With one of the most decorated goaltenders in WHL history holding down the crease, the Everett Silvertips enter another week of WHL action as one of the hottest teams in the CHL.
Though a highly competitive CHL Top 10 has limited them to an honourable mention slot, the ‘Tips are winners of nine of their last 10, leading the U.S. Division with a 32-16-1-2 record.
Back-to-back WHL Goaltender of the Year Carter Hart has blown away the competition, posting a minuscule 1.51 goals-against average, a .953 save percentage and six shutouts over 24 games as he’s played to a mark of 19-3-0-2.
Everett enters a Wednesday night tilt against rival Portland coming off a 6-5 overtime win in Spokane on Sunday, a game that saw them claw back from a 5-3 deficit with a pair of third period markers before Connor Dewar scored his second of the night 1:10 into the extra frame.
The comeback effort came in the third game of a three-in-three weekend that saw the Silvertips take five of a possible six points.
“This is a great group,” first year head coach Dennis Williams told the Everett Herald’s Jesse Geleynse following the win. “They battled, and said we’re not using this as an excuse, the three-in-three or the travel. That may not have been a pretty one, but two points is two points, and we’ll take it.”
“I think it just goes to show the character we have in our room and our guys and the leadership that we have,” Hart added. “Any time you’re down in the third period, it’s tough to come back, and that just shows how resilient we are and we just power through.”
A notoriously defensive-minded group that won U.S. Division titles in 2004, ’06, ’07, ’15 and ’17 under former head coach Kevin Constantine, the Silvertips have shown much of the same under Williams this season, surrendering a CHL-low 127 goals through 51 games. Their 84.1% penalty kill is the WHL’s best by a nearly four percent margin.
Hart, who is one shutout away from tying Tyson Sexsmith’s all-time WHL record of 26, deserves much of the credit for Everett’s stalwart shutdown reputation as he backstops a team with just two defencemen over the age of 18.
Both overager Kevin Davis and 19-year-old Dallas Stars prospect Ondrej Vala see a lion’s share of ice on the back end, with emerging local product Wyatte Wylie and third-year Jake Christiansen stepping in as reliable competitors in their draft eligible seasons.
While keeping pucks out has been Everett’s forte over the past five seasons, scoring goals may well be what determines their fate come playoff-time as they continue in search of their first championship in the 15-year history of the franchise.
The addition of Washington Capitals prospect Garrett Pilon has provided a boost. The son of former NHL defencemen Rich Pilon, Garrett sits second in WHL shots on goal with 246 and has 13 points (5-8–13) through his first nine games with Everett after coming over from the Kamloops Blazers.
Fifth-year overage veteran Patrick Bajkov leads the club in scoring with 74 points (23-51–74) and enters Wednesday’s contest tied with Zach Hamill (2003-08) for the franchise’s all-time lead in points.
Matt Fonteyne and Connor Dewar have been regular sources of offence, potting 30 and 27 goals respectively while draft eligible winger Riley Sutter has 20.
With wins in 22 of their last 26 games, the Silvertips hit the ground running tonight in Portland ahead of an important weekend with a home-and-home date with the Western Conference-leading Kelowna Rockets on Friday and Saturday.
Assuming Hart continues doing what he does best and veterans in Bajkov, Fonteyne, Pilon, Davis and 18-year-olds Dewar and Sutter can lead the charge in providing consistent offence, the ‘Tips could be a tough out come playoff time.
OTHER CHL TOP-10 SPOTLIGHT FEATURES:
Sept. 28, 2017 – Regina Pats
Oct. 5, 2017 – Victoriaville Tigres
Oct. 11, 2017 – Victoria Royals
Oct. 18, 2017 – Sarnia Sting
Oct. 25, 2017 – Swift Current Broncos
Nov. 1, 2017 – Blainville-Boisbriand Armada
Nov. 8, 2017 – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Nov. 15, 2017 – Moose Jaw Warriors
Nov. 22, 2017 – Quebec Remparts
Nov. 29, 2017 – Hamilton Bulldogs
Dec. 6, 2017 – Brandon Wheat Kings
Dec. 12, 2017 – Rimouski Oceanic
Dec. 28, 2017 – Drummondville Voltigeurs
Jan. 3, 2018 – Kitchener Rangers
Jan. 10, 2018 – Halifax Mooseheads
Jan. 17, 2018 – Kelowna Rockets