The Everett Silvertips were running on fumes all weekend long, and on Sunday it finally caught up to them.
Everett split their two games over the weekend, winning 4-3 on the road against the Tri-City Americans on Friday before falling 6-3 at home against the Calgary Hitmen on Sunday. But the way both those games went was indicative of the short-handed lineup Everett was forced to field.
”I thought the weekend went pretty well considering our lack of bodies right now,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “We had what, eight or nine guys out after we lost two more Sunday? I appreciate the effort the guys gave and the work ethic they showed. But when the third period came around (Sunday) there was a two-minute stretch when Calgary scored three goals and we never really bounced back from that.”
Everett went into the weekend down six players as forwards Jackson Berezowski, Dominik Rymon and Beau Courtney and defensemen Aidan Sutter and Dexter Whittle were all out injured, while defenseman Tarin Smith was still representing Canada at the U-17 World Hockey Challenge. The Tips got Smith back for Sunday, but forward Andrew Petruk was added to the injury list, then Everett lost winger Oren Shtrom and defenseman Ty Gibson to injury in the second period against the Hitmen. By the end of Sunday’s game the Tips were down to 10 forwards and five defensemen, which is three fewer skaters than teams usually dress.
The shortage of bodies was reflected in how the games went. Friday night against Tri-City the Tips built a 4-0 lead early in the second period, but then had to hold on late to save the victory. Then against Calgary the Tips led 3-2 after two periods, but gave up four unanswered goals in the third.
”It’s real tough,” Williams said about playing that short. “Especially when you have guys moving up the lineup who haven’t played that many minutes in those positions. You have guys playing the power play and penalty kill who haven’t really had those looks. The back end is where it was really tough because Sutter, Whittle and Gibson are three of our top four defensemen. But that’s the game. We have to battle through, and it gives other guys the opportunity to step up and be evaluated in those positions.”
The injury issues aren’t expected to clear themselves up this week, either. Williams said maybe two of the injured players could return in time for this weekend’s games. He said the Tips (12-6-0-0, third place in the U.S. Division) may call up one or two affiliated players to help fill out the roster.
Three stars of the week
Third star: Vincent Lamanna. With so many players out injured the 19-year-old forward had to take on added responsibilities, and he scored a nice goal Sunday while playing in Berezowski’s usual spot in front of the net on the power play.
Second star: Ryan Hofer. The 20-year-old center was a constant presence in front of goal as he scored twice in the victory over Tri-City, including what proved to be the game winner.
First star: Ben Hemmerling. The 18-year-old winger totalled two goals and an assist. Hemmerling is known more for his ability to set up his teammates, but he’s beginning to show what he can do with his shot, too.
The week ahead
It doesn’t get any easier this week as the short-handed Tips hit the road to face the Western Conference’s top two teams.
First up is a game at Portland on Friday, the first of eight meetings between the two teams this season. The Winterhawks (13-1-1-1) have the conference’s best record, and Portland has built another offensive juggernaut as the Winterhawks lead the WHL with 4.7 goals per game. Twenty-year-old forward Robbie Fromm-Delorme (10 goals, 16 assists) and 19-year-old forward Gabe Klassen (14 goals, six assists) lead the way.
Then on Saturday Everett heads to Kent to take on Seattle. The Thunderbirds (12-3-1-0) thumped the Tips 11-3 during the first of their 10 meetings on Oct. 15 at Angel of the Winds Arena, a game in which the final score was more lopsided than the run of play suggested. The T-birds are loaded, with 18-year-old defenseman Kevin Korchinski (three goals, 18 assists) and 20-year-old forward Jared Davidson (eight goals, 15 assists) among Seattle’s many weapons.