The Everett Silvertips made their first impressions last weekend, and in typical fashion there were things to like and things that could use refinement.
Everett opened the 2023-24 WHL season over the weekend, beating the Victoria Royals 5-3 Saturday night and losing to the Spokane Chiefs 4-1 Sunday evening, both at Angel of the Winds Arena. And Everett coach Dennis Williams found both positives and negatives from the season-opening split.
“Like anything this time of year, there were a lot of positives to pull out of it, and also some things that need improvement,” Williams said. “That’s what we expect this time of year. It was exciting on Saturday to get that first win, the first one is always a hard one. The second game we had some good looks, we just have to bury more chances to create some separation. Credit their goalie, he played well.”
Everett was treated to what on paper looked like a kind start to the season, with home games against the only two Western Conference teams that didn’t make the playoffs last season. Countering that was the fact Everett was missing three key players — forwards Austin Roest (Nashville) and Ben Hemmerling (Vegas) and defenseman Kaden Hammell (Seattle) — who were away at NHL training camps, while Victoria and Spokane each had just one player still with their NHL teams.
Everett had a significant shot advantage in both games, outshooting Victoria 49-27 and Spokane 37-25. Those numbers suggest the Tips carried much of the play in both contests. But Spokane goaltender Dawson Cowan produced a 36-save effort Sunday, while the Tips also hurt themselves with costly turnovers.
“We had a lot of opportunities on our power play in both games,” Williams said. “On Sunday we didn’t capitalize on our power plays and they capitalized on theirs. That was the difference from Saturday when we had three power-play goals and killed off all of Victoria’s, while the next night Spokane had two power-play goals and we had none. Special teams are so important at this level, even if you don’t score you can change the mindset of the opponent if you create quality chances.
“I also think we did a good job getting pucks to the net, but I would have liked to have seen more traffic in front and screening of the goalie,” Williams added. “So we’ll be working on getting to the blue paint more.”
Spokane was the only U.S. Division team to come away from the opening weekend with four points. The other five teams are all tied for second with two points.
Three stars of the week
Third star: Julius Miettinen. The rookie 17-year-old Finnish forward not only scored a goal in his WHL debut Saturday against Victoria, it was Everett’s first goal of the season.
Second star: Dominik Rymon. The 19-year-old forward had a goal and an assist against Victoria. The assist came when he did well to keep the puck in the offensive zone on the power play and threaded a pass through skates and sticks, and the goal was a 180-foot empty netter that sealed the game.
First star: Teague Patton. The 20-year-old forward, acquired in the offseason from Victoria, had a goal and an assist against his former team in the opener. He fired off 11 shots on goal in the contest.
The week ahead
Everett’s homestand to begin the season continues this weekend with games against the Wenatchee Wild on Friday and the Kamloops Blazers on Saturday, both at Angel of the Winds Arena.
Wenatchee (1-1-0-0), the newest member of the U.S. Division after relocating from Winnipeg, will not be coming with former Everett coach Kevin Constantine. Constantine, hired by the Wild as head coach this offseason, was suspended by the WHL while the league conducts an investigation into allegations of improper conduct. It’s also unknown whether star forwards Zach Benson (36 goals, 62 assists last season), Matthew Savoie (38 goals, 57 assists) and Connor Geekie (35 goals, 42 assists), all first-round NHL draft picks, will be back from NHL training camps.
Kamloops (0-0-1-0) is a far different team from the one that hosted the Memorial Cup last season, with seven of last season’s top nine scorers moving on to the pro ranks. The other two, forwards Fraser Minten (31 goals, 36 assists) and Connor Levis (27 goals, 40 assists), remain a doubt for the weekend as they’re at NHL training camps.