Rookie goaltender Hart has played big role for Silvertips

EVERETT — In their efforts to raise their first banner in eight years, the Everett Silvertips have placed an awful lot of faith in a 16-year-old rookie.

Carter Hart has received the call to carry the load in goal for Everett down the stretch, and so far the young netminder has proven up to the task.

Hart, a native of Sherwood Park, Alberta, who was an eighth-round pick in the 2013 bantam draft, spent much of the season backing up veteran Austin Lotz. But he’s been asked to step up during the most important part of the season.

“He’s been good,” Everett coach Kevin Constantine said following Tuesday’s practice at Xfinity Arena. “During the first half of the season he had some really good games, but it wasn’t real consistent. The second half he’s been steady. There’s been more consistency to his performance.”

Everett is in a sprint to the finish for the WHL’s U.S. Division championship. The Tips hold a two-point lead over second-place Portland. Everett has three games remaining, while the Winterhawks have four. The Tips haven’t hung a banner since winning the U.S. Division, as well as the Scotty Munro Trophy for the league’s best record, in 2007. To end that drought Everett has to hold off Portland, winner of the past two division titles, which has gradually reeled the Tips back in.

With Portland inching ever closer to the Tips, Constantine has turned to his rookie goaltender. Hart has started each of Everett’s past six games, and the Tips are 4-1-0-1 over that stretch. He had a rough outing in Everett’s 6-1 home loss to Portland last Wednesday, being pulled in the second period after allowing four goals. However, he allowed just six goals total in the other five starts, including a victory over Western Conference leader Kelowna. Two weeks ago, he was recognized for his efforts by being named the Canadian Hockey League’s Goaltender of the Week.

That’s just an extension of what Hart has done the entire second half of the season. Since the beginning of the new year, Hart is 12-2-0-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .934 save percentage. The increased number of starts pushed Hart over the minutes threshold to qualify among the league leaders, and he now leads the league in goals-against average at 2.24 and is second in save percentage at .918.

“It’s been good,” Hart said about the increased workload. “Lotz has been supporting me the whole way, so he’s a great friend and a great guy for that. And the team is really playing well lately. The other day I had one shot in the first period (in Everett’s 3-1 home victory over Seattle on Saturday), which is pretty incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever faced that amount of shots in a period. I think our team defense has really stepped up the last few games.”

While Hart has carried the load down the stretch, Constantine stopped short of labeling Hart as his current No. 1 goaltender.

“He’s gotten more starts lately because he’s the goalie who’s been hot,” Constantine explained. “But we’ve never really had No. 1 or No. 2 all year. We’ve had two good goalies and a little bit of, ‘Who’s earned the net?’ is the guy who’s playing. That’s kind of how we’ve made decisions and we’ll continue to do that.”

However, if Hart is called upon to shoulder the load the final weekend and in the playoffs, he believes he’s ready.

“Yeah (I’m ready),” Hart responded. “I feel good going into the playoffs. The team supports me all the way, so it’ll be a good run.”

Slap shots

Portland plays its game in hand Wednesday night when the Winterhawks travel to face Spokane. Though there’s no formal team get-together to watch the game, the Tips will no doubt be doing some serious scoreboard watching. Portland played Spokane twice last weekend, falling 5-3 at Spokane on Friday and overcoming a 4-0 deficit to win 8-6 at home on Sunday. If Portland drops any points against Spokane, Everett will once again control its own destiny. … Everett’s top two picks from the 2014 bantam draft, defenseman Jantzen Leslie and winger Bryce Kindopp, have arrived in Everett and will remain with the team through the playoffs. They join two other prospects, 16-year-old defenseman Alex Astasiewicz and 16-year-old winger Spencer Gerth, in practicing with the Tips. Leslie, Kindopp and Astasiewicz have all signed WHL education contracts, meaning they’re eligible to play in games if called upon. Constantine said any of those three could get into a game, depending on injuries or whether the division title is no longer at stake.

Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at, and follow him on Twitter at @NickHPatterson.

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