By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Did the Everett Silvertips provide a sneak preview of the formula they’re going to need to win games this season?
Everett opened its preseason schedule in victorious fashion Friday night, knocking off the Victoria Royals 1-0 on the first day of the Holiday Inn Preseason Classic at Comcast Arena.
Rookie defenseman Jordan Wharrie scored the only goal in a game where scoring chances were at a premium, while Austin Lotz and Nik Amundrud combined on a 26-save shutout as Everett got its preseason schedule off on a winning note.
“It feels good,” said Lotz, who made 12 saves through the first half of the game before giving way to Amundrud. “We all think we can maybe play a little better than we did, but at the end of the day we got the win, so it feels pretty good right now.”
Winning low-scoring games is something the Tips may have to do a lot to have a successful season.
Everett lost a huge chunk of its offensive firepower from last season in the form of Joshua Winquist, Manraj Hayer and Jujhar Khaira, as Winquist and Hayer graduated as overagers and Khaira advanced to the professional ranks. Therefore, the big question facing the Tips as they head into the 2014-15 season is: Where are the goals going to come from?
Friday night Everett (1-0) tried to answer that question by dressing a veteran lineup, using its full complement of three overagers, and 16 of the 20 players Everett used have played in Western Hockey League regular-season games. That was in stark contrast with Victoria, which didn’t use any overagers and had two 15-year-olds playing defense. Yet the Tips still had difficulty creating scoring chances.
“Tonight looked like a first game,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “I thought at times it was choppy, and that’s kind of normal. It’s the first game and it’s going to look choppy. The work ethic was good. We put a lot of details into our game, so sometimes the brains are thinking about a lot of stuff and not playing with a real flow or natural rhythm to the game.
“Offensively it’s going to be a work in progress, in my opinion,” Constantine added. “Khaira was a big body, Hayer provided so much speed for us, and Winquist was a first-class offensive guy. That is not going to be easy to replace. We’re going to have to be a collective team offensively.”
The good news for Everett is that the team’s goal prevention already appears to be in midseason form. Lotz, entering his third season as Everett’s No. 1 netminder, was strong during the first half of the game. Then Amundrud, one of three goalies vying for the back-up job, finished it off with a solid effort. Everett’s defense also did a good job of limiting scoring opportunities.
“I thought we got very good goaltending from both goalies,” Constantine said. “Lotz was sharp. I thought they had better chances in the first period than us, so we survived that with some good goaltending.”
Said Lotz: “It’s nice to get that (shutout), and it’s a nice to see Nik get that, too. Being a young guy it’s huge for him. It was pretty exciting to be part of that with him.”
And Lotz isn’t convinced the Tips are going to take a step backward offensively this season, either.
“I have a lot of confidence in the guys in that room, I think we have a lot of talent and a lot of goal scorers,” he said. “I don’t think you can necessarily choose that game as being how we’re going to play all year, it was the first game of the year. There’s going to be some games we win 1-0 and some games we win 5-1, that’s just the way it’s going to be in hockey.”
Not a lot happened in the first period as the teams tried to find their playing legs following a long offseason. Everett’s Ben Betker rang the crossbar with a shot, and the Tips had a five-on-three power play that Victoria comfortably killed off. At the other end, Lotz had to make some decent saves on flurries out front, and it remained 0-0 going into the second.
Everett came out with a little more jump to start the second period, and the Tips broke the ice 2 minutes, 5 seconds in. Logan Aasman made a nice cross-crease feed to Wharrie pinching in from his defensive position, and Wharrie redirected the puck into the open net to give Everett a 1-0 lead.
Michael Herringer went the distance in goal for Victoria (0-1), finishing with 23 saves.
Shea Theodore had a goal and an assist and Taran Kozun pitched a shutout in goal to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 4-0 victory over the Tri-City Americans in the morning game. Nolan Volcan, Ethan Bear and Nick Holowko also scored for the T-birds (1-0), who outshot the Americans 35-20. Eric Comrie stopped 16 of 17 shots and Evan Sarthou saved 15 of 17 in goal for Tri-City (0-1). … Blake Heinrich and Cody Glass each scored twice as the Portland Winterhawks beat the Spokane Chiefs 7-5 in the afternoon game. Joshua Smith, Skyler McKenzie and Reed Morison also scored as Portland (1-0) built a 6-1 lead, then fended off a third-period Spokane rally. Brendan Burke stopped 18 of 23 shots in goal for the Winterhawks. Tyson Helgesen, Keanu Yamamoto, Riley Whittingham, Curtis Miske and Jacob Cardiff scored for Spokane (0-1). Alex Moodie allowed four goals on 20 shots and Tyson Verhelst stopped 20 of 23 in net for the Chiefs.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.
Silvertips 1, Royals 0
First Period—no goals. Penalties—Stadnyk, Everett (hooking), 3:18; Walford, Victoria (interference), 15:18; Pachal, Victoria (slashing), 16:22.
Second Period—1, Everett, Wharrie 1 (Aasman, Laurencelle), 2:05. Penalties—Oleksyn, Victoria (hooking), 5:36; Walford, Victoria (hooking), 9:53; Pfeifer, Everett (10-minute misconduct), 14:54; Gagnon, Victoria (roughing), 20:00; Low, Everett (roughing), 20:00; MacDonald, Everett (roughing), 20:00.
Third Period—no goals. Penalties—Gagnon, Victoria (tripping), 3:26; Crunk, Victoria (10-minute misconduct), 3:26; Aasman, Everett (10-minute misconduct), 3:26; Hicketts, Victoria (tripping), 17:39.
Shots on goal—Victoria 9-8-9—26. Everett 7-12-5—24. Power-play opportunities—Victoria 0 of 2. Everett 0 of 6.
Goalies—Victoria, Herringer 0-1-0-0 (24 shots, 23 saves). Everett, Lotz 1-0-0-0 (12 shots, 12 saves), Amundrud (14 shots, 14 saves)