EVERETT — After the Everett Silvertips acquired forward Cole Fonstad from the Prince Albert Raiders in October, there were times early on when his new teammates and coaches were left wowed by the 19-year-old forward’s abilities.
Yet, despite being a member of the Silvertips for more than three months now, Fonstad still possesses the ability to astonish his peers.
The Montreal Canadiens prospect pulled out some more surprises Sunday by scoring two goals in the Silvertips’ 4-1 Western Hockey League victory over the Spokane Chiefs.
Fonstad’s skill set is that of a lights-out putter in golf, Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams analogized. Just as a golfer has an innate sense of how far the ball is going to roll on the green, Fonstad plays the game of hockey like he’s in full control.
“With his vision and his patience and poise, I don’t know if I’ve ever coached a player with his skill set,” Williams said. “He just has a really good feel for the game. He knows when to pull, cut back, slow it down or cut to the net. I think that alone is a skill set that you can’t really coach.”
Fonstad, with silky stick-handling skills and first-class vision, has been Everett’s main set-up man this season with 45 assists, the second-most in the WHL behind Kamloops’ Zane Franklin, who has 47.
But goals weren’t coming easily for the Estevan, Saskatchewan, native early on, and admits that weighed on him a bit.
Fonstad, a 29-goal scorer with Prince Albert last season, boasted just three goals in a Silvertips uniform from the time he was acquired on Oct. 13 to the WHL Christmas Break.
But Fonstad has picked it up lately, with 19 points (six goals and 13 assists) in the 14 games since the break.
“It’s definitely frustrating when you’re getting chances and they’re not going in,” he said. “But then again, my role changed a little bit by playing with two guys (Bryce Kindopp and Gage Goncalves) that put a lot of pucks in the net. I tend to be more of a set-up guy. But it’s also nice to put pucks in the net myself.”
Not only was Sunday’s win a major confidence boost for Fonstad, it was also a major two points in the standings. With the win, Everett extended the gap over Spokane for second place in the U.S. Division to 11 points and closed the divide with the first-place Portland Winterhawks to nine points.
The Silvertips can put a further dent in that deficit when the Winterhawks travel to Angel of the Winds on Friday.
Fonstad put the Silvertips up 1-0 at 6:00 in the first period while Everett was on the penalty kill. The 19-year-old forward joined a three-on-two rush and snapped a shot under the glove of Spokane goaltender Lukas Parik for the first short-handed goal of his WHL career.
Spokane’s Luke Toporowski knotted the score 1-1 with his tally at 1:06 in the second period, but Fonstad didn’t let it last long.
Fonstad capitalized on a blue-line turnover from Spokane, got around Ty Smith, a first-round draft pick by the New Jersey Devils in 2018, and wristed a shot past Parik for his second of the game at 10:58 in the second.
A hat trick wasn’t far out of reach for Fonstad, but it proved elusive.
In the third period, Fonstad was on the doorstep twice after creating breakaways, but Parik turned away both chances.
With about two minutes left in regulation and the Chiefs’ goaltender pulled, Fonstad fired a shot from center ice that clanged off the left post, leaving Fonstad laughing in disbelief. It would have been his first career hat trick.
He had to settle for his first multi-goal game of the season and the 10th of his career.
Silvertips defenseman Jake Christiansen provided an insurance goal at 12:51 with a top-shelf finish. The overager maneuvered around Chiefs defenders along the left half wall and whipped a shot over Parik’s glove for his 12th goal of the season.
Christiansen, who spent the first part of the season on an amateur tryout with the Stockton Heat of the American Hockey League, matched his career-high in goals for a season on Sunday — in just 21 games.
“He’s like a fourth forward out there at times,” Williams said. “… Jake is a guy where you have to give him a little bit of rope. He’s going to make some plays on the blue line that you’re going to scratch your head on, but then again he’s going to bury those pucks like he did tonight.”
Both Christiansen and fellow 1999-born defenseman Wyatte Wylie are well within reach for the Silvertips’ franchise record for goals in a season for a defenseman, set by Landon Oslanski in 2012-2013.
Wylie owns 11 goals in 46 games this season.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshhortonEDH