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Canadian Press
Jan 25, 2007, 7:34 PM EST


(CP) - A snapshot of the Everett Silvertips on Thursday was the picture of a powerhouse team.

The Silvertips topped the Western Hockey League standings and continued to hold down the No. 1 ranking by the Canadian Hockey League, which includes the Western, Ontario and Quebec major junior leagues. That's all well and good, but this is still the regular season, head coach Kevin Constantine points out.

"The regular season doesn't mean a lot in this sport," Constantine said Thursday from Everett. "The teams that have won the regular-season championship in this league the last few years, they're not necessarily the team that has won in the playoffs.

"We're not saying it hasn't been a good year and a fun year and all of that. We're just not going to get ahead of ourselves either."

Everett was 37-7-0-2 heading into Friday's game in Portland against the Winter Hawks.

The first thing that stands out about Everett is 81 goals against in 46 games. No other team in the CHL has allowed fewer than 100 to this point.

The CHL record for the fewest goals given up in a season by a team is 125, held by both the 2004-'05 London Knights and the 2003-'04 Kelowna Rockets.

"We were on a pretty good pace to make a run at the best defensive team in the history of junior hockey, but that seems to be going out the window a bit in our last three games," Constantine said.

Even though they gave up 11 goals over that trio of games, the Silvertips still won two of them.

The second aspect of Everett's success is special teams. The power play is the best in the WHL and the penalty kill's success rate is a close second behind arch-rival Vancouver.

"We're maybe at a goal a game five-on-five, but we just try and shut teams down and when we get the opportunity on the power play, to put the game away," said 20-year-old forward Moses Gutierrez. "That's kind of been what's carrying us."

A fun fact about Everett is they are the best shootout team in the league with a 7-2 record, thanks to Leland Irving's goaltending and shootout specialists such as Peter Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Phoenix Coyotes, Brennan Sonne and Zach Hamill.

The Silvertips showed their depth when they were without Canada's Irving, recently signed by the Calgary Flames, and American Mueller during the world junior hockey championship in December and early January.

Everett went 8-3 without their star goalie in the lineup and power-play quarterback Mueller was gone almost as long.

But the Silvertips put together two wins over Vancouver and one over Eastern Conference leader Medicine Hat during their absence.

"That was huge when they were gone, to steal as many points as we did," Gutierrez said. "We found ways to win a few close ones and guys stepped up in roles they might not have been playing as often.

"David Reekie, our backup goaltender, played phenomenal for us."

With the exception of the first week of the season, either Everett or Vancouver has been ranked No. 1 in the CHL.

Everett beat the Giants, the defending league champions and this year's Memorial Cup hosts, in a shootout and in regulation last weekend to lead the season series 4-0.

The Silvertips edged the Giants in a shootout and in overtime in December when Mueller and Irving were away.

"For us to have three of the four against Vancouver go into overtime, that's dead even," Constantine said. "I don't think it tells you we're any better.

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