EVERETT – Riley Whittingham wasn’t certain what had happened until he turned to the bench to see his fellow Spokane Chiefs celebrating.
Whittingham’s goal with 4 minutes, 35 seconds left in overtime Saturday night kept the Chiefs’ season alive and kicking after a heartstopping 4-3 win over the Everett Silvertips at Xfinity Arena.
“It went off the stick,” said Whittingham, a 19-year-old right wing. “I turned the other way and didn’t know it was going in. Then I saw the whole bench cheering and I just went crazy.”
Liam Stewart, who scored Spokane’s second goal, set up the winning play with his speed down the left side.
“It was at the end of a shift and I saw Stewy had some speed, so I was just trying to get to the net,” Whittingham said. “He threw it and I got my stick on it. It feels pretty good, for sure. We’re still alive.”
Everett, attempting to advance to the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs for the first time since 2007, leads the series 3-2. Game 6 will be Tuesday at the Arena. Game 7, if necessary, will be back in Everett on Wednesday.
Down 3-2 after two periods and facing elimination, the Chiefs swarmed the offensive end in the third period, outshooting Everett 14-4. Spokane had a couple of solid chances but finally got the equalizer on defenseman Nick Charif’s first playoff goal, an unassisted play well out front.
“I thought we had momentum in the third,” Chiefs head coach Don Nachbaur said. “We were pinning them down. They were back on their heels. To me, the only thing that saved them was the buzzer to end the period. … I thought we were coming and we got a puck through and (Charif) placed it in the right spot.
“Being down going into the third period, we had every reason to shut her down. The guys dug in and showed tremendous character. … The series has just begun now.”
“You can slice it up any way you want,” said Everett’s Kohl Bauml, who had one goal and one assist. “But at the end of the day we still have a 3-2 series lead. So yeah, we’re bitter about this one. Obviously, we had a chance to close it out at home.”
The OT period was as wild as WHL play comes. Both teams had at least five solid chances to end the game, including Dominic Zwerger’s breakaway for Spokane that many people assumed was an automatic goal.
“I’m not sure if the goalie (Carter Hart) got it, but it looked like (Zwerger) had an open net,” Nachbaur said. “Dom was apologizing from the bench, but our effort was from the gut.”
“We don’t want to go home yet,” Whittingham said. “It’s way too early for us. We’ve worked way too hard this season.”
The Chiefs led 1-0 after the first period, courtesy of Markson Bechtold’s goal at 12:19. Bechtold took a behind-the-net feed from Keanu Yamamoto, froze Everett goalie Carter Hart with a fake, and zipped the puck to the left of a diving Hart.
The visiting team has won four of five games in the series.
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