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Road Tippin’ with Travis Huntington

2:00 pm MST, Sunday, October 21, 2012 (Day 13)
Location: 
outside Kamloops, British Columbia

I’m on the bus with a happy hockey team that has won three straight games and four out of six on its longest road trip of the season through the prairies of central Canada.  Not bad when you consider where we were coming into the trip – with one victory in seven tries and searching for consistency on a game-to-game basis.

Last night’s game was a great example of being patient and sticking to game plan until it pays off.  The Silvertips outplayed Saskatoon for much for the first two periods, but still found themselves trailing in the second.  They tied the game late in the period and then took the opportunities that came to them in the third to get the win.  The ‘Tips were strong defensively against a skilled Blades group, blocking shots, stifling chances and getting another solid effort in goal from Daniel Cotton.

Ryan Murray made two superb plays that led to the third-period goals, including an unbelievable slap-pass from the left point (one that very few players could make) to set up Everett’s third goal by Josh Winquist – who has been on fire with five points in the last two games!   The win was extra special for Kohl Bauml, Dawson Leedahl and Carson Stadnyk, who were all playing their first WHL game in their home town of Saskatoon.

Last night’s game was a great way to finish off a lengthy road swing before jumping on the bus for the long journey home.  We left Saskatoon immediately after the game and headed West through Calgary, Banff National Park, and down through Kamloops to stop for lunch before turning southward toward the U.S. border.  We’re all tired and run down after 13 days on the road, but we’re only a few hours away from home now and accompanied by a sense of accomplishment with four wins in tow.

It will be great to sleep in our own beds again and get back to a more “normal” life back at home.  In a few days we’ll be back in front of the raucous Comcast Arena crowd for two more home games on Friday and Saturday and continuing with the schedule from there.  Thanks to everyone who kept track of our trek by reading the blog and checking out the photos on Facebook.  That’s it until the next edition of “Road Tippin’”, and I’ll see you Friday night at Comcast Arena.  Go ‘Tips!
– TH

10:45 pm MST, Friday, October 19, 2012 (Day 11)
Location: 
Prince Albert, Saskatchewan

A game day is always a good day when you come away with a “W” at the end of the night!  The Silvertips have their first winning streak of the season following tonight’s 3-2 victory over the Prince Albert Raiders at the Art Hauser Centre.  This was a game the Silvertips deserved to win – another solid, consistent effort throughout the lineup.  

Josh Winquist was especially sharp tonight while getting involved in all three Everett goals, and I’m sure it was special for Ryan Harrison the score the game-winning goal in his old home rink (he played his first two WHL seasons with the Raiders).  At the other end, Prince Albert has some talented scorers up front, but the Silvertips did a good job of containing guys like Mark McNeil, Mike Winther and Leon Draisaitl to help Daniel Cotton hold down the fort in the D-zone.

The boys have played well on this trip, so it’s exciting to see them get rewarded with three wins and a chance to finish 4-2 on the swing if they can knock off a solid Saskatoon team tomorrow.  The confidence this team is gaining right now could go a long way toward its development in the long run.  It’s a long season in the WHL, but the improvement process that we’ve already seen through 12 games this year shows you the potential that this team is made of.

As for the off-ice side of things, it’s been a good trip (it certainly doesn’t hurt to be playing well) that’s now starting to get a bit long.  After 11 days of living out of hotel rooms, eating on a specific schedule and planning your life around bus times, it’ll be great to get home.  With that said, the bus ride home will be much more pleasant if we can take care of business tomorrow in Saskatoon before heading home!
– TH

9:15 pm MST, Thursday, October 18, 2012 (Day 10)
Location: 
Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Today was mostly about recharging the batteries a bit after back-to-back games in the last two nights.  The players had an optional skate in the morning, allowing some guys to get a little work in on the ice while others rested sore muscles from last night’s victory.

We also had a special guest at practice, as Silvertips 2012 bantam draft pick Nik Amundrud joined us to skate with his future club.  The young goaltender (who turns 15 on Saturday) is from Melfort, Saskatchewan, which I’m told is only about a two-hour drive east of here.  A rare ‘Tips visit to the area made this a perfect opportunity for him to sign his WHL contract and get on the ice with his future teammates.  The organization has high hopes for Nik, and it looked to me like he enjoyed his time with us today.

The arenas we’ve been in over the last three days are definitely on opposite ends of the spectrum.  Mosaic Place in Moose Jaw is glossy and new after opening just last year.  It has a high-tech scoreboard, a huge locker room, and an upper suite-level press box that is hard to beat.  Swift Current is an older and much smaller arena, but they’ve added new seats, additional locker room space and a center-hung video board to spruce it up in recent years.  

The Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon is the biggest non-NHL rink in the league with a capacity of over 15,000, and it will make a great place for the 2013 Memorial Cup in the springtime.  It’s not brand new, but is still one of the nicer rinks around the league.  The Blades no doubt are gearing up for a huge moment in their history when they host the Champions of all three major junior leagues in May.

This evening we enjoyed another home-cooked family feast courtesy of the Bauml, Leedahl and Stadnyk families.  All three Silvertips players are Saskatoon natives who played together in the Saskatoon Contacts midget organizations, so they have all known one another for many years.  Lucas Grayson and Josh Winquist also had family members on hand, as some of the Alberta relatives have travelled east to join us here in Saskatoon.  Many thanks go out to the Bauml’s for opening up their home to us and to all the families who chipped in to present an amazing spread for dinner and dessert!  We pretty much got to take part in Canadian Thanksgiving tonight, even though that holiday passed last Monday north of the border.

Tomorrow it’s the Raiders in Prince Albert and Saturday we finish up against the Blades, and then it’s finally back to Everett!  Here’s hoping for two more notches in the win column!
– TH

10:45 pm MST, Wednesday, October 17, 2012 (Day 9)
Location: 
Swift Current, Saskatchewan

It’s been a busy couple of days since my last entry, with a pair of games in Moose Jaw and here in Swift Current.  After staying in Regina for a few days, we had yesterday’s morning skate there before making the short drive over to Moose Jaw (the two cities are only about an hour apart) for last night’s game.  We then left immediately after the game to spend the night in Swift Current and get ready to play again tonight.

Last night’s game in Moose Jaw was obviously a disappointment, especially after seeing a two-goal lead slip away for the second straight game.  The good news is that the guys came right back out tonight and put forth a strong effort on the way to a win against Swift Current.  It was the first time this year the ‘Tips have allowed only goal in a game, and it was great to see everyone chip in to make sure this two-goal lead wasn’t wasted.  Kohl Bauml scored twice and his line with Ryan Harrison and Reid Petryk looked good all night.  Ryan Murray made another mark on the Silvertips’ record books with three assists, moving ahead of Peter Mueller for fifth place in franchise history.  Daniel Cotton was steady in goal with 28 saves on the way to his second win in his fourth straight start.

Now we’re on the bus headed for Saskatoon, where we’ll be based for the next three days – with a short jaunt up to Prince Albert coming on Friday for a game against the Raiders.  Tonight’s big win over the Broncos also means the players get rewarded with post-game movies on the bus.  Tonight’s offerings?  The last 40 minutes of The Dark Knight (which we started watching between Brandon and Regina) and Gone in 60 Seconds.  Tomorrow we’ll have an off-day practice in Saskatoon and a chance to rest up a bit for two more big games before we trek home to Everett!
– TH

3:00 pm MST, Monday, October 15, 2012 (Day 7)
Location: 
Regina, Saskatchewan

Happy Monday from Regina!  We had a great meal last night at the Murray home, and I’d like to take this opportunity to say a huge “thanks” to Ryan’s family for letting us invade, er, I mean, having us over for dinner.   I think a home-cooked meal (with some pretty phenomenal desserts to boot) was exactly what we all needed after nearly a week on the road.  My only regret is that I didn’t get ahold of any embarrassing photos of a young Ryan Murray to post in the road trip photo gallery!

This morning it was back on the ice for practice over at the Brandt Centre after yesterday’s rest.  It was the first opportunity for newly-acquired defenseman Connor Cox to go through a practice with his new teammates, and I think he’s making the adjustment quite well.  He looked solid in his first two games as a ‘Tip, and I think he’ll only improve as he gets more comfortable with his new club.

I’ve really enjoyed taking in the character of the older arenas so far on this trip.  The WHL’s East Division is rich with history, as most of the league’s oldest franchises are located out here.  When you think about everything the Silvertips have accomplished over the course of ten years, it’s pretty remarkable to see a Regina Pats banner from the 1922 Memorial Cup hanging in their rink (the Pats were founded in 1917, making them the oldest major junior hockey franchise to operate continually in the same city with the same name).  It gives you a real appreciation for hockey’s past to see those banners, team photos and alumni lists full of now-legendary names.

Next up will be a brand new arena in Moose Jaw (Mosaic Place opened just last year) tomorrow, followed by two older rinks in Swift Current and Prince Albert, and finally the 15,000-seat Credit Union Centre in Saskatoon – site of the 2013 Memorial Cup tournament!

