EVERETT — The Western Hockey League’s demanding game and practice schedule doesn’t often lend itself to off-ice team-building activities.
But the Everett Silvertips made an exception Monday as the coaching staff gave them the day off and the team went paintballing as a group.
“They need to get away and have some fun,” head coach Dennis Williams said. “I don’t know who got who, but I know some of them had some welts from those (paintballs). But it sounds like they had a good time and that’s what it was meant for.”
Early in the season the Tips used a day off for a team game of softball. Two seasons ago they visited the Naval Air Station on Whidbey Island as a group.
Monday was another chance to have a good time while still engaging in friendly competition.
“We don’t have that many road trips left, and road trips are kind of the time when you bond and create some funny memories,” co-captain Matt Fonteyne said. “It’s always important to get away from the rink and have fun outside of hockey.”
On Monday the first- and second-year players took on players in their third-plus seasons. By several accounts third-year defenseman Jake Christiansen was the top performer among the older group while rookie Reece Vitelli led the way for the youngsters.
“Vitelli was pretty fearless,” forward Garrett Pilon said. “He wasn’t afraid to get hit and that’s a pretty big bonus when you’re playing paintball.”
Pilon may be new to the Tips, but he’s not new to paintball. He said his midget team made regular trips to the paintball course back in his native Saskatchewan.
“It was fun to get away from hockey a little bit, and just get to know the guys a little bit away from the rink and do some bonding,” said Pilon who was acquired from Kamloops earlier this month.
That wasn’t the only news that emanated from Everett Monday.
The Silvertips also learned they had swept the WHL weekly awards. Carter Hart won Goaltender of the Week while Fonteyne was named Player of the Week.
It’s the fifth award for Hart this season and the 14th time he’s been honored in his career. But it was a first for Fonteyne, who joked that the league should name its weekly goalie award after Hart.
“It was definitely a pleasant surprise,” Fonteyne said. “The boys had a really good week and I thought we’ve been playing really good hockey. It was a really fun week to be a part of.”
Fonteyne had 10 points during a career week in what is shaping up to be a career year for the overager. He tied the franchise record with five assists in a 6-5 win over Tri-City on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
He then followed it up with two goals and an assist in a 4-0 win over Brandon, and added a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win over Swift Current last weekend.
“(He is) very consistent and (has) a very high compete-level,” Williams said. “His presence in getting to the net and shooting pucks has been second to none. He’s one of our leaders for a reason, not just because he gets all the points, but because he plays the game right, and he’s getting rewarded.”
Fonteyne leads the Tips with 28 goals and is second in assists (36) and points (64) to linemate Patrick Bajkov.
The Tips learned Tuesday they will be without forward Sean Richards for this weekend’s home-and-home against Seattle. Richards was given a two-game suspension by the league after receiving a match penalty in Sunday’s 4-1 win over Swift Current. … Forward Riley Sutter is in Guelph, Ontario, where he will compete in the CHL/NHL Tops Prospects Game on Thursday. He’s due to return Friday morning, but Williams didn’t know if Sutter would be available for Friday night’s home game against the Thunderbirds. … Forward Bronson Sharp sat out Tuesday’s practice and had what appeared to be a splint on his right pinky finger. Williams said Sharp is officially day-to-day and is seeing a hand specialist to determine the extent of the injury, but Williams didn’t expect the diagnosis to be serious.
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