For the second straight Western Hockey League game, the Spokane Chiefs blanked Everett at the Spokane Arena, this time by a 4-0 margin.
Tuesday night it was rookie backup goaltender Garret Hughson blanking the Silvertips in just his third WHL start. The 17-year-old from Foremost, Alberta, needed just 22 saves, but several of them were spectacular – including a stop on an Everett breakaway.
“Good for him,” Spokane coach Don Nachbaur said. “He earned it.
“He made some great saves, especially with the game on the line.”
Saturday it was Eric Williams earning his first career WHL shutout and the first shutout of the season for Spokane, 5-0. Overall the Chiefs held Everett scoreless for 120 minutes while extending the Silvertips’ losing streak to six games.
While Hughson stood out, the rest of the Spokane effort was, well, lackluster. Taking care of the puck was a challenge.
“We have to learn to work hard, practice hard,” Nachbaur said. “These guys have an opportunity, but you have to do something when you have the opportunity to play. We weren’t focused. I think 90 percent of our guys were just out there to play, not to play hard.
“You have to get in there and get the puck out, get in there and take control of the puck, get in there and dig it out.”
That may be the most difficult lesson young players need to learn when they step up into the WHL, he said.
“It’s a difficult step,” he said. “Back home they play on the weekends. They have to learn how to come out and play hard every day.”
“It’s a pretty big jump to make,” Hughson said. “The game is a lot different up here and you have to learn how to compete.”
But, Nachbaur said, it wasn’t about youngsters.
“But it wasn’t our rookies that were making the mistakes out there,” he said. “It was our veteran guys.”
It took an outstanding individual play by another rookie to put Spokane ahead.
Mikulas Rimmel poked the puck loose between two Everett defenders, then outworked them to control it and beat goaltender Daniel Cotton with a backhand shot to the lower corner 14:35 into the first period.
That lead held up through the second period, and the Chiefs broke the game open with a pair of goals 70 seconds apart in the third period.
Liam Stewart made a great play at the blue line to beat the Everett defense, fired a snap shot at Cotton from most outside the faceoff circle, gathered in the rebound and whipped a pass to an open Connor Chartier behind Cotton.
Dylan Walchuk slammed home the rebound off a Brenden Kichton shot 70 seconds later.
Rookie Adam Helewka capped the scoring at 13:27.
“We did a good job digging in in the third period to win the game,” Nachbaur said.
For Hughson, the key was to stay prepared.
In his last start Hughson took the loss in the Silvertips’ 6-5 win.
“You have to work hard every day in practice and make sure you’re mentally ready to step in,” he said. “My defense men did a great job tonight, helping me out. I have a lot of confidence in them and that helps a lot.”