It certainly wasn’t what fans have come to expect, not from a team riding a seven-game winning streak.
But the Spokane Chiefs were not sharp by any stretch of the imagination and in a critical Western Hockey League showdown with Everett, the Silvertips put an end to the Chiefs’ run with a 2-1 win before 4,511 fans at the Arena on Wednesday night.
“Sometimes with young guys you hear how good you are … and forget the why,” Chiefs coach Hardy Sauter said. “We didn’t quite work hard enough in some areas and because of that they end up scoring a lucky goal.”
Scott MacDonald flipped the puck across ice, deflecting it off a defenseman for the game-winner at 6:16 of the third period.
“It was just a game both teams didn’t have a lot of energy, at least that’s the way it looked for our team; I can’t speak for the home team,” Everett coach Craig Hartsburg said. “It was a sloppy game, again on our part we were sloppy, but we did enough things in the third period to grind it out. At the end of the year they’re not all pretty games.
“The game was actually really evenly played. There wasn’t one team that dominated or one team that was better.”
A close game wasn’t surprising since Everett entered the game allowing one less goal and won one more game than the Chiefs, who had scored six more goals, through 62 games of the 72-game schedule.
The lack of energy, though, was surprising with the two teams locked in a spirited battle for playoff positioning and the Chiefs (38-21-3-1, 80) needing two points to tie the Silvertips (40-19-3-1, 84 points) for the third seed in the Western Division.
“Before tonight our destiny was in our own hands,” Sauter said. “Now we need some things to work out. Whether or not it happens, who’s to say, but we need to play well for a lot of reasons, mostly because playoffs are coming.
“Maybe it was circumstances,” veteran Spokane defenseman Brett Bartman said. “It was a Wednesday night game, not a lot of hype about the game like a Friday or Saturday game.
“Obviously we were taking it seriously, we came out and had a great start. In the second we let our foot off the gas and let them back in it. I don’t think we took it lightly, we were focused, but we didn’t get the results.”
Although the Chiefs outshot the Silvertips 19-6 in the first period there weren’t many good chances.
The Silvertips got on the board midway through the second period when Kellan Tochkin took the puck away in a battle along the boards in the Spokane zone and got the puck to Byron Froese, who beat James Reid with a high, hard wrist shot from the right circle a 12:33.
The Chiefs showed life after that, pushing their shot advantage back to 13, and were swarming the net on a late power play when Jared Spurgeon put the puck in the net just before the buzzer. As the teams milled around the net, Spurgeon got the puck, wheeled around the net and tried a wrap-around that Kyle Beach tipped in for his league-leading 47th goal right at the buzzer.
“For whatever reason, tonight we really needed to get that first goal and it took too long to get it,” Sauter said.
The Chiefs have to regroup quickly with lowly Prince George coming in Friday, but there is a lot of hype. The start of the game has been pushed back to 7:30 for a big pre-game 25th anniversary ceremony to introduce the players fans have voted the top 25 in franchise history.
“It’s up to our leadership group, I’ll take responsibility,” Bartman said. “Everyone in the locker room knows every single game is important, no mater who you’re playing.”
Silvertips 2, Chiefs 1
First Period—None. Second Period—1, Everett, Froese 26 (Tochkin), 12:33. 2, Spokane, Beach 47 (Spurgeon, Johnson), 19:59 (pp). Third Period—3, Everett, MacDonald 5, 6:16. Power-play Opp.—Everett 0 of 2; Spokane 1 of 2. Saves—Everett, Heemskerk 19-10-11—40. Spokane, Reid 6-10-9—25. A—4,829.
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