Night after night, what you see is what you get with Everett Silvertips forward Martin Fasko-Rudas.
That’s why the 2000-born import forward is the least of Everett head coach Dennis Williams’ problems.
“You know what you’re going to get with him,” Williams said. “You’re going to get an honest effort. You’re going to get a great compete level, great effort.”
Lately Fasko-Rudas has been rewarded for his effort — he has recorded five points (four goals and an assist) in his last five games.
“A lot of the goals he scores, it’s him doing it,” Williams said. “(Wednesday’s) game, he got in the forecheck, was able to roll out and score the goal. The one in Portland, (it was) a goalie forecheck (and) wraparound. A lot of it is hard work.
“Everyone wants to score goals. Defensemen want to score goals. Everybody wants to score goals. That’s the fun part. But I think he’s been rewarded because he does take care of the defensive side first, and he doesn’t jeopardize that. Offensively he’s starting to play with more confidence. He’s another guy that, if you watch him, hangs around the net. He’s always in the paint. … If you live in the paint area you’re going to get rewarded.”
Fasko-Rudas’ relentless approach earned him plenty of ice time in the playoffs during the Silvertips’ run to Western Hockey League Finals last year, his first season with Everett after being selected by the Silvertips in the Canadian Hockey League Import Draft.
This season he’s earned plenty of shifts with Everett’s top-six forward group. Sometimes with a player like Fasko-Rudas, whose success is predicated on hustle and heart, Williams said it doesn’t behoove him to move up in the lineup because there is a self-inflicted pressure to produce at a higher level or score flashy goals. That’s not the case for Fasko-Rudas, as Williams says he worries little about putting him with skilled forwards like Riley Sutter and Connor Dewar.
“I think (the pressure) is just natural. You get your shot on that line and you’re probably thinking, ‘OK, I got the chance to get two points’ or something,” Williams said. “What normally happens when you move up in those lines, I tell the guys: ‘Don’t change the way you’re playing because you’re been moved up or because of what you’re doing.’ Sometimes what happens is they think they need to change their game and they want to be someone you’re not, but sometimes you get maneuvered up because what you can bring to that line. But Fasko is a mature hockey player. Last year (he) obviously played a lot of minutes for us, and we rely on him quite heavily. To see him pot a couple is really nice.”
In addition, Silvertips 17-year-old center Reece Vitelli has seen his stick heat up in recent games, totaling three points (a goal and two assists) over the last two games; and 19-year-old forward Luke Ormsby scored his second goal of the season in Everett’ss 5-3 win at Portland on Sunday.
“It’s what we need,” Williams said. “(There’s no) pressure for them to score; they don’t need that. But they’re playing the game right. They’re playing it hard, and I think when you do that, you get rewarded. I think both of those guys were a little snakebit in the beginning part of the year, and that drags on you as a player; you’re gripping the stick harder. But they’ve stuck to the game plan and they’ve stuck to the process. They just play an honest game, and it’s nice to see them get rewarded for their hard play.”
November has brought a more balanced scoring approach for Everett. Thirteen different Silvertips have recorded five or more points in November as opposed to just nine in October, and nine different Everett players tallied three or more goals in November as opposed to just five in October.
Took a look at the @WHLsilvertips' scoring breakdown from November compared to October.
— Josh Horton (@JoshHortonEDH) November 29, 2018
Everett hasn’t scored on its last 16 power-play opportunities and is 2-for-29 with the man advantage (a 6.9 percent clip) over its last six games. Fortunately for the Silvertips, their floundering power play hasn’t resulted in a bevy of lopsided losses. In fact there has just been just one loss for Everett during that span thanks to stellar play at even strength.
“It’s nothing we’re worried about,” Williams said. “It’s not from a lack of effort. It’s nice that we’re finding other ways to win without the power play being where we need it to be, because at the end of the day special teams is a huge factor and any team’s wins or losses.”
One thing to consider, according to Williams, is the penalty kill of a recent and frequent opponent in Portland, which has faced the Silvertips four times in their last eight games. The Winterhawks boast the fourth best penalty kill in the league at 84.1 percent — Everett is third at 84.9 percent — and didn’t allow the Silvertips to score on the power play in the two teams’ last three meetings.
“I think that when you look sometimes, playing a good penalty killing unit like that, it gets a guys a little bit frustrating when things aren’t going your way and guys start taking it on themselves instead of just sticking to the game plan,” Williams said.
The Silvertips’ first power-play unit has steadily consisted of Dewar, Sutter, Wyatte Wylie, Bryce Kindopp and Jake Christiansen, and Williams said he doesn’t forsee any major changes. Occasionally Wylie or Christiansen might be swapped for Artyom Minulin, but Williams said sometimes the best way to rectify an ailing power-play unit is to let it work itself out.
“It gets magnified, and the kids feel it. They feel the pressure,” Williams said. “It’s important for us to deflect it, and you know how you get out of it? It’s probably going to be a really ugly goal. It’s not going to be an ESPN top 10 (goal), but then it starts rolling. I think it’s important for us to stay status quo and we’ll keep tweaking to get different looks. But we have to be careful to move too many guys around because I think that hits the panic button, too, because you sometimes have to let some of those guys work their way out of it.”
The Silvertips are fresh off American Thanksgiving and scorching hot. Everett is 10-2-0-1 in 13 games in November and remain atop the Western Conference standings with 41 points.
They’ve won in a variety of ways (for example, their 2-1 grudge match victory against Kelowna last Saturday and their 6-5 barnburner victory against Vancouver on Nov. 17), which is both “a good and a bad thing,” Williams said. But Everett will relish the experience of winning different styles of fights while banking important points.
“We’ve found a way to win hockey games — sometimes ones that we don’t deserve to win, but we score at the right time or the right moment,” Williams said.
Everett’s 4-1 win over Portland on Wednesday is a great example of a game Williams might say the Silvertips didn’t deserve to win, as he called their first period against the Winterhawks “probably the worst period we’ve played in a month.”
Yet Everett rebounded and trounced its U.S. Division rival on home ice.
“We just didn’t have it, and that’s just something you expect in junior hockey because you’re dealing with 15-to-20 year-olds and they aren’t always able to put together a full 60-minute game,” Williams said. “But what I was real happy with is just our response in the second and third (periods). We were able to get those two points.”
Next up for the Silvertips is the Spokane Chiefs for a 7:35 p.m. puck drop on Friday at Angel of the Winds Arena. Spokane is Everett’s opponent for five of the Silvertips’ next 10 games.