EVERETT — The Everett Silvertips still aren’t fully healthy following a six-day layoff since they last played a game, as a number of players continue to recover from bouts of the flu and nurse other injuries.
But three familiar faces were back at practice Thursday as the team prepared for Friday’s 7 p.m. matchup at Portland. Defenseman and captain Noah Juulsen, goaltender Carter Hart and rookie forward Brett Kemp each have returned from various Hockey Canada events and should be ready to play this weekend.
Juulsen and Hart each spent the early part of this week competing for Team WHL in the Canada-Russia Series, while Kemp was away with Team Canada Black for the U-17 World Hockey Challenge.
In the Canada-Russia Series Team WHL lost a 2-1 decision to the Russians Monday in Prince George, B.C., before bouncing back with a 4-1 victory Tuesday in Edmonton. It was the second consecutive year both Hart and Juulsen have participated in the series, one of several events used by Hockey Canada to pick its team for the World Junior Championships that begin in December.
“I think it was kind of the same in the way the Russians played,” Juulsen said. “They played the game the same kind of way — bring the puck back and try it again — and don’t force too much.”
Juulsen captained Team WHL and scored the game-winning goal in Tuesday’s victory and finished with a plus-four rating, meaning he was on the ice for all four of Team WHL’s goals.
Hart got the start in the crease Tuesday in what amounted to a rare home game as he hails from the Edmonton suburb of Sherwood Park. He finished with 33 saves on 34 shots.
“To come up with a win on home ice was very special to be part of, especially in front of my family and friends,” Hart said. “Last year was fun too. I had some positives that I took from last year into this year, and obviously I knew a little more about the series coming into this year. I was more unfamiliar last year.”
The next step in the process is the selection camp. Last year Juulsen made it to the final round of cuts, even flying with Team Canada to Helsinki, Finland, before he was sent home on the eve of the tournament.
Juulsen is hoping his performance in this week’s series can help springboard him into making the roster this year.
“I think I had two good games and played my game to show them the player I am,” said Juulsen, who has six goals and six assists in 13 games with Everett this season. “Going through the Hockey Canada program growing up they’ve seen the kind of player I am and how I play and what I can do on the ice. So I think it does help me in a way that they have watched me quite a bit.”
Meanwhile, Kemp missed Everett’s last four games while competing for Team Black in the U-17 Challenge in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. Team Black claimed the silver medal after falling to Sweden in the championship game.
“It was unbelieveable playing against the world’s best players,” Kemp said. “I got to make some new friends and it was a great experience.”
Three different Canadian teams take part in the tournament with players from all over the country divided among those teams. Everett assistant coach Mitch Love served as an assistant coach for Team Canada Red.
“Putting the Maple Leaf on your chest, you want to play with a lot of pride and honor, but you also want to play the way they play, the Canadian way,” Kemp said. “You just want to try your best every time.”
The U.S. Division-leading Tips (13-2-2-0, 28 points) are looking for their third win over Portland (8-11-0-0, 16 points) in as many games this season. The Winterhawks are fourth in the division and have lost eight straight games. Everett continues its road trip at 7:05 p.m. Saturday with game at Spokane.
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