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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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WHL notes: Chiefs trade rights to talented goalie Thatcher Demko

The Spokane Chiefs raised some eyebrows Tuesday by trading their Western Hockey League rights to Boston College sophomore goaltender Thatcher Demko to the Calgary Hitmen for conditional draft selections.

Demko, the Vancouver Canucks’ second-round pick in this year’s National Hockey League draft, is expected to be the U.S. team’s No. 1 goaltender for the upcoming World Junior Championship in Toronto and Montreal.

Demko has said he’s committed to Boston College and is unlikely to play in the WHL.

In a radio interview, Hitmen general manager Mike Moore told Fan960 in Calgary, Alberta, that the team has no indication that Demko is coming to play for them.

“This is still a long shot,” Moore said. “We’re taking a flyer here, no doubt.”

The Chiefs had owned the rights to Demko for three years.

‘Tips on top

The Everett Silvertips reached the holiday break as the top team in the tough U.S. Division.

Everett (19-9-3-1) hasn’t won a division title since tying for first place with Tri-City in 2009-10.

The Silvertips had the best record in the league (20-4-4-0) last season before a serious swoon left them fighting to make the playoffs. They went 6-17-3-1 starting in early December and need an 11-0-0-2 finish to qualify for postseason.

“That’s in our minds,” overage winger Brayden Low told Nick Patterson of the Everett Herald about the team’s recent 5-6-1-0 streak. “For some guys, the thoughts started creeping in. Last year it had a lot to do with injuries. This year I think it’s about being mentally ready to start every period.”

A feel-good win

Chiefs overage center Liam Stewart has been around the team long enough to fully appreciate last Friday’s 4-3 win at Portland.

“I think we lost 16 in a row to them and that (win) felt good,” Stewart said. “We were excited when (Keanu) Yamamoto scored that winning goal. It just felt good. Now we have some hope that we can beat them.”

Spokane’s defense and goaltending can stand up to any WHL team. Through Monday, only division leaders Kelowna (82), Medicine Hat (83) and Everett (86) had allowed fewer goals than the Chiefs (87).

“We haven’t given up that many goals,” Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur said. “We’re right there among the top teams as far as defense. Scoring’s the area where we have to get better.”

Chiefs general manger Tim Speltz, appearing on 1510-AM Tuesday afternoon, said that boosting the offense could be tricky as the Jan. 10 trade deadline approaches.

“It’s tough to trade for a scorer, it really is, unless you’re going to mortgage your future,” Speltz said.

Around the league

Medicine Hat forward Cole Sanford was named WHL Player of the Week after recording four goals and four assists in three games. The 19-year-old, with 23 goals and 26 assists this season, is tied for third place in league scoring with teammate Trevor Cox. … Brandon’s Jordan Papirny earned honors as WHL Goaltender of the Week after turning aside 52 of 54 shots in two games. … Saskatoon traded defenseman Nelson Nogier and forward Austin Adamson to Red Deer on Sunday for winger Mason McCarty and two draft picks – a first-rounder in 2016 and a second in 2015. The deal was made just before the WHL holiday trade freeze kicked in on Monday. The freeze will be lifted on Dec. 26. … Former Moose Jaw player Brennen Wray, 26, joined the Warriors as an assistant coach on Monday.

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