The Spokane Chiefs brought the effort Sunday but they couldn’t figure out how to translate that hustle into goals as the Everett Silvertips won 3-1.
The effort was a vast improvement on the 7-2 thrashing that the Regina Pats laid on the Chiefs on Saturday night, coach Don Nachbaur said. But the Chiefs failed to gain ground on the Western Hockey League’s U.S. Division leaders.
“We weren’t as sharp in some of the areas where you need to be to win games,” Nachbaur said. “But we were much better than (Saturday) night.”
The Chiefs (19-17-3-2, 43 points) came out of the chute with more energy Sunday, and Kailer Yamamoto had an early chance at a goal but his back-door shot skipped harmlessly off a Silvertips defender.
The Chiefs earned a penalty kill on an Everett power play, but the good fortune ended less than a minute later as Everett’s Tristen Pfeifer fired a shot at goalie Tyson Verhelst. The puck bounced free and Dario Winkler was there to slam it into the net to give Everett a 1-0 lead at the 4:33 mark.
The Chiefs had another good opportunity about six minutes later when Nik Anderson fired a behind-the-back pass to recently acquired forward Wyatt Johnson. But Silvertips goalie Carter Hart somehow blocked Johnson’s shot to keep the Chiefs scoreless.
The Chiefs got another power-play opportunity at the beginning of the second period, but they again failed to generate any offense.
However, the Chiefs maintained their high energy and overtook Everett (24-12-1-2, 51) on shots-on-goal, finishing with a 29-25 advantage, which usually translates into a win.
“We still have a long ways to go to execute shots,” Nachbaur said. “We were committed to defending, but our best guys have got to be better.”
Playing a shift made up of rookies, Spokane failed to control the puck midway through the second period. It came free and Everett’s Yan Khomenko gathered it and passed to Brandon Ralph, who slammed it home to make it 2-0.
Then midway through the third period, Spokane’s Keanu Yamamoto got free and fired a shot that bounced of the right post of the Everett net. The puck bounced free and the Silvertips raced the other way on a two-on-one that resulted in a goal by Tristen Pfeifer to make it 3-0.
About a minute-and-a-half later, the puck came free for Spokane’s Johnson, who took it top shelf to finally get Spokane on the board at 3-1 at the 13:28 mark of the third period.
“If Keanu’s shot goes in who knows?” Nachbaur said. “It’s a fine line between winning and losing.”
Johnson, who came to Spokane in the trade with Red Deer for Adam Helewka, said it was nice to score his first goal in front of the home crowd.
“Obviously, we couldn’t capitalize on chances early on,” he said. “But overall, I thought we competed a lot better than (Saturday) night.”
Johnson said he’s still getting adjusted to Spokane, but everyone has been welcoming. The Chiefs next play at home on Wednesday against Saskatoon.
“We have to raise” the effort, Johnson said. “The competition is only going to get stiffer from here on out.”
Nachbaur said the trading deadline, which passed this weekend, took a toll on his team.
“We’ve had a traumatic week watching guys go and come,” Nachbaur said. “It’s affected some players mentally. But tonight’s effort was a building block. We did a lot of good things.”
Chiefs call up top pick
Ty Smith, a 15-year-old defenseman who was the first overall pick in the 2015 WHL Bantam Draft, will join the Chiefs, the club announced Sunday night.
Smith had four goals and four assists in 15 games this season with the Lloydminster Bandit Pipeline Bobcats of the Alberta “AAA” Midget Hockey League.