Right now I’ve been sitting in this hotel room for too long, so it’s time to hit the gym.  Talk to you again soon!
– TH

11:00 am MST, Sunday, October 14, 2012 (Day 6)
Location: 
Regina, Saskatchewan

We’re sticking around Regina for a couple more days following last night’s game against the Pats, since we don’t play again until Tuesday in Moose Jaw.  Today will pretty much be a day off, with the young guys catching up on school work and everyone else getting some time to unwind.  I know I’ll be taking advantage the chance to watch some football and hopefully spend some time outside – it’s supposed to be sunny and 60 degrees today!  It’s nice to be making the swing in weather like this instead of 4-foot snow banks and freezing temperatures three months from now…

Last night’s game was obviously a tough one, as you expect to come away with two points when you’ve played well and had the lead for most of the game.  I’ll give Regina some credit for pressing the ‘Tips into making a couple mistakes in the third period, and the next thing you know a 3-2 lead has become a 4-3 deficit.  Obviously a 2-0 start to the trip would have been great, but 1-1 will have to do as we get ready to face the Warriors.

Tonight we’ll get a special treat, as the entire team has been invited to Ryan Murray’s home in nearby White City for dinner.  Ryan’s parents were gracious enough to host the Silvertips on the last eastern swing two seasons ago, and apparently their home was left intact enough that they were willing to do it again this year!  I think the group is looking forward to a nice evening at the Murray household.

The family and friends around the team have to be one of the best things about this trip.  Local guys who normally play 1,000 miles or more away from their loved ones are getting a rare opportunity to spend a few moments with them during the busy grind of the WHL season.   We’ve already seen the Austin Lotz fan club in Manitoba, a healthy number of Silvertip-green and Team Canada-red jerseys with the #27 and “Murray” on the back here in Regina, and we haven’t even been to Saskatoon yet – a town that three of our players call home.

Then, of course, there is the hardy group of Everett fans who have used their vacation time and hard-earned money to make the long trek out here to see their team play.  It’s easy to feel proud of our community and this organization when there are green & white jerseys in the stands and cowbells ringing in every barn we visit!

On a Sunday off on the road, the good news is that NFL games are still carried on local Canadian television!  I wonder if equipment manager James Stucky (a Seattle-area native) and athletic trainer Marc Paquet (a New Englander from Maine) will have a bet going on that Seahawks-Patriots game today…
– TH

10:30 am MST, Saturday, October 13, 2012 (Day 5)
Location: 
Regina, Saskatchewan

Hello again Silvertip fans!  I’m happy to report that all is well among the Silvertips road contingent this morning following a huge trip-opening win last night in Brandon!  Yesterday was all business as the players and coaches got ready for the first game of our trip, and I stayed busy prepping for the broadcast and finishing up our announcement of “Pink the Rink,” which is exactly two weeks from today!

What a way to get the trip started – rallying from two goals down to win in overtime with a well-rounded effort throughout the lineup.  Probably the most complete game the Silvertips have played this year, and it seems like just about everyone contributed in some way, shape or form.  After a three-game losing streak, a long bus ride, the loss of an alternate captain and the addition of a new veteran defenseman just hours before the game, Everett played with an intensity and consistency that shows what this team can be capable of.  It was only one game, but it was a very exciting night hopefully a sign of things to come!

There won’t be much time to bask in the glow of that win however, as tonight we’re right back on the ice against the Pats.  We jumped on the bus right after the post-game meal last night and headed about four hours west to Regina, which is just a few miles from Ryan Murray’s hometown of White City, Saskatchewan.  This will likely be his last opportunity to play a game this close to his hometown, so it should be a special night for Ryan – and a great chance for the ‘Tips to create their first winning streak of the season.

The puck drops at 6:00 pm Pacific time and I’ll be on the air at 5:30 on Fox Sports 1380.  Right now I’ve got to study up on the Pats, so I’ll talk to you then!
– TH

10:45 pm CST, Thursday, October 11, 2012 (Day 3)
Location: 
Brandon, Manitoba

It sure was nice to settle in a bit here in Brandon for day 3 of our trip!  The best part of today?  The hotel is literally next door to the arena, so we didn’t have to set foot on the bus even once!

The guys got back on the ice today for an important practice to help them get prepared for back-to-back games tomorrow against the Wheat Kings and Saturday in Regina vs. the Pats.  As an added bonus, St. Louis Blues forward Ryan Reaves stopped by the locker room before practice for a short talk about hard work and what it takes to make your way up to the NHL.  Reaves is from Winnipeg, but played his junior hockey here in Brandon and came over to visit a former teammate from the AHL’s Peoria Rivermen.  You might have heard of the guy:  he goes by the name Mitch Love!

