The Silvertips’ Cole Fonstad (42) races for a rebound with Chiefs’ Jordan Chudley and Adam Beckman giving chase on March 20 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

The Silvertips’ Cole Fonstad (42) races for a rebound with Chiefs’ Jordan Chudley and Adam Beckman giving chase on March 20 at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Midseason update: A look at the first-place Silvertips

An update on key players and other notable tidbits from the first half of Everett’s abbreviated season.

After being sidelined for more than a full calendar year because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Everett Silvertips returned to the ice last month.

Since then, they’ve been busy racking up victories during a dominant first half of their abbreviated season.

The Silvertips are off to an 11-3 start to their 24-game slate, which consists exclusively of games against the Western Hockey League’s other four U.S. Division teams. Everett has 22 points through 14 games and holds a seven-point lead atop the division over second-place Portland.

The WHL announced earlier this week that it won’t hold a postseason, which means the U.S. Division title is the ultimate prize the Tips are playing for.

The Silvertips have been dominant both offensively and defensively, netting 54 goals and allowing just 28. They have a plus-26 goal differential, while each of their four division foes have negative goal differentials.

With strong play on both sides of the ice and the star goalkeeping of Dustin Wolf, Everett earned its first 5-0 start in franchise history and won nine of its first 10 games. Then after a two-game losing skid, the Tips got back on track with back-to-back victories last Friday and Sunday to build a commanding division lead.

With the Silvertips just past the halfway point of their season, here’s an update of some of their key players and a few other notable tidbits:

THREE STARS

Dustin Wolf

The reigning Canadian Hockey League goaltender of the year is having another spectacular season. Wolf, who signed a National Hockey League entry-level contract with the Calgary Flames last year, has allowed just 23 goals in 13 games. His 1.83 goals-against average ranks third in the WHL and his .939 save percentage ranks second, among goalies who have played at least 400 minutes. Wolf opened the season with three consecutive shutouts and didn’t allow his first goal until past the midway mark of the Silvertips’ fourth game. In doing so, he set a new franchise goaltending record for the longest scoreless streak at 216 minutes, 27 seconds. The 2001-born Southern California native has 23 shutouts over the course of his WHL career with Everett, which ranks third all-time in league history. The WHL record is 26 career shutouts, held by former Silvertips goaltender Carter Hart (now a member of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers) and former Vancouver netminder Tyson Sexsmith.

Cole Fonstad

This is a monumental season for Fonstad. The 2000-born left winger from Saskatchewan was selected by Montreal in the 2018 NHL draft, but the Canadiens didn’t ink him within the two-year signing window. So as a 20-year-old still in pursuit of an NHL entry-level contract, this is his last chance to showcase his abilities in the WHL. So far, he’s certainly made the most of it. Fonstad leads the U.S. Division with 22 points. He has 10 goals, which is tied for the division lead. And he has 12 assists, which is tied for second-most in the division. Fonstad notched a pair of three-assist games and has recorded a point in all but two games. He also provided one of the Silvertips’ most dramatic moments of the season, when he fired home a one-timer for the game-winning goal to beat Portland in overtime on March 26.

Gage Goncalves

It’s been quite a rise for Goncalves. In a span of just three years, the 2001-born center went from being an undrafted Silvertips training camp invite to earning an NHL entry-level contract with the defending Stanley Cup champions. After being invited to Everett’s 2016 and 2017 training camps, Goncalves signed with the Tips in January of 2018. He carved out a role in Everett’s lineup during the 2018-19 season and then exploded onto the scene last season, helping spearhead the Tips’ attack with 33 goals and 38 assists in 60 games. He then was selected by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round of last year’s NHL draft and signed with the franchise in December. And this spring, the Mission, British Columbia, native has compiled another strong season. He has 19 points, which ranks second in the U.S. Division behind Fonstad. He is tied for the division lead with 10 goals and also has nine assists. Goncalves has recorded a pair of four-point games, including his first career hat trick in a March 28 win over Tri-City. He also netted the game-winning goal late in regulation of the Tips’ win over Seattle on April 9.

OTHER NOTABLE CONTRIBUTORS

Gianni Fairbrother

Fairbrother, a 2000-born defenseman who recently signed an NHL entry-level contract with the Montreal Canadiens, leads the U.S. Division with 13 assists. The North Vancouver, British Columbia, native has provided a pair of three-assist games.

Olen Zellweger

Zellweger, a 2003-born defenseman from Alberta, provided 11 assists in 11 games with the Silvertips before undergoing a mandatory self-isolation period to compete for Team Canada in the upcoming under-18 world championships.

Jackson Berezowski

Berezowski has been a key part of the Silvertips’ attack, providing three goals and 10 assists. The 2002-born right winger from Saskatchewan has recorded at least one point in all but three of Everett’s games.

Ethan Regnier

Regnier is another 20-year-old in pursuit of an NHL entry-level contract. The 2000-born right winger from Saskatchewan has six goals and five assists, highlighted by his first career hat trick in the Silvertips’ win over Portland on Sunday.

Jacob Wright

Wright has already surpassed his point total from last season, with five goals and five assists. The 2002-born center from Langley, British Columbia, has three game-winning goals, which is tied for fourth-most in the WHL.

Ronan Seeley

Seeley, a 2002-born defenseman from Alberta and a seventh-round pick by the Carolina Hurricanes in last year’s NHL draft, has provided two goals and six assists while helping anchor the Silvertips’ stout defense.

MOST DRAMATIC WIN

The Silvertips rallied from three separate two-goal deficits to earn a 6-4 comeback victory over Portland on April 6. With the Tips trailing 4-2 in the final minutes of the second period, Jacob Wright deflected a feed from Gianni Fairbrother into the back of the net to make it a one-goal game. That remained the score until late in the third period, when Everett netted two goals in just over two minutes to surge in front. Hunter Campbell tied the game on a putback with 5:11 to play and 16-year-old Ben Hemmerling fired home a one-timer for the go-ahead goal with 3:08 remaining. Jackson Berezowski then sealed the dramatic win with an empty-net goal in the final minute.

PENALTY KILLERS

The Silvertips have allowed just three goals on 38 opponent power plays, which is good for a WHL-best 92.1 penalty-kill percentage.

LOOKING AHEAD

After a three-day stretch without games, the Silvertips return to the ice for back-to-back road matchups against Spokane on Thursday and Friday.

Everett also was scheduled to play Saturday against Tri-City, but that game has been postponed because of a positive COVID-19 test among one of the Americans’ players.

Including the postponed contest, the Silvertips have 10 games remaining. Their season finale is slated for May 8.

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