EVERETT — Long bus rides together force teams to get closer. But as the Everett Silvertips found out, overcoming adversity is really what vitalizes a group.
Fresh off its annual Eastern Conference road trip, Everett is confident it accomplished that after winning four of six games against East Division opponents last week.
“When you talk about true team building, adversity is really where it’s built,” Silvertips assistant coach Harry Mahood said. “It isn’t going bowling or doing fun things like that. That allows you to socialize and get to know people better. … (head coach Dennis) Williams has put together a little challenge for the group to respond with emotional resiliency. And not every group does that. I think that has really happened and that’s when you know you’re moving in the right direction, when you get the proper response when you go through the hard times. And we had some hard times early in that trip in Brandon and we could have had a (poor) road trip, but we turned things around, went into Regina and built some momentum from there.”
The Silvertips dropped the opening game at Brandon, 5-3, on Oct. 19, but responded by winning four of their next five, even with captain Connor Dewar serving a four-game suspension.
Dewar’s absence forced other Everett players to step up. Mahood thought center Riley Sutter was at the forefront.
“In my opinion there for a few games, he was the best player in the country in those games that we played in Regina and Prince Albert and on to Saskatoon,” he said. “His role was elevated and he embraced the challenge.”
Dawson Butt, Luke Ormsby and Reece Vitelli were also players Mahood thought elevated their games.
The winning expedition through Saskatchewan and Manitoba catapulted Everett atop the U.S. Division with 20 points. So far, it’s the most contentious division in the Western Hockey League with the five teams separated by just five points.
The Silvertips believe even better things to come following their recent stretch.
“I thought, just as I expected, we came together and we learned a lot about our group and our character and resiliency against some tough teams and teams we don’t see very often,” Dewar said. “I thought we kind of put the league on notice on how good we’re going to be this year after having a good showing.”
Who’s in goal?
With goaltender Blake Lyda on the mend, Danton Belluk reassigned to his midget team and recently acquired backup goaltender Max Palaga still en route to Everett, Dustin Wolf is the only goaltender currently with the Silvertips.
But who do the Silvertips bring in to fill the other net in practice? His name is Mackenna Berti, a 16-year-old goaltender for the Everett Silvertips Elite 18U. The Monroe native is the emergency goaltender for practice and filled in a few times this season, with the first being earlier in the season when Dustin Wolf was at the USA Hockey All-American prospects game during the preseason.
“It’s amazing,” Berti said. “I’m so young and being able to go out with them and one of the best teams in the whole WHL, with Dustin Wolf being one of the best goalies now that Carter Hart is gone, it’s amazing.”
Berti spent last season with the Los Angeles Jr. Kings U15, the same program that produced Wolf, before Turner Stevenson brought him back to Everett to play in the Silvertips Elite program.
The goal for Berti, he says, is to make it to the Junior A level, whether it’s in the WHL or the British Columbia Hockey League. He’s played in four games with the Silvertips 18U team and owns a 2.43 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage, according to the North American Prospects Hockey League’s website.
Mahood, Mass filling in for Williams
With Williams off coaching Team Canada Black at the Under-17 Hockey Challenge in New Brunswick until Nov. 10, assistant coaches Mahood and Louis Mass are shouldering the coaching duties in his absence.