Portland Winterhawks/Keith Dwiggins

Overreaction Monday: Everett Silvertips will win their fourth straight U.S. Division title

Overreaction of the week: The Everett Silvertips will overtake the Portland Winterhawks and capture the U.S. Division title and home ice in the U.S. bracket. 

11 points back of the Winterhawks on January 26th, the Everett Silvertips looked to be locked into the second seed in the U.S. Division. There was just no catching Portland, who was in the midst of a 21-game stretch where they did not lose in regulation.

But the Silvertips are now one of the hotter teams in the WHL and have utilized a stretch where Portland has cooled off, and three wins over the Winterhawks, to creep within three points of the division lead with one game in hand.

Dustin Wolf (Photo- Portland Winterhawks/Keith Dwiggins)

That game in hand goes on Wednesday when they head to Kennewick to take on the last in the division Tri-City Americans. The struggling Ams have lost their last five games against teams from the Western Conference by a combined 37-11 score. The Silvertips beat them 5-0 last time the two tangled.

What has worked for Everett?

Well, Dustin Wolf for one. The reigning WHL goalie of the year has hit his stride in the second half of the season and now sports a league-leading 1.84 GAA and 0.938 save percentage. Wolf has only allowed five goals over his last five games. He was key Sunday in Everett’s latest win over Portland.

The power play has also been blazing this season. An area that has troubled the Silvertips in past seasons, is now a major strength. They are 28.7% on the man advantage, which is tops in the league.

Jake Christiansen (photo-Chris Mast)

Jake Christiansen has been a man among boys since being returned from the AHL. He has 17 goals and 26 assists for 43 points in just 31 games. He had already tied the team record for goals this season and very well might end up with the most points from any WHL d-man despite only playing in just over half the season.

He is ninth in the entire WHL in points-per-game. The next defenseman on that list? Calen Addison — in 34th.

The depth scoring has also been a key to their recent run of 11 wins in their last 12 games. Deadline acquisition Kasper Puutio had two goals on the weekend and Ethan Regnier added two as well.

Portland has only won five of their last 10 but even if they find their groove again, Everett has an easier schedule.

Portland has 11 games left, while Everett has 12. Of their 12 games, Everett plays Tri-City four times and they have four other games against teams below 0.500.

Gage Goncalves (Photo- Portland Winterhawks/Matthew Wolfe)

The Winterhawks have three games versus Tri-City and three others against Seattle, who while below 0.500, have won four times against Portland this season.

It may just come down to the head to head. Portland and Everett play this Sunday up in Everett and then Saturday, March 14th in Portland.

Tristen Robins
(Photo – Liam Richards)

Underrated player of the week: Tristen Robins (Saskatoon Blades)

Robins has quietly (unless you are in Saskatoon or been a victim of his) led the Blades in points this season with 64. That is already 39 more than the 25 he put up in his 17-year-old season last year.

Robins piled up seven points over his last three games 15 points over his last seven games. The Blades have won three straight and appear to be making a run at a very tight East Division. While they sit in the second wild-card spot, they are just eight points back of the division-leading Prince Albert Raiders with 11 games to play. They play the Raiders on Friday and Saturday and end the season with a home and home. Win a good portion of those four games and they have a shot at being the third different team in the last month to lead the division.

Stat of the week: 18-1

That was the score on Saturday that Yale Hockey Academy beat the local Seattle Sno-King Bantam squad by in Kent.  Delta — another Canadian bantam squad ended up edging Yale for the championship at the first-ever U.S. Challenge Cup.

Mekai Sanders is a recent player drafted from the U.S. making an impact in the WHL (photo-Brian Liesse)

West Van nabbed third so the top three teams at the U.S. Cup were all Canadian. Despite that, four of the six all-stars were from American teams.

The tournament was a good chance for teams (especially those with fewer scouts) to get good viewings of American players leading up to the inaugural U.S. Prospects Draft. The two-round draft will take place on Wednesday, March 25th.

You have to think, the WHL is working at getting more U.S. teams to compete to get a look at players from prestigious programs like Shattuck St. Mary’s, others from the Tier 1 Elite Hockey League, and teams from Minnesota.

A secondary reason now with the six Canadian teams is for teams to go out of their way to bring scouts in to get good looks at players from Yale, Delta and others who are far more likely to go the WHL route.

I am extremely curious to see if we will start to see more American kids consider the WHL, especially as the game grows across the United States in a large area the WHL has rights to.

Tweet of the week: 

Not strictly WHL by any means but as someone who has been involved in a number of scrums, this struck home and is incredible comedy.

Picks for WHL awards:

Last month I gave my picks as of now for MVP, defenseman, goalie, and rookie of the year for each conference.

(Photo Credit – Kelly McGuiness) Patera

Let’s take another look, shall we?

Goalie of the year Western Conference: Dustin Wolf (Everett)

In the running: Joel Hofer (Portland), Shane Farkas (Victoria), Dylan Garand (Kamloops), Taylor Gauthier (Prince George), David Tendeck (Vancouver)

High riser: Wolf

Last time: Wolf

Goalie of the year Eastern Conference: Jiri Patera (Brandon)

In the running: Sebastian Cossa (Edmonton), Max Paddock (Prince Albert), Carl Tetachuk (Lethbridge)

High riser: Paddock has only allowed four goals over his last four starts.

Last time: Patera

Defenseman of the year Western Conference: Jake Christiansen (Everett)

In the running: Johnny Ludvig (Portland), Max Martin (Kamloops), Ty Smith (Spokane), Bowen Byram (Vancouver)

High riser: Christiansen

Last time: Martin

Alex Cotton (Photo by Erica Perreaux)

Defenseman of the year Eastern Conference: Alex Cotton (Lethbridge)

In the running: Scott Walford (Saskatoon), Calen Addison (Lethbridge), Zack Hayes (Prince Albert)

High riser: Aidan De La Gorgendiere (Saskatoon) was named player of the week and posted six points in his last two games.

Rookie of the year Western Conference: Logan Stankoven (Kamloops)

In the running: Conner Roulette (Seattle), Bear Hughes (Spokane) Pavel Novak (Kelowna), Lukáš Pařík (Spokane), Simon Knak (Portland)

Logan Stankoven. Photo by Allen Douglas/Kamloops Blazers.

High riser: Stankoven with nine goals over his last five games is now tied with all WHL rookies for most with 26 goals.

Last time: Stankoven.

Rookie of the year Eastern Conference: Michal Teply (Winnipeg)

In the running: Cole Sillinger (Medicine Hat), Carson Lambos (Winnipeg), Sebastian Cossa (Edmonton), Dylan Guenther (Edmonton)

High riser: Guenther has seven points in his last five games.

Last time: Sillinger

Dylan Cozens Photo by Erica Perreaux

MVP Western Conference: Adam Beckman (Spokane)

In the running: Dustin Wolf (Everett), Jake Christiansen (Everett), Seth Jarvis (Portland)

High riser: Jarvis has a nine-game point streak and has 51 points in his last 20 games (since January 4th).

MVP Eastern Conference: Dylan Cozens (Lethbridge)

In the running: James Hamblin (Medicine Hat), Peyton Krebs (Winnipeg), Aliaksei Protas (Prince Albert), Jiri Patera (Brandon)

High riser: Cozens has been on a roll ever since coming back from winning gold at World Juniors.



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