It’s tough to score on the Everett Silvertips.
They boast the Western Hockey League’s best goaltender in Carter Hart and give up the fewest goals in the league by a wide margin.
So it’s no wonder the Spokane Chiefs had a tough time finding the net Tuesday night in a 4-1 loss.
Hart made 28 saves and Garrett Pilon had two goals in the win for the U.S. Division-leading Silvertips.
After a first period that featured end-to-end action, no penalties, few stoppages and no goals, the Silvertips caught Spokane watching and scored three times in the second to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
Needless to say, head coach Dan Lambert was not pleased.
“We stood around and watched (Everett) play,” Lambert said. “We were pretty pleased with our first period and we thought that was the night’s work. Against a good hockey team, you can’t play 40 minutes and expect to win a hockey game.”
Pilon’s first goal came 31 seconds into the second period when he wrapped the puck around the net, surprising Chiefs goaltender Dawson Weatherill. The goal happened so quickly it caused a delayed reaction from much of the Everett bench.
Riley Sutter then tipped in a Jake Christiansen shot from the point on the power play. Pilon’s second goal came at 14:17 of the second on a delayed penalty call.
Suddenly, the Chiefs were in a 3-0 hole and up against the league’s best defensive team. The Chiefs couldn’t capitalize on the handful of chances they got, either. Each time they applied pressure, Hart was there to deny them.
The Chiefs also hit the post three times in the game.
“They’re a good hockey team,” Lambert said. “They have the best goals-against average in the league and there’s a reason for that. When you do get opportunities, their goalie is there and they don’t give up a whole lot. That’s why they win.”
Eli Zummack beat Hart, though, at 17:11 of the third. He patiently waited for an Everett defenseman to slide out of the way before wristing a shot past Hart.
It was Zummack’s 12th goal of the season, but it was all the Chiefs could muster.
“They buy into their system and play a hard game,” Zummack said of the Silvertips. “When they’re doing that and buying in, it’s tough to play against, but it’s definitely beatable.”
Connor Dewar provided insurance for the Silvertips at 13:21 of the third.
The Chiefs have only solved the Silvertips three times in nine games this season. They’ll have one more chance during the regular season in Everett on Sunday.
The loss prevented the Chiefs from gaining any ground on the idle Portland Winterhawks, who sit in second place, three points ahead of Spokane. The Chiefs remain five points ahead of the Tri-City Americans and six points ahead of the Seattle Thunderbirds.
The Chiefs will have to put this one behind them and get set for three games in three nights, starting at home Friday against the Prince George Cougars. They’ll have to play like they played in the first period to gain some points in the competitive U.S. Division.
“We’ve got to learn from these outings,” Lambert said. “We shot ourselves in the foot tonight. I thought it was one of the best periods of hockey in the first period. Both teams were checking and both teams were playing. Then in the second we decided we weren’t going to check anymore or move our feet and they just outbattled us. It’s a lesson.”
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