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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane Chiefs open camp without goalie Tyson Verhelst

Chiefs goalie Tyson Verhelst dives for a puck against Seattle on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2015, at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Verhelst has decided to quit hockey and won’t return this season. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Keeping the other guys from scoring goals has taken an odd twist for the Spokane Chiefs after last year’s starting goalie, Tyson Verhelst, has decided to give up the game.

Chiefs General Manager Tim Speltz said the team had some indications in April that Verhelst may not come back, which is why the team in May traded away two picks to acquire 20-year-old Jayden Sittler from the Lethbridge Hurricanes.

“It’s a tough one. (Verhelst) had an injury. He suddenly lost his passion,” Speltz said. “When we traded for Sittler, I knew we were in trouble.”

Sittler, a 6-foot-1, 205-pound native of Red Deer, Alberta, played 39 games with the Hurricanes last season, and posted a 2.94 goals-against average and .905 saves percentage with one shutout.

Speltz., who announced last week that he will become the director of western area scouting for the Toronto Maple Leafs, said the Hurricanes had a young goalie who was their heir-apparent and the Chiefs needed a veteran. “We liked everything about (Sittler),” he said.

Barring some unforeseen training camp development, the starting goalie job is Sittler’s as the team also tries to decide whether to keep prospects Donovan Buskey and Matthew Berlin.

With the acquisition of Sittler in May, Spetlz in July traded backup goalie Lasse Petersen, 19, to the Everett Silvertips in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2017 WHL Bantam Draft.

“You can’t have two old goal tenders in this league,” coach Don Nachbaur said. “We will probably start Sittler and go with a good support guy.”

Meanwhile, Speltz said the search for his replacement has been put on hold as the organization hosts 63 players in for camp. That number will be down to about 40 players for Sunday’s Red-White Game.

The team will enter the regular season with about 23 or 24 players, Nachbaur said. The Chiefs’ first home game is Oct. 1 against the Tri-City Americans.

Veteran forward Hudson Elynuik, who was drafted in the third round (74th overall) by the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, said he was glad to get back with the guys, many of whom are quite young.

“It’s going to be a big year. I have to be ready,” said Elynuik, who scored 19 goals and had 44 points last season. “These next few days will be tough on the new guys … but I’m excited about seeing the talent we’ll have for the future.”

Returning defenseman Evan Fiala is rooming with former No. 1 draft pick Ty Smith, another defenseman, who will be eligible to play the full season.

“Expectations are always higher,” Fiala said. “We need to go further than the first round of the playoffs … and we’ve got the team to do it.”