After dropping two straight games, the Spokane Chiefs needed a win.
Mac Engel needed one worse.
A shutout, however, was more than he expected.
But with a solid defensive effort that limited Everett to 18 shots, the Spokane Chiefs avoided their first three-game losing streak of the Western Hockey League season with a 3-0 victory before 3,758 fans at the Arena Wednesday night.
“A lot more than I hoped for,” said Engel, who is the starter while James Reid, who has the franchise record for wins, recovers from an injury. “I was just hoping we’d get the win and get off to a good start to get some confidence for the boys in me.”
It appeared that Engel, who had seven losses in previous 13 appearances, was going to have to be stellar. Everett (18-23-3-4, 43 points), last in the Western Conference but only two points out of a playoff spot, stifled the Chiefs (30-12-4-2, 66 points), who are just three points out of first.
There was a momentum shift early in the second period when Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur threw Matt Marantz on a line with Anthony Bardaro and Brady Brassart. With Tyler Vanscourt and Davis Vandane on the blue line, the puck never left the Everett end.
On the fifth shot Marantz, low in the right circle, beat Kent Simpson on the short side for his 14th goal.
“Me and Bards and Brady, we’ve always had kind of a connection,” Marantz said. “We get one or two shifts every three or four games, but we always seem to have pretty good shifts together.
“Everybody was working as hard as they can, not getting tired, their team running around, getting pucks to the net, getting guys in front. You’ve got to win battles for the puck, though, and shifts like that happen.”
Just 47 seconds later, at 5:43, Jared Cowen added a power-play goal.
“That’s the way we’ve played all year,” Nachbaur said. “That’s what you expect from our guys. It’s the hungry, relentless style that creates the turnovers. The biggest thing is the puck kept arriving at the front of the net. It was a made scramble and we ended up scoring. Cowen got a goal on the power play and that gave us some breathing room.”
But Nachbaur wasn’t pleased that a 24-4 shot difference didn’t produce more, though some of the credit goes to the Silvertips.
“I thought we were too cute. That’s not our style,” he said. “One goal and it changes the momentum of the game, but Mac made good saves when he had to. The kids were tough in front of him.
“They’re a challenging team. They played structured. They didn’t give us a whole lot. We had a lot of shots, but we really didn’t get a second-chance look.”
Levko Koper iced it was an empty-net goal with 75 seconds left, his 26th, with an assist from Tyler Johnson, to keep his point streak alive at 15 games.
But in the end, it was more about Engel.
“I had some butterflies … I was feeling the pressure at the start,” he said. “After the first shots, about the 10-minute mark, I felt confident.
“Everyone knew I was still trying to get my first win. … They battled really hard and helped me out a lot. It’s really good.”
“Everyone wanted to do this for Mac,” Marantz said. “Good for him.”
“The kid came out and played,” Nachbaur said.
Engel is expected to be in goal Friday when Chilliwack visits. The Chiefs picked up 17-year-old Adam Iwan, who was playing with the Neepawa Natives of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League, as a backup. He was on the Saskatoon bench for the playoffs last year, when a Blades goalie was injured in practice.
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