The last time the Everett Silvertips were in Kamloops, way back on Jan. 23, goaltender Austin Lotz stopped 65 shots in helping his team salvage a point in a 4-3 loss to the Blazers.
The Blazers likely won’t have to deal with Lotz tonight — and you can bet they are glad about that.
Kamloops is to play host to the Silvertips at Interior Savings Centre tonight. It’s the second half of a WHL home-and-home set for the teams, as the Blazers went into Everett and scored a 3-2 shootout victory on Saturday.
Lotz, a 17-year-old from St. Adolphe, Man., is listed as week-to-week with an ankle sprain on the WHL’s weekly injury report. Daniel Cotton has picked up much of the slack since the injury.
The Silvertips would love to see another goaltending performance like Lotz’s tonight, although they would probably settle for an improved defensive effort — one in which they don’t allow 69 shots.
The game has greater implications, standings-wise, for the Silvertips than the Blazers.
While Kamloops (35-15-5) is entrenched in third place in the Western Conference, nine points back of the Kelowna Rockets and 10 ahead of the Tri-City Americans, the Silvertips (21-26-5) are seventh, four points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds and seven up on the Prince George Cougars.
Everett has lost all three of its games with the Blazers this season, but all three of those games have gone to extra time. In fact, Kamloops was won seven straight against the Silvertips, sweeping the season-series in 2011-12.
The last Everett victory over Kamloops was Feb. 2, 2011, when the Silvertips came into ISC and left with a 3-2 victory. It helped the Silvertips win the season-series 3-1, which was important, as they finished three points ahead of the Blazers for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Things have changed a great deal since, as the Blazers have been a top-four team in the West the past two seasons while Everett has been a bottom-four squad.
In fact, the Blazers can clinch a playoff spot with a victory Thursday night — not that they won’t eventually do it either way. Prince George (16-30-8) is 35 points back of Kamloops, meaning the Blazers’ magic number the rest of the way is one victory.
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Everett is in the middle of a grueling stretch of eight games.
Over 17 days, the Silvertips’ schedule features five games against the Western Conference’s top three teams — the Portland Winterhawks, Kelowna Rockets and Kamloops — along with a game against the fourth-place Tri-City Americans, another with the fifth-place Spokane Chiefs, and one with the Calgary Hitmen, who have the second-best record in the Eastern Conference.
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Kamloops forward Colin Smith was named the CHL’s player of the week Wednesday, a day after being honoured by the WHL.
Smith had 10 points, including four goals, as the Blazers went 3-1 last week. The 19-year-old Edmonton native went into last night’s action tied for the league lead in goals (36) and tied for third in points (86).
It is the third time this season a Blazers skater has been the CHL player of the week — Smith’s linemate, JC Lipon, won it twice in October.
Also, the Blazers moved back into the CHL’s Top 10, a week after falling out.
JUST NOTES: Game time is 7 o’clock. . . . Everett has lost four straight, although the last two have come in extra time. . . . Garry Davidson remains the Silvertips’ interim head coach, as Everett fired Mark Ferner on Jan. 8. Since the move, the Silvertips are 5-4-3. . . . Kamloops is scheduled to play host to the Red Deer Rebels on Saturday at 7 p.m. . . . The Blazers beat the Rebels 4-0 in Red Deer in their only other meeting this season, on Oct. 16. It was the Blazers’ seventh victory on what turned out to be a 14-game streak.