EVERETT — Brennan Yadlowski can’t believe its over.
The Everett Silvertips overage defenseman played his final WHL game when the Tips were eliminated from the playoffs by Tri-City on Wednesday.
And for all three of Everett’s overagers — Yadlowski, winger Josh Birkholz and defenseman Josh Caron — it’s a bittersweet feeling knowing their junior hockey careers are complete.
“I don’t want it to end right now,” Yadlowski said. “It was really tough thinking it was over.”
But the hockey journey isn’t over for any of them as all three have professional hockey in their future.
Yadlowski was the only one of the three who spent a full five seasons in the WHL. Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, the steady stay-at-home defenseman spent the first three-plus seasons of his WHL career with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He arrived in Everett via trade early in the 2010-11 season and spent nearly two full seasons with the Tips. In 127 games with Everett he had 10 goals, 36 assists and 173 penalty minutes.
Yadlowski also had the infamous incident in Portland in February, when he angrily invaded the Winterhawks locker room following the game. The league gave him a 10-game suspension for the incident.
Nevertheless, Yadlowski gushed about the time he spent in Everett.
“I’m so proud to call myself a Silvertip for life,” Yadlowski said. “The fan base, everyone from the office out, it’s just great people. I’m pretty excited to see what the guys have to come for the next couple years.
“When I came here I had to change my game a little bit,” Yadlowski added. “In Lethbridge I was kind of the go-to guy for being offensive. But I relished my role here and it was an absolute blast, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Yadlowski didn’t have much time to dwell upon the end of his WHL career. As soon as Everett’s season ended the Colorado Eagles of the East Coast Hockey League came calling, and he joined the team this weekend to finish out the season.
Birkholz was the longest tenured of Everett’s three overagers, but not by much. The Maple Grove, Minn., native spent two full seasons with the Tips after being recruited away from the University of Minnesota. A tremendous skater with a booming shot, Birkholz struggled to adapt to the WHL his first season. However, he took a stride forward this season, leading the team in goals (29) and points (57). In 138 career games with Everett he had 47 goals and 39 assists.
“Coming into the season I knew what was going to be expected of me as a 20-year-old, that I was going to have to step into some bigger shoes and take on more of a leadership role,” Birkholz said. All season I tried to embrace that, and I think I achieved a lot more success than I had last year.
“The biggest thing I’m going to take away from my two years in Everett is the relationships: with the guys on the team, the coaching staff, the community, the fans,” Birkholz added. “It’s honestly the best time of your life. If I could go back and do it all again I would without hesitating.”
Birkholz was a third-round pick by the Florida Panthers in the 2009 NHL draft. As of Friday he was in discussions with the Panthers as to whether he would join one of Florida’s minor-league teams to finish the season.
Caron, a native of Campbell River, B.C., arrived in Everett in November in a trade with Kamloops. Known as one of the toughest customers in the league, he appeared in 43 games during the regular season with the Tips, racking up one goal, six assists and 71 penalty minutes. He also scored the goal in the final minute of regulation that forced overtime in Game 4 against Tri-City.
Caron spent four seasons in the WHL, with the first three-and-a-half coming with Kamloops. In 171 career games he had three goals, 19 assists and 446 penalty minutes.
“I really enjoyed it,” Caron said of his brief time in Everett. “I was really happy that the guys brought me in and treated me like family, like I was one of them. And here they trusted me in all situations.”
Caron had already signed a free-agent contract with the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. He’s joining the Wild’s American Hockey League affiliate in Houston for the remainder of the season, and he’s looking forward to getting his pro career started in earnest.
“It’s a different lifestyle,” said Caron, who spent three weeks in Houston after Kamloops finished its season last year. “You’re living on your own and doing your own thing. I’m going to have to start cooking by myself, don’t know if I know how to do that. It’s a big step, but I think I’m ready.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.