This afternoon we were all reminded of the business side of the game, as the Silvertips selected impact defenseman and former Saskatoon Blade Connor Cox in the WHL’s overage cut-down draft.  Cox had 41 points and a +26 rating for the Blades last season, so there’s no question he can help improve Everett’s defense.  That also meant Everett had to part ways with a 20-year-old, and forward Cody Fowlie will be moving on to the next phase of his career.  Obviously it’s tough for everyone saying goodbye to a guy like Cody, who is a fantastic teammate and just a great human being all the way around.  We all wish him nothing but the best of luck in his next endeavor.  Unfortunately the rules dictate that difficult decisions have to be made, and it will be exciting to see a talent like Cox join what looks like a pretty solid Silvertips D-corps.

I know I’m looking forward to our first game of the trip tomorrow against the Wheat Kings, and I’m sure the rest of the group would agree.  Of course the returners remember when Brandon came to Everett and won 8-2 last season, so I know they’d like to get a little payback as the road team tomorrow.  The Wheat Kings are off to a strong start this year, so it will be a great chance to start things off right with a big win!
– TH

9:00 pm MST, Wednesday, October 10, 2012 (Day 2)
Location: 
Brandon, Manitoba

Another long day on the bus, but here we are:  we’ve finally arrived in Brandon!  It’s good be staying in one place for a couple of days as we prepare to face the Wheat Kings Friday night in the first game of the trip.

I can’t speak for everyone else on the bus, but for me, today definitely dragged on a little more than yesterday.  That second straight day of bus sitting starts to wear on you.  That said, we’ve all done it before and have our own ways of passing the time.  Watch a movie, take a nap, listen to music, play some cards, read a book, play Angry Birds, and on and on we go.  

Leaving Lethbridge this morning, we rolled east to Swift Current for lunch, through Moose Jaw and Regina and then had dinner at nice little “mom & pop” spot called Kaycie’s Roadhouse as a light snow started to fall in Broadview, Saskatchewan.  Coincidentally, Cody Fowlie’s grandmother lives nearby and just happened to walk in while we were there!  What are the chances?  Good stuff and a pleasant surprise for Cody.

A little while later we crossed the Manitoba border – much to the delight of Austin Lotz.  He’s the only Manitoba native on the team and had been looking forward to heading home ever since we left Everett.  Although his home town of St. Adolphe is a couple hours away near Winnipeg, just being back in his home province is reason enough to be excited.

This kind of trip brings up quite a debate among the boys about which province is “better”.  The British Columbia crew has a 10-man majority favoring Canada’s westernmost region, and the Alberta guys make their case, but our four Saskatchewan natives certainly hold their own defending this part of the country.  As you could imagine, Griffin Foulk (Colorado), Mirco Mueller (Switzerland), and Stathis Soumelidis (Czech Republic), don’t have much of a stake in that particular discussion.

Anyway, tomorrow we’ll get back on the ice with a practice at Westman Place to try and get the bus legs out prior to Friday’s matchup with the “Wheaties”.  I’m hoping to get out and about a little bit as well to take a look around a city & arena I’ve never been to before.  Talk to you again soon!
– TH

10:30 pm MST, Tuesday, October 9, 2012 (Day 1)
Location:  Lethbridge, Alberta

Hello Silvertip Country, and welcome back to this year’s edition of the Silvertips road trip blog!  I’ll be doing my best to let you know what we’re up to for the next two weeks as the Silvertips swing through the WHL’s East Division for six different stops.  (Feel free to click here to enjoy one of my personal favorite road trip jams to get you in the right frame of mind.)

We climbed aboard the bus this morning to depart from Comcast Arena just after 8:00 am.  Even for a well-practiced crew like us, loading the bus can be somewhat of a process with 25 players, six staff members, a couple thousand pounds of hockey equipment AND two weeks’ worth of clothes/snacks/entertainment options for that many people!  But off we went through sunny eastern Washington, stopping in Moses Lake for lunch before turning north through the Idaho panhandle and into Canada.  

We crossed the border at around 5:00 pm, stopping for dinner in Cranbrook, BC.  That’s the hometown of Silvertips defenseman Ben Betker, who was greeted by a good-sized group of family, friends, and other familiar faces during our short stop in town.  After dinner we pushed on, and two movies later here we are:  Lethbridge, Alberta (the hometown of Silvertips Executive Vice President Zoran Rajcic) to spend the night.  

We’ll be right back on the bus first thing tomorrow morning to continue east through Saskatchewan and all the way to Brandon, Manitoba!  I’ll check in again tomorrow from the prairies!
– TH

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