EVERETT — All but four of the 25 players currently on the Everett Silvertips roster hail from Canada, so head coach Kevin Constantine, a Minnesota native, likes to impart a little American history to his foreign-born charges.
To do so, Constantine draws on Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones to inspire the ‘warrior’ mentality he and the coaching staff desire for the physicality of hockey.
It was Jones who famously penned, “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast for I intend to go in harm’s way.”
“Harm’s way” in the Tips vernacular means going to the rink’s “hard areas” — namely the middle of the rink and the front of the net — because that’s where the goals are scored.
“The core of the game still is a battle — it’s a physical battle,” Constantine said. “It’s mini one-on-one competitions all over the rink. That’s the foundation, so being a warrior is first and foremost. To create anything offensively you have to go to the hard areas. … To do that you’re also going to face defensive pressure and checking.”
Hockey shares many physical characteristics with football, the sport most frequently associated with war imagery in the United States.
That fact isn’t lost on Constantine.
“It’s no different than being a receiver in football,” Constantine said. “You’re going up for the ball and you’re going to get hit before you come down with it. And if you can’t conquer that and you’re not willing to put yourself in harm’s way as a receiver you’re going to drop a lot of balls. It’s the same in hockey.”
Wednesday in Kelowna it was captain Dawson Leedahl who went into harm’s way by crashing the net and putting a rebound of a missed shot past Rockets goaltender Jackson Whistle for a 2-1 victory over the defending WHL champions.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak for the Silvertips and a nine-game home winning streak for the Rockets.
“We played really hard (Wednesday) night — it was one of the harder games we’ve played,” Leedahl said. “We were ferocious in getting all the pucks and in hitting guys.”
Wednesday the Silvertips assaulted the Kelowna defenders with a barrage of 35 shots, 20 of which came in a scoreless third period that necessitated the ensuing overtime.
Unlike the previous two contests, both losses to Vancouver, the Tips improved as the game progressed following a five-shot opening period.
“(The coaches) pointed out that our last two second periods had been really poor, so we wanted to prove that we could play in the second period,” Leedahl said. “And we tired them out because they didn’t have many bodies.”
The Rockets dressed just 17 skaters as they are without three players who are competing at the World Junior Championships and two who were suspended.
“You put those five players back on the ice and they score more goals so we have to keep that in perspective,” Constantine said. “(That is) taking nothing away from the fact I liked how we worked (Wednesday) night, so that was good. But they’re missing some key guys.”
Riley Stadel will return from suspension for the Rockets when the teams square off again Friday at a special start time of 2 p.m. at Xfinity Arena.
The Silvertips (20-12-0-2, 42 points) remain a point back of Seattle in the U.S. Division standings and have a game in hand of the Thunderbirds. Everett concludes a difficult four-game week at Kamloops on Saturday.
For latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter @jessegeleynse.