The Everett Silvertips can’t escape their Chamber of Horrors known as the Spokane Arena.
With Mike Aviani and Mitch Holmberg scoring goals for the Spokane Chiefs during the final 3 minutes and 48 seconds Wednesday, Everett has lost 16 consecutive games in Spokane stretching back to winter 2010.
“It’s a bit of a curse, it almost seems like, but they’re a great team,” Aviani said after the Western Hockey League-leading 14th power-play goal snapped a 3-all tie and sent Spokane to a 5-3 victory.
“It becomes mental after a while,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “It’s no different than us playing Portland (a team with 13 consecutive wins over Spokane). Sometimes you get that feeling, when you look across the ice as a player, that you match up really well.”
The teams entered the game headed in opposite directions, with Spokane dropping eight of its last 12 and Everett winning seven of its last 10.
But the Chiefs (19-12-0-2, 40 points) are now 3-0 this season against the Silvertips (21-7-4-0, 46), who are No. 3 in points among the 22-team league and are ranked sixth in the latest Canadian Hockey League poll.
The Chiefs pulled off the latest win over Everett with the usual suspects – Aviani and fellow 20-year-olds Holmberg and Eric Williams – plus unassisted goals from defenseman Jeremy McIntosh, his third, and Dominic Zwerger, his fifth.
Aviani, Spokane’s second-leading scorer with 44 points, had been in a bit of a slump with one goal and two assists in his previous seven games. He scored the winner after Holmberg rushed the net during the Chiefs’ only power-play attempt of the night.
“It was a good play there by Mitch to get it to the net and I was lucky …” Aviani said. “It was kind of sitting there under the goalie’s pad and I saw it and whacked it in.”
The play came after Nachbaur called timeout to regroup after Williams made a game-saving stop on Kohl Bauml’s breakaway attempt on a shorthanded play.
Williams stopped 34 of 37 shots to improve to 16-8-0-1.
Holmberg finished with two goals and one assist to improve his league-leading totals to 35 goals and 70 points with an Edmonton Oilers scout present.
Holmberg and McIntosh scored less than 2 minutes apart late in the first period to stake the Chiefs to a 2-0 lead. Zwerger’s breakaway goal at 4:19 of the second made it 3-0.
Zwerger returned to the lineup after missing 13 games with an upper-body injury suffered Nov. 8 against Lethbridge.
Everett fought back to three consecutive goals, tying the game at 8:19 of the third period when Tyler Sandhu shot top-shelf. Sandhu also assisted on the second score, a power-play goal by Carson Stadnyk with 9 seconds left in the second period after Zwerger was whistled for a questionable tripping penalty.
“Right at the end of the second period they got all the momentum with a goal that, again, we didn’t compete hard enough on,” Nachbaur said.
“So for the third period I thought we were on our heels a little bit. But we didn’t buckle and our goalie was fantastic, real strong.”