Last week the Everett Silvertips had their chance to see how they stacked up against the top team in the WHL. A competitive split of two road games against the Prince George Cougars suggests the Tips can hang with the best.
Everett made the 10-hour bus ride north to Prince George, B.C., for games against the high-powered Cougars last Monday and Tuesday. The Tips dropped the first game 3-1, but rebounded the next night to win 4-3. Both games were essentially one-goal affairs with close shot totals, indicating Everett can compete with the league’s elite.
Prince George has the best record in both the Western Conference and the WHL, and the Cougars built it by being the highest-scoring team in the league. But Everett did a good job of containing Prince George, holding the Cougars to three goals in each contest, which is more than a goal-and-a-half less than Prince George’s average. Cougars superstar Riley Heidt had three assists in the opener (which included a Prince George empty-net goal), but was held off the scoresheet in the second game.
Meanwhile, Everett held its own despite continuing to be short-handed because of injuries — among Everett’s six missing players were key forwards Cade Zaplitny and Caden Brown, as well as defenseman Niko Tsakumis. Co-captain Austin Roest was the star for Everett in Tuesday’s victory as he scored two goals, while Julius Miettinen had a highlight-reel goal to go along with an assist.
Everett suffered a bit of a hangover on the back end of the long road trip in northern Alberta. On Friday the Tips lost 5-3 to the Edmonton Oil Kings, who have the WHL’s worst record. The five-game trip concluded with a 3-2 shootout loss at Red Deer on Saturday.
Everett, which now has all of this season’s long bus rides out of the way, is 17-11-1-1 and in second place in the U.S. Division, five points behind Wenatchee.
Three stars of the week
Third star: Beau Courtney. The 19-year-old forward doesn’t get a lot of attention as he’s more of a defensive specialist. However, he scored Everett’s only goal against Prince George on Monday, then scored again against Red Deer on Saturday. His tally against the Rebels tied the score at 2-2 and helped get the game to overtime.
Second star: Miettinen. The 17-year-old forward collected two goals and two assists across the four games. The big Finn is up to eight goals and 11 assists this season, and he continues to inch up 2024 NHL draft lists.
First star: Tyler Palmer. The 20-year-old goaltender may not have won either of his starts last week, but he sure did everything in his power to keep the Tips in those games. He saved 29 of 31 shots in Monday’s loss at Prince George, then stopped 40 of 42 Saturday at Red Deer as he was the main reason why Everett escaped with a point. He finished the week with a .945 save percentage.
The week ahead
Everett has a brief respite this week before its furious first-half schedule — Everett’s 30 games played are the most in the league, with the low total being Seattle’s 22 — resumes with a three-in-three weekend.
The weekend begins with a home-and-home set against Vancouver, with Friday’s game in Everett and Saturday’s in Langley, B.C. The Giants (11-15-2-0) are tied for fourth place in the B.C. Division and are currently amongst the group of teams that are battling just to make the playoffs. However, Vancouver recently saw star 19-year-old forward Samuel Honzek, who was selected in the first round of this year’s NHL draft by the Calgary Flames, return from a lower-body injury. Honzek registered two goals and three assists in his first three games back, and Vancouver won the last two of those.
The weekend concludes with a game at home Sunday against Portland. The Winterhawks (15-9-1-1), predicted as the team to beat in the U.S. Division, are going through a lull, having lost four straight. Twenty-year-old forward Gabe Klassen (15 goals, 29 assists) was recently named the WHL Player of the Month for November, when he recorded 25 points in 11 games. Portland’s No. 1 goaltender, 19-year-old Jan Spunar (11-3-0-1, 1.82 goals against average, .929 save percentage), continues to be listed as week-to-week because of a lower-body injury.