Overagers Bauml, Betker and Low aided Silvertips’ turnaround

EVERETT — It’s been a long time since the Everett Silvertips had a trio of overagers whose junior hockey careers were so tightly tied to Everett.

Kohl Bauml, Ben Betker and Brayden Low combined for 10 seasons in Everett, playing 655 of their 661 career WHL games in Silvertips green. There’s no question that when their junior careers are remembered, all three will be identified as Everett Silvertips.

They’ll also be remembered for their roles in turning the franchise’s fortunes around. When they arrived Everett was at a low point, in the midst of finishing eighth out of 10 teams in the Western Conference for three straight seasons. They played their part in Everett’s return to relevance, and they served as the captaincy group this season as the Tips ended a pair of lengthy droughts by winning the U.S. Division championship and advancing past the first round of the playoffs.

“I thought it was as good a group of captains as we’ve had, and we’ve had good captains,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said. “I’m not in any way trying to diminish any of the previous captains, but I thought these guys did a really good job. Our leadership group was very strong this year and I think it helped us overachieve.”

Kohl Bauml, center

No one experienced the change in fortunes in the Silvertips organization more than Bauml. In his four years the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native saw a revolving door of players, coaches and general managers. His first half-season, in 2011-12, may have been the worst three-month period in franchise history.

But his reward for sticking it out was captaining the team that hung the first banner at Xfinity Arena in eight years.

“It’s something nice,” Bauml said. “Being able to say you were part of the teams that put the Silvertips back in contention for championships, that’s something I’m very proud of personally and proud of our teams. We started out pretty rough, my first year we had six wins going home at Christmas time and I was kind of like, ‘What am I getting myself into here?’ Now finishing off with 43 wins was a complete 180 over the four years. It was awesome to be a part of it.”

Bauml proved it was possible for a little guy to succeed in the WHL. Generously listed at 5-foot-9, Bauml finished among Everett’s career leaders in several categories as he’s ranked fifth in franchise history in games played (273) and goals (79) and sixth in points (163). He saved the best for last, tallying 30 goals and 30 assists in 71 games this season and being named the team’s Most Valuable Player. He accomplished it despite playing the final month of the season with a shoulder injury that was kept quiet.

“It was a blast,” Bauml said of his four seasons in Everett. “It’s my second home, a lot of my time and maturing years were spent here. I’ve met a lot of great people and made a lot of friends who I will keep in contact with for a long time. It’s been something I wouldn’t trade for the world, it’s just been an amazing experience for four years.”

Bauml said he was uncertain about his future with regards to hockey. He said he might make some inquiries into playing professionally next season, but that he would be satisfied with playing collegiately in Canada next season. In the meantime, he’s looking forward to a summer of rest and relaxation.

Ben Betker, defenseman

Betker was Everett’s workhorse. The big 6-foot-6 defenseman from Cranbrook, B.C., played heavy minutes on the Tips’ blue line, regularly being asked to match up against the opposition’s top offensive threats.

He’s also a player who made big strides during his three seasons with the Tips. He was originally acquired in May of 2012 as part of the trade that sent the rights to Seth Jones to Portland, and he went from being a project player to being a legitimate professional prospect. He was selected in the sixth round of the 2013 NHL draft by the Edmonton Oilers, and he signed an entry-level contract with the Oilers last month.

“This season kind of tops them all,” Betker said. “Each year the group has gotten closer and closer. It’s going to be tough leaving, we have a good core group of guys between the three 20s, a lot of the 19-year-olds and even a couple of the 18-year-olds, we’ve all been in the same boat the past three years. It will be tough to say bye to some of these guys.”

Betker finished his Everett career with 14 goals 44 assists and 265 penalty minutes in 200 games. He was strictly a stay-at-home defenseman his first two seasons, but he got more involved offensively this season, notching more than half his career points (31) in 64 games. This season he was voted the best stay-at-home defenseman in the Tri-City Herald’s annual Best of the West poll. His development as a player was key to Everett’s progress the past three seasons.

“It’s been a cool feeling, to know you’re a part of that and played a role in that,” Betker said about the franchise’s turnaround. “Being a leader I learned a lot about what it takes to win games and make sure guys are going the right direction. It was a lot of fun and I’ll miss it.”

Betker left Wednesday to begin his professional career, joining the Oklahoma City Barons, Edmonton’s American Hockey League affiliate, for their playoff run.

“I don’t expect to play,” Betker said “I’ll be ready if they do need me. But I’ll just be happy to be there and check it out, see what it’s like and get a feel for it.”

Brayden Low, winger

Low was Everett’s version of the Little Engine That Could. The power forward from Richmond, B.C., was plucked off the scrap heap midway through the 2012-13 season strictly to fill in for injuries, with no guarantee he would finish the season with the Tips. He never came to training camp as part of Everett’s plans, but he earned his way onto the team each of the past two seasons.

Then he became the player who produced a seminal moment in franchise history, scoring the goal in triple overtime that ended Everett’s first-round playoff series against Spokane, giving the Tips their first playoff series victory since 2007.

“We accomplished a lot, especially in the quick turnaround the past two years, from being a doormat to being the U.S. Division champion,” Low said. “It’s pretty cool.

“(The three years) were great,” Low added. “It’s hard to describe, you can’t really put it into one sentence. Every year we progressed and got better and better. Just to be a part of it, along for the ride, to grow with the core group of guys that has been here the past three years, it’s been unbelievable.”

Low finished with 26 goals, 32 assists and 187 penalty minutes in 182 games with the Tips. This season he had 16 goals and 16 assists in 70 contests.

“I think about it every day,” Low said about his three seasons in Everett.” The one thing that comes to mind is how fast it goes. You’re 18 and you’re young, you’re 19 and you’re old, then you’re 20 and you’re really old. I’m sad to see it come to an end, it’s been the best three years of my life.”

Low wants to continue playing hockey. He’s hoping to catch on with a professional team next season.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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