Silvertips continue positive response after deadline shake-up

Everett delivers another 2-1 week and remains firmly in the race for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Ben Hemmerling

Ben Hemmerling

Two weeks ago it was the Everett Silvertips’ top two offensive players who carried the team in the wake of a WHL trade deadline that saw the Tips deal away two of their top players. Last week it was the secondary scoring that did the heavy lifting. Put the two together and it’s been a positive reaction by the Tips to what was a traumatic trade deadline.

For the second straight week Everett went 2-1, with the loss coming against one of the Western Conference’s three heavyweights while the Tips beat everyone else. As a result, the Tips remain a legitimate contender for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, despite being sellers at the trade deadline.

“Since the trade deadline we’ve been gradually getting our details better,” Everett coach Dennis Williams said. “We’re 4-2 since the deadline, and the losses were to two good teams in Kamloops and Seattle. We’re going to make mistakes because of our youthfulness, but I like our progression.”

When Everett traded reigning WHL Defenseman of the Year Olen Zellweger and stud two-way center Ryan Hofer to Kamloops, it signaled a prioritization of the future over the present. But so far the Tips have reacted well to the deadline and kept themselves in the race for fourth place in the Western Conference, a position that gives a team home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

In the week immediately following the trade deadline it was the duo of Jackson Berezowski and Austin Roest who provided almost all the offense as Everett won two of three. But this week it was all about the secondary scoring as the Tips scored 11 goals in three games, with Berezowski and Roest involved in only one of them.

“(Getting secondary scoring) is more important than ever because teams can shut down one line no problem,” Williams said. “Deep teams like Seattle, Kamloops and Portland, they can shut down two lines because of their depth. That’s where the third line comes in. It was great to see guys garnering confidence and pitching in offensively, guys like Beau Courtney, Kyan Grouette, Caden Zaplitny, Raphael Pelletier finally getting his first goal (since arriving from Swift Current at the trade deadline). Hopefully that builds a snowball effect. The big thing now is making sure there’s consistency with it. That’s the hardest part of junior hockey, getting that consistent effort and execution night in and night out.”

The 2-1 week leaves Everett 22-20-1-0 and tied with Tri-City for fourth in the Western Conference, with the Americans having two games in hand. The Tips and Americans are three points ahead of Prince George and five ahead of Vancouver, both of which have played the same number of games as Everett.

Three stars of the week

Third star: Ty Gibson. The 19-year-old defenseman had a goal and four assists during Everett’s three games last week. That included a nice drop pass to set up the game-winning goal in last Wednesday’s 4-3 overtime victory against Lethbridge.

Second star: Courtney. The 18-year-old center was an under-the-radar key absence as, after a strong start to the season, he missed two months because of injury. He appears to be back in the swing now after racking up three goals and an assist last week.

First star: Ben Hemmerling. The 18-year-old winger was out injured the week following the trade deadline, and it quickly became apparent that the Tips needed him back as another source of offense. Well, Hemmerling returned last week and announced himself in a big way, putting up four points against Lethbridge, including scoring the overtime winner. He finished with three goals and three assists in the three games.

The week ahead

Everett has a busy three-in-three weekend coming up. It’s the team’s first three-in-three since October, but the first of two consecutive weekends consisting of three games.

The weekend begins and ends with crunch games against Tri-City, with Friday’s game in Kennewick and Sunday’s in Everett. The Americans (20-16-4-1) are on a roll, as they haven’t lost in regulation in their last eight games to surge into a tie for fourth in the conference with Everett. The Tips have won four of six against Tri-City this season, including a 3-2 overtime victory when the teams last met on Jan. 14 in Everett. Nineteen-year-old forward Parker Bell (21 goals, 29 assists) has been a thorn in Everett’s side with five goals against the Tips this season.

In between Everett hosts Central Division foe Swift Current. The Broncos (22-18-0-2) are part of a four-way battle for the last two playoff spots in the Eastern Conference. Eighteen-year-old forward Mathew Ward (18 goals, 33 assists) is Swift Current’s leading scorer, while 18-year-old defenseman Owen Pickering (six goals, 20 assists) was a first-round pick by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2022 NHL draft.

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