EVERETT — Kevin Constantine says he doesn’t have too many different pregame speeches, so the Everett Silvertips head coach sometimes “cycles through” familiar themes with perhaps a new twist.
Some of Constantine’s favorite orations echo those of Revolutionary War hero John Paul Jones, who famously asked for a fast ship because he planned to “go in harm’s way.” Once there and seemingly nearing defeat, Jones told the British admiral who asked for surrender he “had not yet begun to fight.”
“Modern translation is that he wanted to hurry up and get in a fight,” Constantine said Tuesday prior to boarding a bus to Kelowna where the Tips will play the Rockets at 7:05 p.m. Wednesday. “So that’s the attitude we wanted after our Seattle loss — that we hadn’t even started fighting yet for the weekend.”
The Tips responded to that 3-2 loss Friday at ShoWare Center with plenty of fight in a convincing 5-1 win Saturday in Kennewick over the Tri-City Americans. Everett seemed on the verge of fully salvaging the weekend at Portland before a late 3-1 lead quickly evaporated into a 4-3 loss Sunday.
It was perhaps the most disappointing loss the Tips have suffered this season, but even devastating losses can be channeled into learning experiences. There remains a strong possibility Everett could face the Winterhawks in the opening round of the playoffs in a reprise of last year’s first-round Tips sweep.
“We still can gather some experience from that, that maybe in the pressure of a playoff game becomes very valuable and so I think there are some lessons for us,” Constantine said. “You know, lose a battle, win a war — there might be some lessons in that last battle that will be very valuable in winning a war in a playoff series.”
Everett (41-16-8-3, 93 points) will get another chance to fight Wednesday when the Tips begin their final regular-season push at Prospera Place. Everett remains one point behind Seattle for the top spot in the U.S. Division and the Western Conference with one game in hand of the Thunderbirds. The Tips close the season with one more set of four games in five nights — three of which will be played on the road — all against teams that have qualified for the Western Conference playoffs.
“Playing these tougher teams right now is a good thing for our team,” Everett captain Noah Juulsen said. “I think it’s going to take everyone playing their role and competing every night to get this thing done.”
Kelowna (43-21-5-0, 91 points) is a skilled, physical team that poses another playoff-type test for the Tips. The Rockets are just two points back of Prince George for the B.C. Division lead with a game in hand, so they also have plenty of motivation for Wednesday’s game.
The Tips are 1-0-1-1 against Kelowna this season including a 5-4 win at Xfinity Arena on Jan. 16 and a 3-2 shootout loss on March 3. Both games were described afterward as having a “playoff” feel, something Everett hopes will come in handy.
“Playoffs are pretty much all about close games, big blocks and big hits,” Everett forward Matt Fonteyne said. “So whenever you can get that sort of atmosphere before you head into the playoffs it always gives you an advantage going in.”
Once again a quick start will be vital. The Tips have scored first in their last five games dating back to the shootout loss to Kelowna and compiled a 3-2 record in those five contests.
Despite falling at Seattle Friday and at Portland Sunday, the Tips remain in control of their own playoff destiny. However, all room for error disappeared as the most standings points Everett can now earn is 101 while the most the Thunderbirds can tally is 100. Just one of Seattle’s remaining three games is against a team that will be in the playoffs as the T-birds play host to Portland on Saturday. Seattle’s other remaining games are against Spokane and Vancouver, both of which have been eliminated from playoff contention.
“What kind of athlete are you if you go into the last week of the regular season and you’re competing for a division championship and you aren’t completely thrilled with it?” Constantine asked rhetorically. “This is what it’s all about … We have everything to play for so it’s just a glorious opportunity (this) week.”
The trip continues Friday at Victoria followed by a home game Saturday against the Royals. The regular season concludes Sunday with another trip to Kennewick.
If the Tips win all four they’ll be hanging their fifth U.S. Division championship banner when the 2017-18 season begins in September.
The organization announced Tuesday it has signed forward Conrad Mitchell to a WHL standard player agreement. Mitchell, a 6-foot-5 and 192-pounder with the LeDuc Oil Kings (AMMHL), was third in points (35), goals (17), and led the league in penalty minutes (136) in just 35 games this season. He was selected by the Silvertips in the seventh round (139th overall) of the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft.
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