Silvertips put win streak on the bus and head to Spokane

EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips are basking in the glow of a unique achievement, having pounded out a perfect calendar month.

But now the calendar page has turned and the Tips are taking their winning ways into hostile territory, meaning it will be that much more difficult to keep their streak alive.

After going a perfect 14-0 in January, the Tips begin February with a pair of difficult away games, hitting the road against Western Conference rivals Spokane and Vancouver today and Friday, respectively. And the Tips are well aware their winning streak counts for little in those venues.

“Everyone’s really happy about (the perfect month),” Tips captain Zack Dailey said. “But this is a new month and we have to put that behind us. We’re going to barns like Spokane and Vancouver that are always tough, especially late in the season, and they’re right behind us (in the standings). So there’s going to be a lot of pressure.”

Everett’s perfect month is a rare — but not unheard of — feat in the WHL. While no other team has completed a perfect full month this season, it happened twice last season: Calgary going 11-0 in November and Vancouver 10-0 in December.

That it happened twice last season doesn’t mean the Tips are any less proud of their accomplishment.

“To go that many games in a row is a good feeling,” Everett center Chris Langkow said. “You can tell around the room that everybody is feeling good and confident.”

But while perfect months and winning streaks are nice, they have little bearing on what’s ahead, and what’s ahead is a tightly-contested horse race for playoff seeding.

With 20 games remaining in the regular season, Everett occupies the No. 3 seed in the conference. The Tips have a lot of work to do if they want to move up in the seedings. The winners of the U.S. and B.C. Divisions are automatically awarded the top two seeds in the first round, and Everett trails U.S. Division-leading Tri-City by seven points. Therefore, even though the Tips have the second-best record in the conference, it will be difficult for the Tips to move above the No. 3 spot.

However, moving down is another story. Everett is only three points ahead of fourth-place Portland and seven ahead of fifth-place Spokane. Also, the Tips have six games remaining against Spokane, meaning the Chiefs could make up ground quickly in the head-to-head meetings.

And the difference between the third, fourth and fifth seedings is immense. The team that finishes third will likely avoid playing Portland or Spokane in the first round, and finishing fourth means home-ice advantage over the team that finishes fifth.

So every game, particularly those against Spokane, could have major implications for Everett’s eventual playoff fate.

“The last 20 games here are going to be intense, playoff-type games for everyone because you’re looking at where you’re going to end up,” Everett coach Craig Hartsburg said. “It’s all starting to come into picture now. Earlier in the year you were just playing, not focusing on standings. But this is the time of year that stuff becomes more and more important.”

The first of those crucial match-ups with Spokane is tonight, when Everett puts its franchise-record 14-game win streak on the line. The good news, as far as the streak is concerned, is that the Tips have been a solid road team this season. Everett is 16-8-1-0 away from the friendly confines of Comcast Arena. That .660 winning percentage is the league’s second-best on the road (Saskatoon is first at .712) and nearly identical to Everett’s .667 home winning percentage (17-8-1-1).

“It’s going to be a challenge,” Langkow said. “We’re a pretty good road team, we proved it on our road trip (through the Central Division) and we’ve won a lot of road games. We just have to do what we did then, we can’t change a thing or get too complacent. We just need to stay consistent and not be satisfied.”

Also, one of Everett’s road opponents this week is only playing a pseudo home game. Vancouver may be the home team Friday, but the game is not being played in the Giants’ home. The upcoming Olympics have booted the Giants from their usual home, Pacific Coliseum, so Friday’s game will be played 25 miles east at the Langley Events Center.

“That’ll definitely be different,” Dailey said. “I’ve never played there before, but I don’t think they’ve played there often either (Friday’s game will be the Giants’ fourth in Langley), so it shouldn’t be much of an advantage for them.”

Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog: http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog

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