The past weekend was the Everett Silvertips’ chance to see how they stacked up against the best the WHL’s Western Conference has to offer. Even though the Tips only earned a single point, Everett coach Dennis Williams came away more encouraged about his team’s ability to compete.
The short-handed Tips dropped both their games over the weekend, losing 4-1 at Portland on Friday and 2-1 in overtime at Seattle on Saturday. But given the difficulty of the task — Portland and Seattle have by far the two best records in the conference — and given how short-handed Everett was for both games — the Tips had eight players out injured, including two of their three overagers — Williams had nothing but praise for his team.
“I thought the weekend went really well,” Williams said. “The effort was impeccable. I told our leaders that if we get that kind of effort every night when we’re back at full strength, it’s going to be really positive.”
Everett’s injury issues meant that when Tips hit the road to face two teams in the the top six of the CHL rankings, they were minus three of their top four defensemen and four top-nine forwards. Everett was forced to field all three of its call-up players in both games, including forward Julien Maze who is still 14. Yet the Tips managed to hold their own in both games, only being outshot 36-28 against Portland and 30-22 against Seattle.
The way the games unfolded gives Williams confidence that Everett (12-7-1-0) can compete with Portland and Seattle once the Tips get their injured players back.
“Those teams are good, no doubt about it,” Williams said. “But we’re a good team, too. When we play with a full lineup nothing will change, we’ll have (to) manage pucks smartly, stay out of (the) box and play a 200-foot game. I look forward to it. I’m not saying we will win them, but it will put us in a position that if we continue to have that work ethic and attention to detail, it will give us a good opportunity as we move forward.”
Williams also had positive reviews for Maze and fellow call-up forward Carter Bear. Maze, Everett’s first-round pick from the 2022 prospects draft, and Bear, a sixth-rounder from 2021, are perhaps the Tips’ two best prospects. They made their WHL debuts against Portland, and Williams said they held up well during their limited minutes over the weekend.
“They did great,” Williams said. “They showed a lot of poise. When I think back to being 14 or 15, I couldn’t imagine being in that type of environment. They didn’t play a ton of minutes, but when we put them out there they did well. I think it was important that both got to experience what it was like playing in those types of games.”
Maze, Bear and call-up defenseman Logan Greenough remain with the team this week and will stick around until Everett gets some players back. Williams said he’s hoping to get a few back by the weekend.
Three stars of the week
Third star: Olen Zellweger. The 19-year-old defenseman was the only player who was in on both of Everett’s goals over the weekend, as he scored on a backhander against Portland and registered an assist against Seattle.
Second star: Roan Woodward. The 17-year-old winger scored Everett’s lone goal against Seattle while driving the net on the power play, and he got himself into dangerous positions frequently while playing a greater role with others out injured.
First star: Braden Holt. The 19-year-old goaltender started both games for Everett, and although he allowed five goals and his save percentage was a modest .909, he made several big stops in both games to keep the Tips close.
The week ahead
Everett plays three games this week on an every-other-day basis.
It begins Wednesday with a home game against Portland, the second meeting between the teams in five days and second of eight between the two this season. The Winterhawks (16-1-1-1), in first place in the Western Conference, are led by 20-year-old forward Robbie Fromm-Delorme (11 goals, 19 assists) and 18-year-old defenseman Luca Cagnoni (eight goals, 11 assists).
The Tips play at home again on Friday against the Kelowna Rockets, the second of four meetings between the teams this season with Everett winning 5-4 when the teams last met on Oct. 14. Kelowna (8-8-1-0) is seeing a big breakout season from 17-year-old forward Andrew Kristall (15 goals, 20 assists), who ranks third in the league in scoring.
Finally, Everett wraps up the week with a game at Spokane on Sunday, the second of eight games between the teams with the Tips winning 7-3 on Oct. 16. The Chiefs (4-13-0-1) waived the white flag on the season when they traded their top defenseman and No. 1 goaltender to Winnipeg in separate deals. Spokane is led by 19-year-old forward Chase Bertholet (seven goals, 16 assists).
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