EVERETT— Everett Silvertips coaches and players didn’t mince words following the team’s second-consecutive loss on Sunday in a 6-3 defeat to the Regina Pats.
It’s a group seeking answers after a frustrating stretch.
“We’re in one. It is what it is right now,” Silvertips head coach Dennis Williams said of the Silvertips’ recent slump. “The only way we can get out of it is sticking together as a group and focusing on the details and competing harder and it’s not going to be easy.”
The loss to the Pats, a cellar-dweller in the Eastern Conference currently, followed a 4-3 loss at archrival Seattle on Saturday, a team that’s sitting at fourth in the U.S. Division standings.
The Silvertips have stumbled out of the Western Hockey League Christmas break, as Everett is 2-5-1 since returning to action on Dec. 27.
The slump has allowed the Portland Winterhawks to build an eight-point lead in the U.S. Division standings and for the Spokane Chiefs to close the gap to six points for second place.
Rediscovering the team’s identity is the key to a turnaround, according to Williams.
“I don’t think we’ve played bad games,” Williams said. “… Like I said, it’s always good to be humbled and get back to the drawing board so you can figure this out. We learn who we are right now better than at a later time when it’s too late. Obviously we don’t want to lose hockey games. Nobody does. So I’m not sitting here saying everything is great, it’s not. We’re in a little bit of a funk right now and we have to buckle it down and get ready for a strong weekend.”
The weekend was especially forgettable for Everett’s penalty kill, which entered Sunday with the seventh-best penalty kill in the league at 81 percent but relinquished four power-play goals in eight chances over the weekend.
Against Regina on Sunday, the Silvertips were hampered by a four-minute high-sticking minor assessed to Justyn Gurney, which allowed the Pats to pot two quick power-play goals and build a 3-1 lead in the second period.
“It’s a rough one,” Williams said. “There was nothing on that play and we high sticked a guy. Credit to them for converting on their opportunity, it definitely titled the ice, but I liked our compete. We battled back.”
The Tips cut the lead to 3-2 in the second, but two more unanswered spotted Regina a three-goal lead, one that proved insurmountable for Everett on Sunday.
Against the Thunderbirds on Saturday, Seattle was 2-for-3 on the power play but may as well have been perfect, as a goal from former Silvertip Max Patterson came just two seconds after a man-advantage expired.
“It was a great pass from (Connor Bruggen-Cate) and it felt good to score that,” Patterson told ESPN 710 Seattle on Saturday. “I played with those guys for a year and a half so it feels nice to put in the back of the net and get the two points.”
Robbie Holmes, a former Silvertip that was acquired from Regina at the trade deadline last year only to be traded back to the Pats in the offseason, had quite the eventful game against his former team.
Not only did the overage forward score in the third period to put Regina up 5-2, but he was also kicked out of the game after being assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty with 8:28 remaining.
“Obviously it’s awesome,” Holmes said. “I was really looking forward to this game ever since I was traded and, you know, we only play them once so it was a game I’d want to play well in. It’s awesome to see all the guys here too and I made a lot of friends here and I still keep in touch with a lot of them.”
After struggling to find the back of the net early on in the season, Cole Fonstad has scored in three consecutive games and boasts 12 points over his last seven games.
While goals haven’t necessarily come easy, assists have for the Montreal Canadiens prospect. Fonstad’s 40 assists are second in the league, just one behind James Hamblin of Medicine Hat.
Josh Horton covers the Silvertips for the Herald. Follow him on Twitter, @JoshHortonEDH.