EVERETT — A rare thing occurred Tuesday during the Everett Silvertips’ afternoon practice at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Connor Dewar smiled.
It came during a two-on-one drill in which Dewar beat defenseman Wyatte Wylie and rifled a shot past goaltender Carter Hart into the net. Dewar followed up with a stick tap to Wylie’s hindquarters and exchanged some words as he skated away with a grin.
“I have a lot of fun in practice,” Dewar said, “(and) the boys hear about it when I beat them.”
It’s not just limited to the ice. Dewar wants to win when the team goes bowling, when the team plays softball and when the team goes paintballing as it did last week.
“He’s got a determination that no matter what he’s doing he wants to be on top,” head coach Dennis Williams said. “We got him cracking a few jokes and smiles out there. They don’t come too often, so just the fact that you saw it means it was one of those lucky days.”
Dewar has been a revelation for the Tips this season. Now in his third season, Dewar has found a home on Everett’s second line and is second on the team in goals (27) and fourth in points (48).
His success is a big reason why Everett heads into tonight’s 7 p.m. game at Portland with a five-point lead over the Winterhawks for the top spot in the U.S. Division.
‘A small circle’
Dewar’s public stoicism belies both his on-ice hard work and his off-ice private persona. He willingly signs autographs and interacts with fans, and chats with media members, but Dewar remains most comfortable on the ice and inside the Tips dressing room.
“I think I’m kind of a ‘small circle kind of guy,’ Dewar said. “I don’t open up to a lot of people. But once I’m comfortable with them I’m a completely different person. People would probably say the same… With the boys, I trust all of them and I hope they trust me to do whatever it takes to have their back or whenever they need me.”
He is one of the most-respected members of this year’s team, not only for his on-ice production, but for his work ethic.
His teammates proved as much when they named him one of the alternate captains, a stunning honor for a third-year player in a league that allows players to play five seasons. There seems little reason to doubt he’ll be among the formal leaders for the remainder of his days in Everett.
“In the dressing room he tries to keep everyone light and always cracks jokes and keep it positive in the room,” said linemate Riley Sutter, who like Dewar is in his third season with the organization. “You need someone like that. But when the time comes he’s serious at games and practice, and he’s obviously one of our hardest workers on the team.”
To be the hardest worker on a hockey team is no small feat. It’s a physical game and the WHL is a demanding league. Yet Dewar never seems to take a break or get tired.
Silvertips broadcaster Mike Benton dubbed Dewar “The Pitbull” last season and the name has stuck. Williams called him the “Energizer Bunny” after Sunday’s 6-5 win and likened Dewar’s tenacity to that of another canine on Tuesday.
“I’m so amazed by his compete (level) night-in and night-out,” Williams said. “Not the overly biggest guy, but he plays like he’s 6-2 and 210 pounds. He will go in the corner with anybody, and I always say he’s a player that if you get the puck from him, you better start moving because he’s coming after it again. He’s not going to quit on a play and (is) a little bit of a hound dog.”
Indeed, Dewar stands just 5-foot-10 and weighs in at 170 pounds. It’s his recognition of his smaller stature that helped him transform his game as a 15-year-old playing midget hockey for the Parkland Rangers back home in Manitoba.
He wasn’t playing as much as he would like and wasn’t putting up points like he was the previous season at the bantam level.
“Playing against bigger, older guys I knew that I’d have to change the way I played as a smaller guy to be able to win battles and be a competitive player,” Dewar said. “In bantam you can rely more on your skill and skating, but every level you move up it gets tighter and tighter and everyone is better and better. I found that I had to add something to my game, and I found the hitting and competing is a big part of it.”
It worked. Dewar played in all 72 games as a 16-year-old rookie in 2015-16 and missed just one game in his first two seasons. He missed four earlier this season, meaning he has played in 190 of a 195 possible regular-season games in his Silvertips career.
Going to the tough areas
Hockey coaches preach the concept of “going to the tough areas” where goals are scored and “paying the price” for doing so.
That often involved crashing the net and setting screens in front of the opposing goaltender, with little regard for the physical pain that could ensue. That’s something Dewar has never shied away from during his tenure in Everett.
“He’s not an outside-the-dot type of hockey player, and he goes to those tough spots,” Williams said. “It takes a certain individual and a certain type of mindset to go to that area and I think he gets rewarded.”
Such was the case Sunday when Dewar slammed home the game-tying goal during a net-front skirmish with less than a minute to play. He then went on to score the game-winner in overtime off a two-on-one rush in Everett’s dramatic 6-5 win over the Spokane Chiefs.
Dewar’s two-goal effort Sunday is a continuation of a hot streak during a current 10-game point streak during which he’s scored 13 goals with six assists.
“I always found that this league is kind of streaky,” Dewar said. “Everyone gets cold for a bit, but then everyone heats up for a while.”
The player who fed Dewar the puck for Sunday’s game-winner? None other than Wylie, as the Everett native gave up his chance for a hat trick to set up Dewar’s tap-in for the victory.
On Sunday they both smiled.
For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter.