"Tough sledding" would probably be an accurate descriptor for the first month of the season in Everett, but the Silvertips have also played better than their record shows.
It's been an up-and-down start, too, with the Silvertips struggling to score goals and get consistent goaltending, but also getting contributions from some unexpected places. Only three teams in the Western Hockey League (WHL) have yielded more goals than they have (43), the Brandon Wheat Kings, Saskatoon Blades and Medicine Hat Tigers.
Early-season trades and personnel changes have not helped Everett (3-7-1, 7 points) much to this point, but there are some signs that fortunes could be turning.
For as poorly as they have played at times, the Silvertips are only three points back of Seattle and four wins behind the first-place Tri-City Americans. The season is long and the road ahead is long, so there is no reason for panic within the Silvertips dressing room, but getting wins under their belts and building some confidence is paramount.
Everett is at the midpoint of a six-game road trip around the East Division that encompasses eight days, three provinces and six tough opponents. After opening with a 3-2 win over the Wheat Kings last Friday night, the Silvertips lost two straight games thanks to blown leads in both Regina and Moose Jaw.
Blue Jackets prospect Ryan Murray has been quiet on the scoresheet for the last couple of weeks, but he was electric last night in Everett's big win in Swift Current.
He assisted on all three Silvertips goals in the 3-1 final, leveling his club's record on the road trip to 2-2-0. Kohl Bauml tallied a pair of goals for Everett, which concludes the trip with two games this weekend in Prince Albert and Saskatoon -- two teams considered to be among the best in the WHL.
Prince Albert has been strong so far, picking up seven wins in its first 11 games to sit atop the East. The Blades, however, have stumbled a 5-7-0 record through their first 12 and given up 50 goals.
The final two games of the trip could set the stage for an important stretch ahead, when the Silvertips play three of their next four games on home ice at Comcast Arena.
GENERALS BOUNCE BACK
A lot of junior hockey observers wondered if the Oshawa Generals could maintain the pace they set in the first few weeks of the season. There were questions about depth, consistency and goal-scoring, but no one could have predicted the start for both Oshawa and captain Boone Jenner.
The Generals have cooled off a bit lately, dropping two of their past three games -- albeit to very solid Ontario Hockey League's top clubs in Belleville and Barrie. Jenner remains the OHL's leading scorer (tied with Nick Cousins) with 17 points in 10 games, carrying a +13 rating while playing some of the toughest minutes for the Generals.
His nine goals are tied for most in the OHL, helping Oshawa to the highest scoring output in the league (43 goals in 10 games).
The Generals closed out last weekend's slate with a thrilling home-ice win over the defending league champions, the London Knights. Despite blowing a two-goal lead in the third period, Oshawa answered back with a Scott Sabourin goal a minute after the Knights tied the game.
Jenner's ninth of the season gave the Generals a 3-1 lead in the second period before they were forced to claw back ahead in the third.
On the schedule this weekend for Oshawa: a two-game trip to Kitchener (Friday) and Owen Sound (Saturday) before returning to General Motors Centre to face the Plymouth Whalers on Sunday.