usually presents that, and I think that rubs off on the rest of our guys,” Davidson added. “So we’d certainly like to have him, but that’s not the case, so somebody else will have to pickup the slack.”
It’s been a star-crossed overage season for Harrison, who’s never fully reached top speed because of a series of physical ailments. It began before last August’s training camp when he came down with mononucleosis just before arriving in Everett. He missed time during the regular season because of a knee injury, then because of another concussion. As a result, he appeared in just 51 of Everett’s 72 games, tallying 10 goals, 22 assists and 54 penalty minutes.
“There’s been times where I felt pretty good, but all the time there’s been something nagging me,” Harrison said. “There’s been a few games where I felt good.”
The injuries are something new for Harrison, who had been a durable player throughout his WHL career. He appeared in 267 of a possible 288 games the four seasons prior to this one, with 10 of those 21 missed games taking place during his 16-year-old season. Since joining the Tips at the trade deadline in January of 2011, Harrison had missed just two games because of injury.
“I’m not used to going through injuries and sicknesses and stuff like that,” Harrison said. “It’s been tough, it’s not something I like. But you have to use it as learning experience. Hopefully I can play pro hockey and if something happens again, I’ll know how to deal with it and roll with the punches.”
Harrison hopes his junior career isn’t over just yet. He said he’s starting to feel better and hoping to begin making progress along the concussion protocol. If things go well, it’s possible he’ll be able to get back into the lineup by the end of the series against Portland.
Now, it’s up to his teammates to make sure the playoff run extends far enough for Harrison to get back on the ice.
Said Harrison: “If we keep winning some games, hopefully I can get back in.”
While the Tips will be without Harrison tonight, they’ll have three other players available. Defenseman Ayrton Nikkel and forwards Logan Aasman and Mitch Skapski, who missed the first two games because of injuries, have been cleared to return. Nikkel, who’s been out since Jan. 26 because of a finger injury, is the surprise as he was not expected to be available in the first round. While the Tips theoretically have home-ice advantage with Games 3 and 4 moving to Everett, that may not be the case against Portland. The Winterhawks went 29-5-1-1 on the road during the regular season, including 4-1 at Comcast Arena. The 29 road wins set a WHL record. Fifteen-year-old call-up defensmen Kevin Davis and Noah Juulsen are remaining with the team for another week. Davis, who played a regular shift in Games 1 and 2, was originally scheduled to return home to Kamloops, B.C., this week as his school’s spring break is now over. However, the Tips arranged for Davis to stay an extra week, with his mother collecting his school assignments.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.