With a .750 winning percentage, which leads the Western Hockey League, the Everett Silvertips haven’t had trouble with many teams this season.
The Portland Winterhawks, however, have been the exception.
It’s a small sample size, but the Winterhawks have gotten the best of the Silvertips in their two meetings so far this season, with a plus-three goal differential.
“I just think they execute,” Silvertips coach Dennis Williams said when asked what makes Portland so tough. “They have good depth, they roll those lines pretty good over the boards.”
The Silvertips and Winterhawks play for the third time this season Friday night in the Moda Center in Portland.
Both teams enter the matchup scorching hot. The Silvertips and Winterhawks have each won four straight games. Portland has won nine of it past 10 matchups and the Silvertips have won eight of 10.
Portland will be somewhat short-handed, though, as three players — goaltender Joel Hofer, defenseman Jonas Brondberg and forward Simon Knak — are away at selection camps for the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, and defenseman Matthew Quigley and forward Cross Hanas are nursing upper-body injuries.
Everett will be without Martin Fasko-Rudas, who is at Slovakia’s World Junior camp, as well as forwards Michal Gut, Jalen Price and Tyson Phare, who are all injured.
Fortunately for Everett, standout goaltender Dustin Wolf will be available. He doesn’t leave for Team USA’s World Junior selection camp until Sunday.
Top of the charts
Everett improved to No. 4 in the latest Canadian Hockey League rankings, the highest-ranked team in the WHL.
World Junior absences
Two key defenseman likely will not see the ice in Everett for the upcoming weekend home games against the Vancouver Giants (Saturday) and the Spokane Chiefs (Sunday)
Vancouver’s Bowen Byram and Spokane’s Ty Smith, considered the premier defensemen in the WHL, are away at Team Canada’s World Junior selection camp.
Spokane also will be missing goaltender Lukas Parik, who is at the Czech Republic’s selection camp.
Williams on the Silvertips’ recent 4-0 road trip through the Central Division:
“When you get on the road for those eight days, there’s not a lot of distractions, right? You’re just kind of stuck as a group together. But I definitely liked the way we played and stepped up in different roles there. … I thought our guys did a really good job of battling and not making excuses. It’s easy to make an excuse when we’re missing Guter (Michal Gut), we’re missing Price, but others just relished the opportunities and did a great job. Overall, I told the guys from a coaching standpoint in (my) three years here, that was one of the best trips. Definitely our effort in Medicine Hat was one of the best efforts that I’ve seen from our groups, for sure this year if not the last few years.”
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH