Silvertips’ Carter Bear (11) reacts to a goal during a game against the Tri-City Americans on Sunday at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Silvertips’ Carter Bear (11) reacts to a goal during a game against the Tri-City Americans on Sunday at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Patterson: Red-hot Silvertips are feeling the positive vibes

Everett’s recent run of success has the team looking like its ready to contend atop the Western Conference.

EVERETT — There was a party going on at Angel of the Winds Arena on Sunday evening.

The Everett Silvertips had just beaten the Tri-City Americans 3-2 for their seventh straight victory, and the celebrations were in full flow. Lincoln, the team’s bear mascot, stood on top of the dasher in front of Everett’s bench, enthusiastically waving his Silvertips flag. The crowd of 5,283 eagerly joined in as the Tips’ unofficial victory song, the late Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend,” blared over the public address system. Everett co-captain Austin Roest leaped through a tunnel of teammates before bounding to the locker room, while overagers Tyler Palmer and Teague Patton left the ice last with a triple low-five followed by a leaping hip bump.

Yep, the Tips are feeling the vibes, and Everett’s wave of positivity suggests the WHL’s Western Conference may not be just a two-team race.

“You can hear the music going,” Everett’s other co-captain, Ben Hemmerling, said while nodding toward the power beats coming from the Tips’ locker room. “Everyone’s pretty tight knit in there and it’s showing on the ice.”

Everett is in the midst of its best stretch of the season. Not only have the Tips won their past seven games, they’ve done it in style by putting big numbers on the scoreboard. During the seven-game winning streak Everett has outshot its opponent by more than 20 shots per game (45.1-23.6), and Sunday was the first time the Tips scored fewer than four goals in a game since Christmas. The most even game on the shot clock during the streak was Friday in Spokane, when Everett outshot the Chiefs by a slender 34-31 margin — and won the game 11-1.

And the Tips are doing it despite standing relatively pat at the Jan. 10 trade deadline. While other contenders made big splashes to load up for a championship run, Everett’s only move came in December when the Tips added defenseman Parker Berge as an overager upgrade.

So while presumptive Western Conference favorites Portland and Prince George took the WHL spotlight over the weekend, splitting a pair of games in PG in what many billed as a preview of the Western Conference championship series, Everett quietly crept closer in the winning-percentage standings.

“(We’re feeling) awesome,” Roest said. “We’re really happy. We’re trying to stay even keeled, not get too high or get too low, especially during games. But we’re obviously happy with the outcomes so far.”

Silvertips players celebrate during a game between against the Tri-City Americans on Sunday at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Silvertips players celebrate during a game between against the Tri-City Americans on Sunday at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

A big factor in the recent success is that Everett is healthy for the first time in nearly two years. The Tips spent most of the first half of the season treading water while as many as seven players were on the injury report. But center Cade Zaplitny’s return Sunday after missing three months because of an upper-body injury meant Everett was fully healthy up front. Adding the likes of Zaplitny and winger Caden Brown back to the lineup after long-term injuries is arguably as good as any trade acquisition the Tips could have made.

“The additions we made were guys we already knew about, having guys coming back from being injured,” Everett general manager/coach Dennis Williams concurred. “Tonight we got Zaplitny back, and just bringing him back in the lineup gave us energy — I think more energy and excitement than any player would have brought in if we had traded for someone because the guys have been with Zapper for the last two years. They’re excited he’s back.”

Even having Dexter Whittle back with the team is adding to the positive atmosphere. The defenseman had been home recovering in Virden, Manitoba, after being rammed head-first into the boards by Victoria’s Alex Edwards in the season opener, a hit that resulted in a 25-game suspension for Edwards. But Whittle is back in Everett, and while it’s still unknown when he may be able to play again, his presence alone is serving as another mood elevator.

Are the vibes enough to compete with Portland and Prince George? By winning percentage Everett (.663) is still a step below Portland (.702) and Prince George (.693). But the recent results and positive mood have the Tips believing they belong in the conference’s top tier with the Winterhawks and Cougars.

“I think we do,” Hemmerling said. “Everyone can say what they want, but we know in that room that we’re just as good as any team in this league, and I think we’re real contenders this year.”

Silvertips’ Teague Patton (29) fights for the puck during a game against the Tri-City Americans on Sunday at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Silvertips’ Teague Patton (29) fights for the puck during a game against the Tri-City Americans on Sunday at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Three stars of the week

Third star: Beau Courtney. The 19-year-old center posted a goal and an assist in each of Everett’s two victories. His short-handed tally less than two minutes into Sunday’s game got the ball rolling for the Tips.

Second star: Dominik Rymon. The 19-year-old winger had two goals and three assists across the two games, and he could have had more if he wasn’t robbed twice by Tri-City goaltender Kyle Kelsey on breakaways.

First star: Hemmerling. The 19-year-old winger had two goals, three assists and was a plus-7 in the two games. Everett’s leading scorer is playing his best hockey, with six goals and nine assists during the current seven-game winning streak.

The week ahead

It’s another two-game week for Everett as the Tips play once on a weeknight and once on the weekend.

It begins with a game at Kelowna on Wednesday. The Rockets (21-20-2-0) currently occupy third place in the B.C. Division and sixth place in the Western Conference, meaning that based on winning percentage these teams would be first-round playoff opponents if the season ended today. Everett won the only meeting between the two teams so far this season, prevailing 2-1 at home on Nov. 10. Kelowna features one of the league’s top offensive threats in 18-year-old forward Andrew Cristall (27 goals, 46 assists), who is capably supported by 20-year-old forward Gabriel Szturc (21 goals, 35 assists).

The week concludes with a game against Seattle in Kent on Saturday. The Thunderbirds (14-23-2-0) are the defending WHL champions, but they’re mired in last place in the U.S. Division, and they didn’t sell at the trade deadline as expected. Nineteen-year-old forward Nico Myatovic (three goals, four assists in seven games) is back after missing more than three months because of a lower-body injury, while 20-year-old defenseman Jeremy Hanzel (10 goals, 30 assists) remains Seattle’s triggerman from the blue line.

Follow Nick Patterson on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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