One down, one to go.
Six more times.
That’s how the West will be won if the Spokane Chiefs have their say.
The Chiefs overcame a mental blunder and held off the Everett Silvertips 4-2 before 4,341 fans at the Arena Tuesday night, tightening the standings as the Western Hockey League gets down to its final two weeks.
“We just worry about one game at a time,” said Spokane defenseman Brenden Kichton, who opened the scoring with his 23rd goal. “Next it’s Tri-City (Friday), focus on them. After that it’s Kootenay (Saturday). We want to go 6 for 6 and win the West.”
In running their winning streak to five games – and the Silvertips’ losing streak to five – the Chiefs (43-17-4-2, 92 points) pulled within one point of Portland for the top seed in the Western Division. If the Chiefs win their final six games (the first four at home), they’re No. 1 because the season ends with a matchup in Portland, which also has six games left.
It seemed the seventh-place Silvertips (27-28-7-4, 65), who have lost six straight to Spokane, were a good match for the Chiefs as the game began, but by the time the first period was over the home team led 3-0 with a 22-5 shots advantage.
Kichton took a cross-ice pass from Matt Marantz and whistled a wrist shot past Luke Siemens at 8:54. The ice began to tilt from there and late in the period Marantz dumped the puck out front and Steve Kuhn had a wide-open net to backhand in his 20th. A minute later, with a minute left, Anthony Bardaro cleaned up a Brady Brassart rebound for his 18th goal.
The Chiefs were still in charge until a scrap between Darren Kramer and Everett’s Jari Erricson put the Silvertips on the power play midway through the second period. Just 13 seconds into the only power play of the game, Tyler Maxwell scored his 40th goal on a one-time. The quickness was surprising considering the matchup. Spokane sports the best penalty-kill squad in the league, while the Silvertips have the worst.
“It was a really good first period,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “There were a couple plays in the second period that changed the momentum of the game. A couple turnovers in their end trying to be too cute let them up ice and, obviously, the power play we gave them. It was a bad penalty to take. We were in control of the game at that point.Learning. But the momentum changed right there.”
The Chiefs had a 14-6 shots advantage but nothing to show for it.
“Everett is a good defensive team, too,” said Kichton, who missed a shift getting stitches for a cut on his right pinky. “They have good goaltending. We didn’t bear down when we had chances there or it could have been 7- or 8-2. But we got the two points. I’m happy.”
With five minutes left, a blue-collar shift by the Silvertips led to Manraj Hayer’s third goal but Bardaro got that back with 2:12 to play.
“Huge, we were scrambling at that point,” Nachbaur said. “A little of that is the fatigue, just from the trip (to Prince George) and not much time to rest.”
The Chiefs out-shot the 50-24 with Siemens getting the third star for his 46 saves. James Reid had 22 saves and picked up his 31st win for the Chiefs.