Everett Silvertips players must have nightmares featuring the exploits of Mike Aviani and Mitch Holmberg.
Holmberg’s perfect pass to Aviani during the first minute of overtime Saturday night resulted in the winning goal as the Spokane Chiefs dispatched the Silvertips 3-2 to tie them for fourth place in the Western Hockey League’s Western Conference.
Everett has lost 17 consecutive games at the Arena since March 2010, the season in which Aviani and Holmberg joined the Chiefs.
“It’s kind of weird,” said Aviani, who added his league-best 17th power-play goal and an assist on Jason Fram’s power-play goal. “It’s kind of one of those slumps a team gets in. They really tried to break it tonight. They played a great game and made it close there at the end, going into overtime.”
The Chiefs (25-13-0-2, 52 points) are 5-0 against Everett (23-12-5-1, 52) this season, outscoring the Silvertips 15-7. Everett has dropped 10 of its last 13 games overall.
“Every game we’ve played them this year has been a battle,” coach Don Nachbaur said after his Chiefs won for the seventh time in eight games. “There aren’t any easy games in the U.S. Division right now.”
Chiefs goalie Eric Williams (29 saves on the night) and Everett’s Austin Lotz (37) dominated the first two scoreless periods.
Spokane seized a 2-0 lead early in the third period as Aviani and Fram scored with extra-man advantages 52 seconds apart. Before then, the Chiefs had been 1 for 10 on the power play this weekend.
“I think it’s just a matter of keeping it simple, moving the puck quickly, all those little things that always seem to work for us,” said Aviani, whose 29 goals are second in the WHL to Holmberg’s 41. “We just have to get back to doing that more and I think it will start bouncing in again.”
The Silvertips ended the shut- out at 3:38 of the third on Carson Stadnyk’s 15th goal of the season.
Chiefs captain Reid Gow was called for hooking and unsportsmanlike conduct with 8:01 left, giving Everett 4 minutes on the power play. Williams was 50 seconds away from killing off both 2-minute calls when Jujhar Khaira beat him and tied the game.
“I think we let them off the hook when it was 2-0 and then we took a really nasty penalty,” Nachbaur said. “It was uncalled for, and we paid the price.”
Luckily for the Chiefs, Holmberg’s perfect pass set up the winner 56 seconds into OT. Gow also assisted on the winner, giving him three assists for the night and 39 for the season, third in the league and one behind Holmberg.
“Mitch was coming up the right wing there and I just saw him with the puck and I know how good Mitch is with the puck,” Aviani said. “So I went to the net with my stick on the ice and I just figured Mitch is so good that he can make that play.”
Holmberg tied Chad Klassen for 11th place on the club’s all-time games list, with 282. Aviani has played 244 games.